South Florida Banking Institute was privileged to offer a panel of legal and banking professionals that expertly addressed the topic of “The Future State of Banking in Cuba” at the Miami Airport Hilton Hotel on Wednesday, September 21st, 2016.
As it is customary, the event began with registration followed by a lively cocktail hour, where a large number of banking industry professionals had the chance to meet and mingle.
SFBI President, Alex Sueiro, welcomed all attendees to the event and thanked them for their continued support of the organization. After dinner and conversation, Moderator Andres Fernandez, Partner at Holland & Knight and Leader of the firm’s Cuba Action Team, proceeded to introduce the panelists: Aymee Valdivia, Associate at Holland & Knight, practiced law in Cuba for over six years and is a member of the firm’s Cuba Action Team; while Tania Fernandez, Vice President at Stonegate Bank, is the Cuba Banking Manager at the only American Bank doing business with Cuba at this time.
Mr. Fernandez kicked off the presentation by discussing the background of the recent developments in US-Cuban relations, He started by summarizing the Cuban Banking system Reform of 1997, then outlining the latest guidance offered by OFAC and the banking regulatory agencies that allows for certain authorized travel and financial transactions.
Mr. Fernandez moved on to request Ms. Valdivia and Ms. Fernandez to expand on the “real life” application of these rules and regulations. First Ms. Valdivia detailed the current Cuban banking system, where all banks, foreign or domestic, are owned, even in a small percentage, by the Cuban government. She also explained that, although new guidance allows for certain authorized transactions in US dollars, the Cuban banking system requires conversion into C.U.C.s while at the same time there is still uneasiness about the possibility of funds in US Dollars being blocked, so all transactions are routed through either Panama (which currency is pegged to the US Dollar) or through Spain in Euros, since most foreign banks with offices in Cuba are Spanish. Ms. Fernandez was then asked and proceeded to discuss how a bank such as Stonegate manages to serve their customers traveling or doing business with Cuba as well as support visiting Cuban nationals in opening and using local U.S. dollar accounts, all while maintaining proper record keeping and full compliance with the regulations. Both panelists’ hands-on experience on the subject matter was critical in making this event one fascinating learning experience for all attendees.
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Andres Fernandez – Partner, Holland & Knight
Leader of the Firm’s Cuba Action Team
Aymee Valdivia – Associate, Holland & Knight – Member of Firm’s Cuba Action Team
Tania Fernandez – Vice President, Cuba Banking Manager, Stonegate Bank