Florida Bank Becomes First to Sign Agreement With Cuban Bank

MIAMI (Miami Herald/TNS) -

In the first major business deal since the United States and Cuba resumed diplomatic relations, Pompano Beach, Florida-based Stonegate Banks said Wednesday that it is setting up a correspondent banking relationship with a Cuban financial institution.

Stonegate, a commercial bank with 21 branches in Florida, signed an agreement Tuesday in Havana with Banco Internacional de Comercio. It’s the first correspondent banking deal signed by a U.S. bank with Cuba since the United States and Cuba announced Dec. 17 that they planned to work toward normalization of relations.

BICSA, which was formed in 1993, handles foreign trade financing and foreign-exchange transactions and correspondent relationships with banks overseas. Audited annually by Ernst & Young, it has more than 600 correspondent relationships around the world.

“This is another step in terms of normalizing commercial relations between the U.S. and Cuba,” said David Seleski, president and chief executive of Stonegate. “The ability to move money easily between the two countries will only increase trade and benefit American companies wishing to do business in Cuba.”

Under the opening with Cuba, there are also more opportunities for U.S. companies to trade with Cuba, although much of the U.S. trade embargo against the island still remains intact.

The United States and Cuba reestablished diplomatic relations Monday and reopened embassies, more than 54 years after the United States broke ties with Cuba as tensions escalated over confiscation of U.S. property and Cuba’s Communist government.

Under financial regulations outlined by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control in January, American banks are allowed to open correspondent accounts in Cuban banks and U.S. travelers are permitted to use credit and debit cards on the island.