Popular is an intricate part of Puerto Rico’s history. We are the longest serving and the largest financial institution in the Island, and a top 50 U.S. financial institution by assets. We play an important role in Puerto Rico’s economy, and we have supported its communities for over 130 years by being a source of capital and solutions for our customers’ needs.
“Popular has always been an agent of change,” says Ignacio Alvarez, President and CEO of Popular. “Since our inception in 1893, Popular has been committed to a secure, accessible and efficient banking system for Puerto Rico. Throughout our history, we have continued to invest in Puerto Rico because we believe in our customers and the communities we serve. Our adaptability and effectiveness to tackle problems with creative and well-thought-out solutions are what has made us the Island’s benchmark institution.”
Popular’s pioneering spirit has made us a champion of transformative change that has left a legacy in Puerto Rico. Below we highlight but a few examples—past and present—of our indelible mark on Puerto Rico.
• We were the first to offer personal and housing loans, making it possible for many families to own their own homes
• We have developed a technology infrastructure that allows us to design our own banking apps, and continuously stay on top of tech and digital offerings, such as being the first bank in Latin America and the Caribbean to integrate Samsung Pay and Android Pay
• We offer personalized wealth management services through Popular One for customers to manage their personal banking, financial planning, investments and insurance needs
• We are embedded in the lives of our communities, motivated by our commitment to economic development, education and the environment, with over $60 million invested through Fundación Popular in the past four decades
We live in a world of constant change and new possibilities. Customers want innovative services and digital convenience, yet they cherish personal relationships and expertise. The younger generation of employees expect a dynamic workplace that offers career growth, openness and access to new technologies, and new ways of collaborating. Communities seek economic opportunities that can improve their quality of life and build on their local assets.
Our vision of the future is rooted in driving economic opportunity, social progress and environmental sustainability. To fulfil this vision means constantly changing and adapting to support our customers and meet their current and future needs. This commitment includes enabling personalized digital banking outside of the branches, striking the right balance with tech-optimized in-person service at the brick-and-mortar sites, and keeping the operations environmentally conscious. And as one of the largest private employers on the Island, it means investing in our people and building the workforce and workplace of the future.
LOOKING TOWARDS THE FUTURE
Being there for customers is a big part of Popular’s DNA. By anticipating their needs, being a trusted financial partner that is embedded in their lives and simplifying the way customers conduct their financial transactions, we’re providing a consistent omnichannel experience. The value of being a part of customers’ financial and life milestones—banking, mortgage, car, college, business, retirement, etc.—is the ultimate driver of the company’s push for innovation.
For Javier D. Ferrer, Popular’s COO, this omnichannel approach goes beyond the digital world.
“Customer experience has to be both excellent and consistent across all channels, so that our clients engage with their finances as they choose. If our customer prefers to resolve an issue over the phone, or stop by a branch, or online, we will meet them wherever they prefer. That’s the future, optimal digitalization and personalization. Every channel needs to be functional, competitive and bring value to our customers,” says Ferrer.
For each of those channels, experience, convenience and speed are a must. A personalized journey that enables each customer to interact with the bank in the way they want is the key to maintaining a strong connection with them. Built on service, powered by technology.
Camille Burckhart, Executive Vice President for the Innovation, Technology & Operations Group is one of the executives leading the charge towards a personalized omnichannel experience. One of the challenges Burckhart’s team is constantly tackling is remaining responsive to the needs and styles of the different or changing demographics.
“True to our core values, being equitable and accessible means, you have to design with everyone in mind. By constantly listening to what our customers need, we’re forced to break away from biases and instead employ methods that benefit everyone,” says Burckhart.
With the largest branch network on the Island, Popular’s trust in the future of Puerto Rico is undeniable. We are a landmark institution that has remained a trusted pillar in every community in the wake of natural disasters and macro-economic changes. Today, as Puerto Rico consolidates its economic recovery and enjoys a budding renaissance led by entrepreneurs, innovators and cultural figures, Popular continues to play a key role in the Island’s vibrancy.
COMMITTED TO OUR PEOPLE
Popular is one of the largest employers in Puerto Rico, with a workforce of over 8,000 employees. Serving approximately two million customers on the Island is no easy feat and is made possible by our employees’ commitment. Proudly referred to as Nuestra Gente—Our People—our employees are rightly considered the company’s greatest asset, and we’re committed to their wellbeing and development, continuously investing in their success.
To serve the interests of a diverse team, we emphasize inclusion through Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) for members of the LGBTQ+ community, women, and employees with disabilities, among others.
Women make up two-thirds of Popular’s workforce, and we proudly offer benefits and resources to support their careers. The company has been recognized by Great Place to Work® as one of the 15 best workplaces for women in the Caribbean and Central America and has been a vocal advocate for ending gender-based violence, establishing corporate policies to help employees going through domestic abuse.
COMMITMENT TO MAKING A DIFFERENCE
“Our business provides a powerful platform to make a difference in the lives of our customers, colleagues, communities, and shareholders, a privilege and responsibility we take very seriously,” says Ignacio Alvarez.
As a financial institution with significant market presence in Puerto Rico and the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, as well as operations in Florida, New York and New Jersey, it is incumbent upon us to do what is within our power to be a part of efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change and extreme weather on the communities where we do business.
Part of that commitment includes a plan to upgrade branches with solar panels, electric vehicles (EV) charging stations, and more ecologically friendly and efficient equipment. Other efforts include a revision in our commercial credit policy to include potential social and environmental impacts.
We’ve also completed the construction of a combined heat and power generation system in two of our main buildings, enabling us to consume less fuel and reduce our carbon dioxide emissions. To further reduce the environmental footprint of our regular banking operations, we continue encouraging clients to maximize the use of digital channels, reaching over 1.2 million active e-statements.
CORPORATE COMMUNITY INVESTMENTS
Popular’s corporate community investments totaled $11M in 2021, including corporate donations, programs to promote financial inclusion and entrepreneurship and philanthropic contributions through Fundación Banco Popular, and Popular Foundation, the corporate foundations in Puerto Rico and the mainland U.S. Since 1979, Fundación Banco Popular has invested over $60M in organizations and programs that specialize in:
• Social investment
• Musical talent development
• Collaboration and social innovation
• Student support
• Disaster relief
CONSTANCY THROUGH CHANGE
Throughout our history, Popular has maintained its strength by being open to change. We know that there is always something we can do differently to better serve our customers, expedite processes, leverage technology and empower employees.
As an organization, it is important to evolve, grow, learn from mistakes and challenge ourselves to do better. As we strive to make ourselves ever relevant to the times, we must stay true to our values, maintaining the trust of our customers and remaining close to the communities we serve. It will require new ways of thinking and working.
In 1893, Banco Popular de Puerto Rico filled a void by creating a bank that aimed to serve the people of Puerto Rico and investing in the Island’s future. Each of us has a role to play to sustain this commitment and approach each day as an opportunity to have a positive impact on the lives of our clients, colleagues, and all the communities we now serve. “We strive to remain an essential force for better and stand ready to build on our leadership position and leverage the momentum achieved in the past decades, as we continue to serve our customers, care for our colleagues, support our communities and deliver value to our shareholders,” concludes Alvarez.
“We are helping, financing and advising the next generations of Puerto Ricans and those who see an opportunity to grow and develop on the Island. We’re the bank of choice for many here because we know the customer, we know the market, we’re committed to the community and we continuously strive to make our services accessible to anyone, anywhere. That makes us a benchmark,” says COO Javier D. Ferrer.
INNOVATION IS PART OF POPULAR’S DNA
Here are just a few examples of innovation throughout Popular’s 130-year history.
Bank-on-Wheels: During the 1950s, a revolutionary plan was conceived to make Banco Popular accessible in every town on the Island that was lacking banking services. Bank-on-Wheels (Banco rodante in Spanish) was born, and fleet of buses equipped with a counter featuring a teller window, a safe, air conditioning and electrical and telephone connections were commissioned. For almost two decades, they expanded into areas where no other bank was operating.
ATH (A Toda Hora / At All Times): While other banks were relying on IBM-provided technology for the ATM systems, Popular hired a small company to give computing power to the branches. In 1984, the team put smart ATMs— called ATH—that depended on a centralized brain integrated into the operation. Popular was not the first in Puerto Rico to have the system, but was responsible for massifying the ATH adoption throughout the Island.
Digital banking: Popular kept up with advancing technology, launching MiBanco app in 2012 so iPhone and Android users could access an array of services from their phones. In 2014, Popular partnered with Evertec and launched ATH Móvil, a then exclusive instant money transfer app now compatible with over 80 financial institutions. Both applications have since surpassed 1 million users.