BankAmerica Corp. is planning to move its Latin American headquarters to Miami, joining a spate of other U.S. and foreign banks.
The decision to move these operations from San Francisco to Miami, which follows the merger of BankAmerica and NationsBank Corp. last month, presages more activity in smaller Latin American countries.
Foreign banks with increased Latin American business have been turning to Miami as the center for back-office operations and for their U.S. headquarters.
Bankers have cited the proximity and ease of transportation to Latin America as reasons for moving operations to Miami. There are also human resources considerations such as multilingual staff and a lower cost of living, including much lower taxes than in New York.
Federico Sacasa, who was named head of the Latin America division in January, will head the newly structured group, which includes the six country managers in BankAmerica's Latin American offices.
He could not be reached for comment, but a well-placed source confirmed that the headquarters move was under way.
Some of the bank's client contacts and relationship management functions will move from New York to South Florida. There, they will integrate with existing Bank of America operations, such as private banking and cash management, and with NationsBank's Latin American headquarters.
For trade services, the new BankAmerica has created a dedicated group to be run from Miami under the supervision of George Benitez, who was head of Latin and Caribbean financial institutions at NationsBank. Mr. Benitez says the bank is planning to place one trade services representative in each of its Mexican and Brazilian subsidiaries.
The remaining trade specialists, as well as the client relationship managers for countries where the bank does not have a presence, will operate out of the Miami office, he says.
BankAmerica is also inheriting a unique business line, its U.S. foreign bank agency business, from NationsBank's previous acquisition of Barnett Banks, Mr. Benitez said. Besides clearing services for the branches themselves, the bank markets credit cards, checking accounts, and loans to foreign bank employees.
Mr. Benitez said BankAmerica may try this business in other cities that have large foreign banking communities.
Termed a "complementary fit," BankAmerica and NationsBank's Latin operations seem to have had little overlap. Whereas BankAmerica established offices in six Latin American countries, NationsBank managed the bulk of its Latin operations from a Miami base.
The banks are integrating their one significant Latin American physical overlap, their Mexico units, headed by James McCabe.
Staff dedicated to Latin American business will remain where their current location still makes sense, such as for the syndications business in New York or corporate lending in the Midwest.
Coutts, the private banking arm of the United Kingdom's Natwest Markets, consolidated all of its U.S. operations in Miami this year, and Lloyds TSB Group has moved most of its senior management and operations there as well, from New York.