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Exclusive: PurePoint Financial’s hybrid digital bank finds a home in St. Pete

Margie Manning

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PurePoint Financial staff (from left) Daniel Acevedo, financial center officer; Sandy Walia, head of client services; Courtney Thomas, director for Tampa Bay; and Armando Gonzalez, vice president and financial center manager.

One potential model for the future of banking is taking shape in PurePoint Financial’s offices in the Tampa-St. Pete area.

PurePoint has a hybrid-digital banking model, with technology to handle transactions online or on a mobile device, and also with 22 brick and mortar offices nationwide. Eight of those offices are in Florida, including St. Petersburg, Palm Harbor and Tampa.

The bank combines the convenience of being digital first with the security that comes from a physical location and the benefit of guidance from financial professionals, said Sandy Walia, head of client services.

In the St. Pete office, as in the other locations, there are no ATMs, no teller lines and no cash. There’s a self-service kiosk where customers can open an account or make deposits or withdrawals, and private offices where customers can talk to the staff.

Banking products are limited to savings accounts and certificate of deposits, so customers also have to have a traditional account elsewhere for checks and debit cards. PurePoint’s digital model allows them to move money easily between accounts and banks, Walia said. The minimum amount to open an account at PurePoint is $10,000, but it pays high interest rates — an annual percentage yield of 2.15 percent for savings accounts, 2.25 percent APY for CDs and 2 percent AYP for no-penalty CDs as of Friday morning.

The deposits fund loans at PurePoint’s parent company, MUFG Union Bank, a $133 billion bank headquartered in San Francisco and with most of its offices in California. PurePoint currently provides about 5 percent of the deposit funding for MUFG Union Bank, Pierre Habis, PurePoint president, told The Financial Brand, a digital publication for the banking industry.

MUFG Union Bank is part of Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group in Japan, the fifth largest financial group in the world.

At 2,000 square feet, the  St. Petersburg office is about half the size of a traditional bank branch. Newer bank branches tend to be slightly smaller, around 2,500 square feet, because fewer customers are walking through the doors on a regular basis.

PurePoint’s smaller office, lean staffing and simplified business model keeps operational costs down and allows the bank to offer higher interest rates.

Designed for savers

PurePoint launched in 2017 and in two weeks had accounts in all 50 states, said Walia, who is based in California. It currently has about $6.8 billion in deposits and revenue of $10 million, a March 31 investors presentation from MUFG Americas Holding Corp. said.

There are brick and mortar offices in six markets — Miami and south Florida, New York, Chicago, Houston and Dallas, in addition to Tampa-St. Pete.

“We selected markets with consumers who already were savings or wanted to save more, those in their prime earning years and preparing for retirement,”  Walia said.

Bank staff come from a variety of backgrounds — some have worked in the financial services industry and others have not. Courtney Thomas, PurePoint’s director for Tampa Bay, previously worked in the hospitality industry. Armando Gonzalez, vice president and financial center manager in St. Petersburg, was a district manager at Walgreens before joining PurePoint. Daniel Acevedo, financial center officer in St. Pete, worked at JPMorgan Chase after going to pharmacy school.

“One of the things we’re are most proud of is extraordinary client experience,” said Walia, who joined PurePoint about a year ago after holding senior positions at Bank of America and Wells Fargo. “All we ask of our staff is they have a service mind and heart, and the rest we train and teach.”

At PurePoint’s Tampa-St. Pete offices, about five to 10 customers a day will visit in person, Thomas said. Nationally, the average is about four to six customers each day.

Clients don’t need to come into the office all the time, but “when you need us, we’re here to support you,” Walia said.

PurePoint Financial

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Customers can open accounts and take care of transactions at the self-service kiosk.

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