Former Hispanic Chamber CEO wants to bring corporate america to Latino biz
In her move back to corporate America, Varsovia Fernandez said she hopes to find new personal growth but also help businesses in Philadelphia.
“It’s a really good move for me for a variety of reasons,” she said. “I can also continue to help the Latino and small business community from my new position.”
The former President and CEO of the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (GPHCC) will be taking a position at regionally based Customers Bank, a community bank which serves small to medium-sized businesses. She will take on the role of Senior Vice President and Philadelphia Market Leader.
“[Customers Bank] wants small businesses to access capital, real estate transactions, commercial loans, SBA loans, things like that,” she said. “Growing more into the Philadelphia market is a really great opportunity for us to secure loans.”
In her new role, Fernandez will manage the bank's commercial lending services with a specific focus on expanding access to capital for small and minority businesses in the city.
“We’re going to be there for these businesses,” Fernandez said. “Given my experience in the business community, we have an opportunity to really work with them and give them what they need. Not only to close loans and the professional services we provide, but I’d also like to educate the community. We have to close loans, that’s what we do that’s our job, but Customers is very interested in seeing the community thrive and small businesses thrive.”
Fernandez worked with the Latino business community for almost a decade, during which the Hispanic Chamber saw record levels of membership growth and expanded its annual budget to almost $1 million. She announced she would be stepping down last October.
“I’d say ten years ago, the Latino business community didn’t have the visibility we have now,” Fernandez said. “The chamber made Latinos much more visible as minority businesses. It’s a whole new ballgame for Latino businesses. We’re here, we pay taxes, we take out loans, we are attracting attention.”
Dick Ehst, president and CEO at Customers, said he believes Fernandez’s experience and commitment to expanding service in Philadelphia to these markets fits perfectly with Customers’ commitment to do the same.
“Varsovia’s experience in building relationships in the Philadelphia business community and understanding the needs of small business will support our expansion of commercial lending services,” Ehst said.
Fernandez said Customers is set up to help Latinos in business and those who are just looking for a personal account. She touted the bank’s online banking service BankMobile, which she will be promoting through the marketing responsibilities in Philadelphia she also assumes for Customers. She said 65 percent of Latinos bank online.
“I think my focus here at Customers mirrors the evolution of the Latino community, business and otherwise,” said Fernandez. “A bank has a latino leader now. Let’s face it that’s how we evolve. We not only have to start our own businesses but we need to go to corporate America and become leaders. Customers will grow and I will grow with it.”