Tropical Financial celebrates 80 years of ‘Putting Members First’

From its Southern Bell roots, credit union survives and grows to serve all of South Florida

MIRAMAR, FL (March 4, 2015) — A tiny credit union that started with $800 in deposits and 47 members has grown over eight decades to become one of South Florida’s most successful  credit unions, helping generations of families achieve their financial dreams.

This year, Tropical Financial Credit Union marks its 80th anniversary.  The credit union has come a very long way— evolving from a basic loans & savings operation for a small group of workers to a full-service financial institution that services an entire geographic region. Over the years, Tropical Financial has greatly expanded its products and service offerings, and transitioned with the times to provide members with the latest banking technologies and modern conveniences.

“We are proud of what we have achieved since 1935, but we’re not standing still,” said Richard Helber, president and CEO of Tropical Financial Credit Union. “Every day, we look for new ways to benefit our members.”

The credit union was started by employees of Southern Bell Telephone Co. in Miami. They opened their “baby” bank, called Miami Bell System Employees Federal Credit Union, on March 13, 1935. It was only the second credit union formed in the South Florida region and one of the first in the state of Florida.

Since forming 80 years ago, the credit union has grown with South Florida, changing its name twice to reflect changes in the region and the banking industry. Tropical Financial outgrew its original charter and in 1995 broadened its membership to anyone who works and lives in Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties. Assets rose over the next two decades, and today stands at $540 million making it one of the largest credit unions in the tri-county area.  There are also nine convenient branches to serve members.

Tropical Financial has always tried to stay pace with banking technology. Today, it offers convenient services such as mobile check deposits, person-to-person payments and paperless loans.

“I remember when I first started working at our Coral Gables location in 1979, we still had the switchboard with the plugs, but now we have smartphones,” said Frank Salokar, a Tropical Financial team member. “It’s amazing to see how far we’ve come.”

Despite the technological advances, the credit union still prides itself on providing members with personal, friendly service and always the asking the question, “What can we do to improve our members’ financial well-being?”

“Our top objective is to make financially sound decisions that have only our members’ best interest in mind,” said Jose Belaustegui, chairman of Tropical Financials’ Board of Directors. “We’ve been thinking that way for 80 years and as long as we never deviate from that mission, we will remain successful for another 80 years and longer.”

Tropical Financial Credit Union is celebrating its 80th anniversary with members and employees throughout the year. For the latest news on events, visit


Tropical Financial Credit Union is a non-profit financial institution whose deposits are federally insured. The $540 million institution serves South Florida with nine branches. People who live or work in South Florida’s three counties can join the credit union, which was founded in 1935. For more information on Tropical Financial, visit

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