For those who can't get to the bank, the bank will come to you.
Popular Cash Express Inc., a subsidiary of Puerto Rico-based Banco Popular Inc., is operating a fleet of 52 vans that stop at L.A. work sites to cash payroll checks and sell phone cards and bus passes.
The vans serve primarily blue collar Latino employees who don't have time to make it to the bank or who don't have bank accounts at all.
"We only do fast services that take a minute or two to provide," said Mark Nierman, chief operating officer in Los Angeles for Popular Cash Express, whose vans are called Pronto.
Banco Popular, with 19 branches in Southern California and more than 30 check-cashing stores in L.A., has been expanding slowly beyond its East Coast base, where for several years it has been the No. 1 bank among Latinos.
Later this year, the company plans to add more vans and check cashing stores to its Southern California operation while also moving into Northern California in an attempt to capture a larger share of a market that has been neglected by commercial banks.
"Putting money in banks in not an ingrained habit in Latin America," said Joe Gladue, an analyst for Chapman Co., a Baltimore brokerage company. "Mobile vans is one attempt to get a start on customers trusting you .It fits the population."
In 1998, the Puerto Rican company acquired 15 check-cashing outlets in Florida. In Los Angeles, it bought eight check-cashing stores and 28 check-cashing vans from Inglewood Quik Check Inc., which was owned by Nierman.
Nierman started his check-cashing stores here 21 years ago, adding a mobile check-cashing service in 1994 with a half-dozen vans. "It's a good business," Nierman said, noting that the average commission rate is 1.2 percent of the check's value.
The specially-designed, high-security vans pull up to manufacturing facilities, car washes, factories or distribution centers on specific days. The busiest day is Friday.
The company has to be invited by the employer or employees to stop at a site. Two tellers inside the van can serve as many as 100 customers in 15 minutes.
Popular Cash's major competition is Continental Currency Co., which operates a fleet of vans called Mobile Money.
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