Home Banking Banco LAFISE: Revolutionizing Banking Services and Payment Methods in Central America

Banco LAFISE: Revolutionizing Banking Services and Payment Methods in Central America

by internationalbanker

By Phillip Mann – phillip.mann@internationalbanker.com 

Over the past few decades, the Costa Rican economy has shown significant strength and development, bolstered and underpinned by a phase of economic growth and expansion starting in the 1980s that drove forward export-led growth, increased foreign investment and widened trade liberalization. However, the economy of Costa Rica has been struggling to develop, grow and move forward over the past couple of years. Economic advisers and political officials worldwide are calling for the current president of Costa Rica, Luis Guillermo Solís, to take action towards remedying the economic ails of the Central American nation. The World Bank has even noted that the government and economic officials of Costa Rica need to be taking steps to avoid a full-blown economic crisis within the nation. For 2013, Costa Rica’s GDP fell to 3.4 percent from 5.1 percent in 2012. However, with the correct action and policy intervention, the projected figure for the next year is forecast to rise to between 4.1 percent and 4.3 percent, according to research conducted by the World Bank. 

The central drivers of growth will be private consumption combined with boosted levels of domestic investment—factors that can be fully capitalised upon by implementing government action that includes cuts to national spending budgets and adjustments to fiscal policy that will lead to increased tax revenues. By enhancing the national fiscal-deficit-to-GDP ratio, a certain degree of long-run sustainability will be restored to the economy. Poverty levels remain high, and although there was some improvement historically through the years of 2010 and 2011, there was some reversal in this positive trend creating concerns and wider economic problems. This has included but is not limited to increased levels of crime nationwide. The government is now taking certain steps to enhance citizen security and is implementing a phase of initiatives to promote an anti-violence culture and stifle drug trading and black-market activity.

Aside from social issues and government policy, a vital component to the progress of the Costa Rican economy is the commercial and business climate. The local banking sector and the services and products on offer to support small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs), consumer activity as well as wider corporate-level business will be central to stimulating growth and developing momentum. Effectiveness and competitiveness of the offerings of the local banking and financial-services sector will underpin growth at all levels with the knock-on effects reaching far and wide.

Mario Hernández, COO LAFISE Bank Costa Rica at a product launch event

Mario Hernández, COO LAFISE Bank Costa Rica at a product launch event

LAFISE Group is playing an active and effective role in this capacity—serving the banking and financial-services needs within Costa Rica. Currently LAFISE is operational in Costa Rica as well as Miami (US), Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama, Venezuela, Colombia and the Dominican Republic—offering a broad range of banking and financial services spanning retail, investment and corporate banking as well as regional, securities, insurance and private-equity services. LAFISE (Latin American Financial Services) was set up in 1985 as a financial-services provider to Central America and the Caribbean. Initially formed to serve companies in the region with foreign-currency transactions and to facilitate access to capital markets through the creation and sale of securities and equity financial instruments, the group has gone on to cover an extensive range of banking and financial services. LAFISE has played a key role in the social and economic development of Costa Rica to date—for example, through helping cancel and reduce the external debt of some Central American countries, buying the foreign debt of Costa Rica, aiding the development of foreign-exchange markets when they ceased to be regulated and became free markets throughout Central America, and much more. LAFISE Bank, which is part of the LAFISE Group, has been expanding and deepening its service and operational presence in Costa Rica significantly—especially since 2003 when the bank ramped up its scale through the acquisition of Banco Exterior de Costa Rica SA. Originally founded under the principles of supporting both local and international business and consumer financial services and banking needs within Central America and the Caribbean, the bank has become one of the most prominent and recognised banks within Costa Rica. LAFISE is renowned for the high quality of services, products and work provided, combined crucially with excellence in human capital and customer service at all levels of the company. 

In addition to personal- and corporate-banking services in Costa Rica, Banco LAFISE has a clear and committed objective to providing financial services tailored to facilitate and actively support Costa Rican corporations and medium-sized businesses looking to penetrate regional markets, helping SMEs to develop and achieve their business goals. Banco LAFISE makes an effort to keep ahead in terms of technological innovation—constantly seeking to enhance tailor-made solutions offered to customers and improve both efficiency and profitability in all areas of operations. The success of the bank has been due to its unwavering commitment to excellence year after year—in particular placing the customer first throughout all areas of business. An operational framework centred on developing and training employees to thrive in a variety of working situations—in particular focussing on customer service and teamwork—and to act with the highest level of integrity and ethics has helped the bank become a key player in the Costa Rican banking sector. In addition corporate social responsibility is important to Banco LAFISE, and the bank is actively involved in local communities by providing support and initiatives to aid children´s education development. 

Banco LAFISE has a laser-sharp focus on first-rate service and product provision, with a core of attention to detail on customer needs, and has grown to the point of offering a diverse and comprehensive range that serves a variety of retail, private and corporate client needs efficiently and effectively. Banco LAFISE Costa Rica offers a comprehensive range of personal-banking services—including current- and savings-account services, personal- and automobile-finance products and an array of mortgage solutions. Innovation in creating new solutions has been central to Banco LAFISE’s success in meeting customer needs. A current popular example of an effective regional commerce solution from Banco LAFISE is CCAPPS (Caribbean and Central American Private Payment System), which started in 1985, allowing customers for the first time to make an international transaction in less than one hour and with a lower cost than any other LAFISE branch in the region. Banco LAFISE is renowned for facilitating innovative payment methods for its individual and business customers throughout the region. The local Costa Rican business sector has been undergoing a major phase of growth and development over the past five years, and Banco LAFISE has been developing solutions side-by-side with a tailor-made approach to meet the needs of this dynamic climate effectively and efficiently. 

Logo MonibyteOne of the most recent offerings from the innovative product and service range of Banco LAFISE is the revolutionary Monibyte platform. The Monibyte system offers a digital payment process that provides a tailor-made solution to meet business customers’ needs. Designed by a private-equity firm specifically for LAFISE Bank, the Monibyte platform simplifies processes and increases security for transactions. The platform allows customers access through any computer, mobile phone or mobile tablet device anywhere in the world—providing convenience and ease of use—and also allows users to customize the parameters of their financial transactions, such as those related to credit cards (setting credit limits and terms of use). Monibyte is revolutionizing payment methods in the Costa Rican marketplace and also provides expense-control functionality for national and regional industries. Mario Hernández, COO of LAFISE Bank, identified the need for the Monibyte system to act as a centralised and convenient payment engine designed to simplify corporate management of payments. A key advantage of the Monibyte platform is its versatility and flexibility of use. Implemented on a LAFISE Monibyte MasterCard, this account will keep an up-to-date record of corporate payments. The Monibyte platform also offers a broad range of options for managing a business’s monetary operations. For example, from the Monibyte webpage, a user may access and consult detailed records of their payments, fleet vehicles gas, travel expenses, credit payments, bank payments, conditions and parameters of use, and much more. This ground-breaking system cuts out the need for banking in branch or over the phone in numerous circumstances—improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the financial-services system and helping businesses develop and grow through time and money saved and ease of financial management. Monibyte is a powerful technological tool, allowing users to customize parameters for credit-card use and use of additional credit; parameters such as specifying the types of commerce in which the account holder may want to buy, times when they want to use the card under certain restrictions or within specific geographic locations, amongst many other factors, may be set in the platform. Monibyte provides a solution to control spending through a user-friendly tool that can be accessed through the webpage at www.monibyte.com. With the idea being conceived and product development being initiated nine years ago in 2006, the Monibyte payment engine has been made with a thoroughly researched, bespoke approach to address a real and sizeable problem in the corporate payment-method market. The platform is easy to use, eliminates the need to go to the bank to perform transactions, and parameters can be customized from the computer or mobile to define credit limits and conditions of use (such as amounts, schedules, definition of suppliers) for business partners and relevant parties. 

In addition, LAFISE Group is renowned for its extensive and broad corporate-banking product and service range—including money-market services, lines and letters of credit services, and other cash-management and business services. Regional expertise and service has helped the group excel in all areas of functionality—and particular solutions such as convenient and accessible regional transfers, currency exchange and payment provisions help companies and individuals with their regional banking needs. Additionally, the bank has revolutionized many banking services and products, offering innovation through technology amongst various tools. Banc@Net aids cash management, through a convenient electronic tool to process transactions online quickly and securely. Banc@Net is a convenient and compatible easy-navigation system offering 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week access to customers. In addition the Pag@Net tool offers customers and companies a dynamic and unique platform for online bill payments. Banco LAFISE also offers equity-research and market-information services—covering major financial instruments traded in the Costa Rican market and daily updates on key asset market features (such as price, performance, time and currency, amongst others) in addition to emerging-markets coverage. The group furthermore offers securities execution trading services through LAFISE Securities, which is authorized and supervised by the National Stock Exchange (Costa Rica) securities intermediary. Vast experience and tools supported by technological support and innovation has allowed the bank to succeed in market trading, both in primary and secondary markets, for its growing customer base. 

For the future outlook, Costa Rica is currently positioned in a similar state as many of the richer countries across the globe. Cutting the deficit will be central to sustainable economic development. The manufacturing and exports industry upon which Costa Rica thrives has dramatically changed over the past two decades—moving from agricultural goods, such as fruit and coffee, towards engineered products, such as medical devices and mechanical instruments. By supporting local business and labour markets through effective banking and financial services, LAFISE Group is a vital part of the Costa Rican economy. Inequality in Costa Rica is lower than in the rest of Latin America, presenting a promising opportunity for economic strength. Even more promising, labour productivity has been increasing year on year over the past decade, which has been driving growth at all levels of the labour market, in both skilled and unskilled areas of work. Given the economic uncertainty currently present in the Costa Rican market, Banco LAFISE is positioned to play a central role to the local recovery and future economic development. The bank has been innovating to meet the evolving needs of the local economy, and continuing to do so will be central to further development. By maintaining focus on these goals, the bank is forecast to go from strength to strength over the coming years. Further to this the bank has set in place plans to keep corporate governance a top priority and at a high standard at all times—adhering to evolving regulations and risk-management restrictions and enhancing transparency across the business. 

Going forward the bank has set in place plans to expand its range of products and services and additionally will look to offer more competitive services to individuals and companies, whilst maintaining a strategic focus on high standards of customer service. Key to success is the Costa Rican service sector, which now accounts for 70 percent of Costa Rica’s economy, compared to agriculture, with only a 10-percent share. As local industry develops so too must the banking sector and service provision, just as LAFISE Group has done to date.

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