Banco BCT S.A., headquartered in San José, Costa Rica, is a subsidiary of Corporación BCT S.A., which traces its roots back to 1978 when four finance professionals founded BCT Consultores Asociados to meet the financial needs of the Costa Rican market. In 1981, Corporación BCT S.A. officially began operations, and today through its subsidiaries offers commercial, private, investment banking as well as stock-market services. Banco BCT was founded in 1983 with the objective of providing excellent personalized banking services to BCT’s multi-faceted and growing client base. Then, in 2000, BCT absorbed Corporación Bancomer, further expanding its range of products. In 2002, BCT Bank International and Banco BCT Panama, domiciled in Panama, merged. And in 2007, BCT acquired Compañía Financiera de Londres to add yet more variety to its product offering. In 2017, BCT acquired Balboa Bank & Trust and its subsidiaries, augmenting its presence in Panama. BCT believes that its commitment, solidity and flexibility have resulted in trusting relationships with its customers and partners. Today, it is the largest private national financial institution in Costa Rica.
International Banker is pleased to be joined by Mr. Alvaro Saborío, Chief Executive Officer of Grupo Financiero BCT, to learn more about BCT’s drive to improve the society in which it operates “by investing in people and their dreams”.
Mr. Saborío, thank you very much for speaking with us today….
BCT’s stated mission is to “contribute to the progress and development of companies, people and society”. What is the main way, in your opinion, in which the bank helps to improve society?
BCT was established in 1978. During those four decades, we have focused on becoming a strategic partner for our clients. Throughout those 40 years, BCT has contributed in the growth of many companies in Costa Rica and Panama by providing more than financial services—we have become an advisor to our clients by understanding their businesses and their investment needs. We contribute in the countries in which we have presence by providing qualified employment to almost 600 individuals, contributing to the economies by complying with our obligations and aligning our strategy to international regulations and best-market practices. BCT uses international standards to align our business to be socially and environmentally responsible for our impacts, and we invite and educate our clients to adopt these practices; by being aware that the continuity of our business and our clients’ business relies on sustainability.
The bank helps to improve society in many ways but mainly by investing in people and their dreams. We seek to have outstanding performance in our indicators and those of our employees and clients. We invest annually in training for our employees in diverse topics; this provides personal growth for them and adds value to our customers, our company and the countries in which we operate. To sum things up, the bank improves society by investing in the people and in the diverse industries that provide an income to many families and the government.
As I understand, the bank’s core philosophy is to achieve excellence in customer service. Which one factor, above all others, do you consider the most important for a bank to possess in order to consistently deliver such customer-service excellence?
A combination of three things: 1. The right human resource that is consistently providing the service and implementing and suggesting more efficient ways for the execution of our processes. A group of individuals that understands the needs of our clients and is able to adapt and design for the clients’ needs. 2. The right technologies and innovations. Today we constantly hear of new competitors in the market and their ability to use technology to increase their client base. Technology and innovation allow us to deliver new products and services for our clients in a very efficient way, without sacrificing the essence of a customised experience. 3. Constant adaptation of processes, policies and technologies. Increasing regulation and changing needs and wants of our clients demand a special focus and orientation to review and challenge what we do day in and day out. Adopting new technologies and processes allows us to deliver to our clients a very positive experience.
We believe these three elements are crucial to provide clients with more than just good customer service; you deliver a memorable experience.
From a customer-service perspective, what are some of the most significant differences in the bank’s approach to corporate customers versus high-net-worth customers?
Both segments are very aware of the value of time; however, corporate clients are more oriented to timely solutions, and high-net-worth customers are more oriented to tailored solutions. Customization occurs in both segments but becomes a lot more relevant in high-net-worth individuals, while flexibility becomes more relevant in the corporate segment.
Both segments are very similar in terms of how they want their financial services delivered. More and more, we see customers demanding digital solutions in both segments that allow them the flexibility and mobility a globalized world requires of them.
Mobility is a decision-maker for clients in both segments but a game-changer for high-net-worth customers and executives; the ability to access and process their transactions anywhere, anytime is no longer a luxury; it’s a day-to-day need.
Efficiency seems to be an important word in terms of overall business strategy. In what specific way does the bank aim to be efficient?
Efficiency is part of our business strategy in many ways. Efficient use of resources—human, economic, environmental—in order to make our business sustainable. Also efficiency in the services we provide is part of our business strategy. Efficiency allows us to differentiate from our competitors in results and in the customer experience.
BCT is one of the most efficient banks in the countries we operate, and we believe this has been part of our business strategy since we were founded in 1978.
If I’m not mistaken, the bank is currently undergoing a digital transformation. What are some of the most significant features of this transformation? And how long do you think it will take for the transformation to conclude?
BCT believes that technologies allow us to provide our clients a convenient, secure environment to access their financial products and services without visiting our branches. The digital transformation involves all aspects, procedures, solutions, products, services. We don’t think this transformation will have an end, because technologies change, and new solutions can be transformed or adapted. Digital transformation is an ongoing, never-ending process as customers’ needs and technology are always changing.
Customers are every day more digital, and digital allows us to be efficient in time response, availability, presence and convenience for our clients. The omni-channel experience allows our clients to continue their transactions or requests, regardless of where they started the transaction. Digital also allows our employees to dedicate more time to creating and to client focus rather than to operational and simple transactions.
This digital transformation will allow us to make banking simple. Innovation in processes and policies is required to accompany this digital transformation, to assure the customer journey guarantees a memorable experience.
What are some of the best features of the bank’s online banking platform, Enlace BCT? How positive has customer feedback been for this platform thus far?
One of the best features is the user experience. Usage is very intuitive and user friendly. Our clients can process all transaction types through our online banking platform. We have had very positive feedback from clients, and we have witnessed this satisfaction, because usage and transactions have increased significantly in the last three years. The performance of our online banking platform is also an important feature; in a few clicks and a few seconds, the client can process his or her transaction.
The bank has previously described the ongoing digital transformation as being “a human-centred strategy”. What does this mean in practice?
We believe in automation and understand technologies can provide a good customer experience, but we believe that people still want to be welcomed or serviced by another person. Even though machines can learn how someone likes to receive the service, they still have not developed the capacity of empathizing with our clients. We provide a service that goes beyond financial products; we build relationships with our clients, and that is why we believe in a human-centred strategy—service for humans provided by humans in an automated, efficient way.
The bank’s social-responsibility initiatives appear to focus mainly on education. What are some of the most successful education projects with which the bank has been involved?
We have focused our efforts in education because we believe it’s the only way the economic development of a country and its individuals occurs. We have been working for more than 11 years with a non-profit organization that seeks to prevent adolescents in vulnerable communities from dropping off from high school; schools that have been intervened by this organization have increased the rate of kids that finish high school significantly. We have also developed with them an employment program that seeks to develop soft skills and prepare these kids for a competitive working environment.
We are currently part of a countrywide initiative that seeks to provide financial education to different segments of our population. We believe that having an educated consumer in banking products, their benefits and their potential risks, reduces the eventual risks we as a financial institution may have. Debt levels in many countries have increased significantly, and we seek to educate our clients to assume debt responsibly by using the available mechanisms that we as a bank provide, such as credit and savings. We will be working with employees of different companies that include all economic sectors and all income ranges.
Does the bank get involved in any environmental initiatives? And is the bank aware of its own impact on the environment? If so, what measures are taken to minimise this impact?
We measure, reduce, mitigate and compensate for the impact of our operations on the environment. In Costa Rica, there is a local program called Ecologic Blue Flag, which measures the impacts, mitigation and compensation that each company that subscribes generates; we have been granted the flag for all of our branches.
We also have a protocol applied to our clients by our credit-risk analysts to assure our investments comply with local regulation in terms of environmental and social protection.
The bank’s stated mission is: “To be the best banking experience for clients, through the values of our collaborators, directors and shareholders, in line with sustainability”. From that statement, what does “sustainability” mean to you?
For BCT, sustainability means promoting economic growth through social development and a responsible use of our natural resources. We believe we can achieve sustainability by using our resources efficiently. We understand that the only way we can continue to do business for many years is by having a sustainable operation and contributing to others having a sustainable operation as well. We have environmental and social challenges that must be considered in our decisions to be sustainable in time.
Well, it sounds as if you are you doing all you can to serve your clients in a profitable but also sustainable manner. Thank you for your time today, Mr. Saborío.