BAC Credomatic Group evolved from Banco de América Central, which began in 1952 in Managua, Nicaragua. Headquartered today in San José, Costa Rica, this dynamic banking group operates in many countries across Central America, including Costa Rica, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Panama and Nicaragua. BAC Credomatic Costa Rica is well established in its home country in both retail and commercial banking. Its commitment to customer service has resulted in its widespread acceptance and successful expansion. As Mr. Odio, the bank’s country manager, explains, the BAC team’s most pressing current challenge is to builda simpler and even more customer-centric bank.
International Banker was pleased to be joined by Country Manager Federico Odio Gonzálezto discuss BAC Credomatic Costa Rica’s recent activities.
Mr. Odio, thank you for joining us today….
Would you conclude that 2018 was a successful year for BAC Credomatic Costa Rica? And what do you consider to be the biggest single highlight of the year?
2018 was a successful year as reflected in our financial performance relative to the industry. It was a challenging year economically for the country, which struggled with a fiscal imbalance, which required a prudent growth strategy that allowed us modest growth but with good returns and significant market-share improvements in key variables, including loans and deposits.
Can you briefly explain how the bank’s Payment Chain Strategy works? And do you consider this strategy a success to date?
The Payment Chain Strategy vertically integrates and maintains payment solutions and customer treasury management within the bank, offering a full array of high-quality products for corporate clients as well as retail customers. The strategy builds around our strengths of processing corporate and personal payments while trying to facilitate these processes across all types of clients.
The Payment Chain Strategy requires constant innovation and anticipation of the customer’s needs and preferences, in order to have differentiated product offerings and capabilities. Our efforts also aspire to achieve efficiency and automatization with increased security.
What is the single most effective way that you as a banking leader strive to get the most productivity from your workforce? Are there any specific philosophies that you prefer to implement?
We are in a journey to evolve our bank into a bank with simpler processes and procedures, and an institution with a customer-centric approach. A key part of this is to achieve an outstanding corporate climate and organizational alignment. Our team has always been the main key to our success, and today is no different. We feel that our employees are committed to BAC and the execution of the strategy. Some motivators that move all of us are: the aspiration of achieving world-class standards, the continuous improvement philosophy embedded in our DNA, and our new aspiration to build a simpler BAC and a more customer-centric BAC.
How do you see the banking sector changing/evolving in Costa Rica over the next few years? And in which particular banking areas do you expect BAC to operate as regional market leader during this time?
We are living a digital transformation. Technological breakthroughs and social changes are transforming our industry. In that scenario, BAC Credomatic is strongly oriented to digitalization, and we hope that our significant investment in technology will allow us to keep our competitive value proposition.
What do you consider to be the bank’s biggest challenge in 2019? And do you have any personal challenges as country manager that you hope to accomplish during the year?
The biggest challenge is to move along our path to a simpler BAC and a more customer-centric BAC. Change management will be a key component of this journey, which is one of the main challenges for the team during 2019.
How important is the SME (small and medium-sized enterprise) sector to BAC Credomatic Costa Rica? And what measures has the bank recently taken to expand its presence in this sector?
The SME market in Costa Rica is responsible for 35 percent of our GDP (gross domestic product), and the National Institute of Statistics and Census has identified more than 360,000 SMEs in our country. BAC Credomatic sees this segment as a great business opportunity for the bank, and serving them is a way to contribute to the generation of wealth in the country. Given the nature of the SMEs, in which more than 80 percent are micro businesses, it is a massive retail segment that touches most of the products and services across the bank. We have focused on technology to best serve them through different channels: mobile app, internet banking, ATM and call centers. These channels help them to manage their treasury needs electronically—therefore, in a safer, simpler and faster way. We have also developed credit models based on cash inflows that allow us to offer credit with many requirements and much analysis. BAC Credomatic has also made an effort in nonfinancial services for this segment. For example, over the last five years, we have trained more than 18,000 SMEs in topics of their interest, such as taxes, digital marketing, leadership, sales and negotiation, among others. Additionally, we have implemented more than 5,600 point-of-sale (POS) software tools for retail, restaurants, tourism and health businesses.
Of the many initiatives with which the bank is involved under its corporate social responsibility (CSR) policy, which single project are you currently most pleased to support? And why is this the case?
We are particularly proud of our initiatives to eradicate poverty within our staff and reduce it significantly in our country. BAC Credomatic was the first bank in the world to apply Oxford’s Multidimensional Poverty Index with its staff, identifying that 12 percent of them were living under poverty conditions. BAC Possibilities is a program designed by the bank to eradicate poverty within its staff. It consists of subsidized loans—supported by donations from its own managers; psychological support; financial coaching; and a care network for elderly, disabled or very young family members. The bank hopes that this program will be exported to its corporate clients so that they, in turn, can eradicate poverty within their staffs and have significant impacts on the financial wellbeing of the country’s population.
BAC also began an initiative called Yo Me Uno (Count Me In) to provide training and support to non-governmental organizations (NGOs), in addition to a web fundraising platform. The website has raised millions of dollars for these organizations and allowed them to receive thousands of donated articles. These resources have helped these organizations to be more effective in aiding their target populations, who usually carry significant financial burdens—those affected by catastrophes, illnesses, addictions and their families.
What is the single most significant way in which BAC differentiates its customer service from that of its banking peers? What do you consider to be the most important factor for a bank to deliver consistently excellent customer service?
I would like to insist on our aspiration of becoming a simpler bank and a customer-centric institution. To be able to achieve this, we aspire to devote resources to understand in depth our customers’ experiences and with that information be able to develop a different relationship with our clients. Scientific data analysis is one way that we hope to be able to differentiate value proposition for the different clusters of clients.
As I understand, the bank’s electronic payment solutions are one of its flagship product offerings. What are some specific aspects of these solutions that you consider to be unique and/or superior to the offerings provided by other regional banks?
Our bank’s electronic payment solutions are perceived as very convenient because of their ease of use and integration. In a few words, it is very easy to pay everything that is required in one single solution. In addition, we continuously measure our customer satisfaction and strive to search for new ways to improve the friendliness and value of this service.
I also understand that this year, the bank will launch a renewed mobile application. What will be some of the main features of this application?
One of the new features is that customers will be able to use their mobile devices to pay directly in stores. In this regard, customers can leave their plastic cards at home or in their pockets and pay by nearing their devices to the stores’ point-of-sale systems. In addition, we have included several new features such as directly sharing notifications of payments via text messages, email, WhatsApp, among others—as well as a new and friendlier-to-use interface.
BAC is definitely going all out to make sure its customers are well served in every way. Thank you very much for your time today, Mr. Odio.