By Nicholas Larsen, International Banker
The past year was especially transformative for the Ecuadorian banking sector, not least because of the lingering COVID-19 pandemic, which continues to bring about a multitude of dramatic changes not only in the ways that customers choose to bank but also in how banks deliver optimal services to their customers.
Digital transformation and communication
Produbanco’s commitment to offering the best financial solutions amidst this challenging environment is unwavering, and it continues to evolve as a bank—both culturally and digitally. The bank consistently develops new products and services that are ultimately designed with the comfort and satisfaction of its customers in mind. Understanding and fulfilling their needs is of utmost importance in ensuring it dependably delivers quality service to them time and again.
The Produbanco team has successfully achieved this mission by implementing a digital-transformation process that is distinctly different in character than that of other banks in Ecuador. The bank focuses predominantly on innovation and thus strives to implement those projects and solutions that are unmistakably non-traditional in nature. In doing so, it seeks to bring about a seismic cultural change throughout Produbanco, one that embraces innovation and is willing to pursue cutting-edge solutions to continuously meet customers’ needs in a dynamically evolving environment.
And the bank has largely managed to achieve this cultural shift, thanks in no small part to its efforts to bolster its communication capacity both inside and outside the organisation using a mix of traditional and digital channels, which, in turn, has facilitated the effective dissemination of Produbanco’s evolving requirements.
The bank is also supported by its ProduLab innovation laboratory, an advanced research facility in which Produbanco positions highly qualified multidisciplinary teams to develop ideas and experiences for the benefit of clients continuously. And by crucially cultivating a spirit of fearless and relentless innovation throughout the organisation, these teams can apply agile, adaptive methodologies that put the voice of the customer at the forefront of the research. Indeed, the user’s experience is prioritised above all else, and, as such, all of the bank’s digital channels are developed and finetuned to ensure his or her needs are wholly satisfied.
The fruits of these innovative pursuits are evidenced in Produbanco’s suite of cutting-edge solutions, moreover. For instance, it recently integrated the WhatsApp Business channel into its service ecosystem, with this channel now capable of completing automatic tasks including checking balances and georeferencing the nearest agencies and ATMs (automated teller machines) as well as providing clients with personalised virtual access to highly experienced advisors who can assist them with a range of financial and banking needs. The bank has also recently included push notifications to improve the communicative channel with customers, and it aims to utilise this feature as and when convenient for each client.
On the payment side, meanwhile, one of the most unique solutions the bank has introduced is putting customers’ credit-card statements into video format (in addition to the already familiar digital format). This affords Produbanco much greater flexibility in terms of customising useful information for each customer and being able to more seamlessly tie in any appropriate offers each month that may be of interest.
Produbanco has also worked diligently on a whole host of contactless-payment innovations for its customers’ convenience. Amid the pandemic, the bank introduced its new PayPhone 3.0 payment app into the market, offering users a simpler and more dynamic payment experience by facilitating contactless digital transactions. PayPhone 3.0 incorporates the option of collections and payments from the same user accounts, permitting anyone to receive or send money from their Visa or Mastercard credit cards or debit cards issued by any bank. It also includes one of the Produbanco digital wallet’s innovations, enabling users to receive and send digital cash from smartphone to smartphone without charging credit or bank accounts. PayPhone 3.0 ended 2021 with more than 335,000 users.
Keen to promote the concept of responsible finance among its customers, the bank developed Mis Consumos (My Consumption) to help them in this regard. This digital tool can review and analyse all of a customer’s debit-card and credit-card expenses across various time periods, providing insights into consumption amounts, dates and establishments in which he or she made purchases. It can also categorise customer expenses (for example, food, education, clothing and others), which further helps clients plan their personal finances more effectively.
But equally as important as simply presenting customers with innovations, Produbanco places considerable emphasis on ensuring they are getting the most out of these digital tools. In practice, this means being on hand to support them in using all of the bank’s offerings, answering any queries and solving any problems they may have.
Importantly, it would seem that its work is paying off, especially regarding its digitalisation efforts. To date, a significant percentage of the bank’s account and credit offerings are channelled digitally, substantially bolstering transactional growth through the mobile app and other digital channels. As of December 2021, 69 percent of active retail customers and 78 percent of active commercial customers were registered on the bank’s digital channels, while monetary transactions through such channels grew by 60 percent in 2020 and a further 47 percent in the 12 months to December 2021.
Recently, Produbanco received from FMO (the Dutch entrepreneurial development bank) a line of credit for $92 million. Of this amount, $72 million corresponds to a five-year term financing facility and $20 million to an eight-year term instrument. Resources will be used to develop small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), women entrepreneurs and green projects.
In addition, Produbanco received from the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) a line of credit of $150 million over an eight-year term to finance businesses led by women, promoting gender equity and inclusion, and also to direct credit to the bank’s Green Lines Program projects that combat climate change and promote the growth of small and medium-sized enterprises, thus fostering economic recovery as an exit out of the COVID-19 crisis.
New building in Guayaquil
Produbanco opened the doors of its new EDGE (Excellence in Design for Greater Efficiencies) certified building in the city of Guayaquil. This modern building is fully automated and meets high sustainability parameters by generating energy and water savings.
The newly opened main branch of Produbanco in Guayaquil is not just a building. It is human values realized in the tangible; it is technology at the behest of customers; it is sustainability at its best. It is endowed with EDGE certification issued by Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI), awarded to construction projects that meet a minimum savings of 20 percent in operational energy, water consumption and energy incorporated in its materials.
It should be noted that the new building is a mixed structure of reinforced concrete and metal, with an aluminium and glass façade, thus complying with all comfort standards. In addition, it showcases the BMS (building management system) architecture that regulates, controls and supervises the proper functioning of all the subsystems of the building, making it an iconic construction project within the city of Guayaquil.
As a financial institution, Produbanco considers itself a key entity in not only channelling liquidity but also acting as a socially and ethically responsible intermediary, particularly in overseeing the efficient and productive use of the resources that underpin the sustainable development of the productive sector. The bank’s Green Lines Program, which commenced in 2016, for instance, has enabled it to specifically finance those projects that have positive impacts on the environment, including the various activities of explicitly “green” businesses, resource and energy efficiency, renewable energy, efficient agricultural technology and sustainability certifications.
On an annual basis, the bank publishes a report detailing the best practices that it is implementing as an organisation, as well as the sustainability standards it is striving to achieve consistently. As an example, Produbanco has set the goal of being carbon neutral throughout its entire operation and, indeed, has already received the International Certification for Carbon Neutrality according to ISO (International Organization for Standardization) 14064-3 and verified by SGS (Societé Générale de Surveillance). This globally recognised certification represents the high standard of achievement of organisations worldwide in quantifying, evaluating and defining those actions taken to reduce their carbon footprints under the strict guidelines of the CarbonNeutral Protocol.
In terms of how the bank seeks to achieve its environmental goals, it monitors its corporate carbon-footprint indicators. Produbanco also annually registers its carbon-emissions output and has put in place clear goals to bring this number down as part of its contribution towards the global efforts to combat climate change. Defined objectives to reduce carbon emissions involve the mobilisation of employees, energy, business trips, refrigerants and waste, all of which form part of the Corporate Eco-efficiency and Use of Resources Program. And some of the specific actions it has undertaken to reduce its emissions are:
- Reopening the Iñaquito Building, which meets very high standards of sustainable construction and has even been awarded the EDGE Advanced Certification to signify the on-site energy savings it has achieved.
- Changing the lighting within its agencies from fluorescent lamps to LED (light-emitting diode) technology.
- Implementing a comprehensive teleworking scheme to reduce the travel footprint of employees.
- Raising employees’ awareness to bolster their commitments towards carbon-footprint reduction.
- Reducing corporate trips when possible.
- Implementing various paper-saving measures, such as increasing the use of digital statements, click signatures, print controls, digital Christmas gifts and digital transactions.
In addition, Produbanco is currently in the process of defining two SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-based) objectives pertaining to the negative and/or positive impacts of its client portfolio, which is being carried out in accordance with its commitment to the Principles for Responsible Banking (PRB), a unique United Nations (UN) framework for ensuring that the strategies and practices of signatory banks such as Produbanco are aligned with the vision that society has set out for its future in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Climate Agreement. And when it comes to the commercial management of Produbanco, it is a member bank of the UN’s Net-Zero Banking Alliance (NZBA) along with 43 other banks that have pledged to align lending and investment portfolios with net-zero emissions by 2050 as well as set an intermediate target for 2030 or sooner, using robust, science-based guidelines.
But it’s arguably the bank’s conservation of the Moorlands—in alliance with Conservation International Ecuador (CI Ecuador), the Ministry of Environment and Water (MAAE) and the Sustainable Environmental Investment Fund (FIAS – Fondo de Inversión Ambiental Sostenible)—that represents its signature sustainability project. Signed in 2020, this alliance ensures it makes extraordinary efforts to conserve Ecuador’s moorlands, a hugely important ecological feature of the Andean ecosystem, particularly for protecting and regulating water resources in the country.
Within the framework of this public-private initiative, a new sub-account called Páramos was created in FIAS to channel resources towards conservation efforts, which will be used for the incentives of the Socio Páramo (Moorland Partner) Program.
The project represents one of the key actions of sustainable development in the country, and Produbanco’s contribution is among the highest priorities for the bank, underlining its unwavering commitment to being one of Ecuador’s sustainability leaders.
The bank associates green as the colour for nature, hope, life, positivism, abundance, freedom, the future and efficient technology. That is why the concept of Territorio Verde (Green Territory) is so vital for Produbanco’s business strategy—it underlines its commitment to not only provide services and products of the highest standards but also operate within a comprehensive framework of sound risk, sustainability and social responsibility.
Green is the territory of Produbanco; it represents its essence, its soul and its purpose for working in the Ecuadorian people’s favour. In this way, Produbanco resolutely confirms its unfailing dedication towards promoting responsible banking through sustainable operations and the development of efficient financial solutions and innovations.