Colombia 2014 | ECONOMY | B2B: SURA GROUP

With almost 70 years of experience, the quality of Sura group's insurance, pensions, savings, and investment services have allowed it to dominate a number of Latin markets.

Andrés Bernal Correa
SURA Asset Management
David Bojanini García
Grupo de Inversiones Suramericana (Grupo SURA)

What are some of the main challenges facing infrastructure development in Colombia?

DAVID BOJANINI GARCÍA Our country has an infrastructure handicap, not just in terms of roads, but also in terms of railroads, water transport, and other necessary services. These are all underdeveloped and require improvement, along with seaports and airports. Over the past four years, the National Infrastructure Agency (ANI) has tried to set a very clear route for concessions. We have had considerable trouble with concessions in the past, and that has, in a way, paralyzed infrastructure development. Many of these concessions have been assigned to different developers and companies. Among the problems that need to be solved are what we call here in Colombia “consultas previas," which is a process developed in collaboration with communities, requiring community approval for certain types of development projects. Here in Colombia we have to find a way that will respect the needs of local communities, but that will also not paralyze infrastructure development, and by extension, that of the economy. Another issue is related to environmental licenses.

What does Colombia mean for SURA in market terms?

ANDRÉS BERNAL CORREA Suramericana was founded here in Colombia. It began as a life insurance company and evolved by buying stock in various other organizations. It has become a conglomerate over the past 70 years. What we build on today in Colombia is our clear leadership of the insurance sector and the reputation of the nation's largest bank. Grupo Sura commands the largest market, with 30,000 shareholders. There are 7 million people in Colombia who work and have their own pension fund at their companies, which belong to the Colombians themselves, namely employees with pension funds. We have been generating growth and wealth for these people. Colombia is key, and where it all began, where all these people's savings have been invested, and also where the headquarters are for each of its companies.

What role do acquisitions play in your broader strategy?

DBG In 2011, Grupo SURA acquired ING's pensions, insurance, and asset management business in five Latin American countries. We always had a few main strategies. One is based on that fact that our companies are leaders in Colombia, Suramericana in insurance and Bancolombia in banking. With ING in those five Latin American countries, we became the region's leading pension fund manager. Our strategy has been to combine mandatory products with wealth management products, so in each one of these countries we want to be able to offer complete financial services for our clients. This is how the company's inorganic growth strategies are oriented today, to give our clients a complete offer in each of the countries in which we are present.

What are your plans for the future at SURA?

ABC We truly believe that SURA will become a leading player in the savings world. Savings translates into pensions, wealth management, and life insurance. We are now the largest player in Latin America in the mandatory pension fund arena, but we have only a slender presence in wealth management and are small, too, in life insurance. Yet we will sustain our growth if we continue to offer decent, well-priced products to our clients.