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Colombia 2015 | FINANCE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Carlos Raúl Yepes Jiménez, President of Bancolombia, on listing on the NYSE, plans for investment, and regional growth.

Carlos Raúl Yepes Jiménez
BIOGRAPHY
Carlos Raúl Yepes Jiménez has been the President of Bancolombia S.A since February 1, 2011 and serves as its Chief Executive Officer. He served as legal vice president of Cementos Argos S.A. and as Legal Director of Bancolombia S.A and legal director of C.I. Union De Bananeros De Urabá, S.A.-Uniban. He serves as a member of the board of directors of CI Carbones del Caribe and Corporación de Cemento Andino Venezuela. He served as a Director of Bancolombia S.A from March 1, 2007 to January 31, 2011. He holds a Degree in Law from the Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana and another in Business Law from Universidad Externado de Colombia. He has studied in the University of Delaware, Kellogg School of Management, Yale School of Management, and IESE-Wharton-CEIBS.

How do you evaluate the bank's performance on the Bolsa de Valores (BVC) over the past year, and the reasons for that growth?

We have had a positive performance on the stock exchange during the period. The history of Bancolombia is closely linked to our country and people. About 20 years ago, I also had the fortune to be part of the team that helped Banco Industrial Colombiana, which later became Bancolombia, list on the NYSE, the first Colombian company to do so. We have always stood out for our growth, corporate governance, and transparency. Ours was a very differently structured company to the majority of banking corporations in Latin America in that it is designed with the citizen in mind. Last year, our objective was to democratize the organization. We wanted two things, we wanted more people to become shareholders, which we achieved, whereby our 20,000 shareholders rose to 75,000. We did it not only in compliance with Basel III stipulations, but more importantly because we wanted to sustain our growth shared with that of the country. We rank first in all commercial segments, although we were never interested in becoming the largest bank, but simply the best in terms of service, which is a qualitative issue, rather than a quantitative one. Our motto is to be profitable for our shareholders, efficient, growth-driven, and sustainable. And our mission is to be the Banca Más Humana (Most Humane Bank). All these factors have contributed to our posting one of the strongest performances on the BVC over the past year, in spite of the turbulence in international markets and the devaluation of oil. We have still been capable of advancing in line with the Colombian economy, on moderate growth of 4.5% in 2014, which in the international context is very good. Ultimately I put this growth down to having an excellent team and human capital behind us, being very clear in our strategy and the way in which we interact with our clients and the rest of the world, our allies, and providers, and a philosophy that fosters confidence.

Over the coming year you have an investment plan of $300 million, how exactly will this be allocated?

$150 million of our investment plan will be focused on Colombia, $100 million in Panama, and $50 million in El Salvador, principally in technology-related and strategic projects. The most important could be in El Salvador. We have started establishing the Banco Agrícola Salvador, which will be one of the most important infrastructural projects in the country, and moreover, one of the most state of the art data centers in Latin America. Meanwhile, we continue investing in digital channels. Our strategic projects account for some $60 million and $14 million, respectively. Today we have around 1,267 branches in Colombia, 4,800 own-brand ATMs, 5,000 banking correspondents, and 206 kiosks.

What is your strategy for regional growth over the coming year?

We have five milestones of growth for next year. The first is related to efficiency; therefore our financial decisions are focused on achieving more with fewer resources. We also want to focus on humane banking, which refers to improving service and prioritizing the client. Other milestones are innovation and technology. In summary, these five factors make up the profitable consolidation of growth for next year. We have an extensive list of projects to be executed either this year or over the next few years. We are expecting 12% growth in our portfolio, from 10-15%. This is an important figure as it denotes that we are growing two to three times faster than GDP across all our markets of operation. Additionally this year, despite external pressure due to current global and local macroeconomic conditions, we expect a positive performance. In pursuit of profitability, we consider our participation in the Dow Jones index essential.