Colombia 2017 | FINANCE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Luis Enrique Dussán, President of Banco Agrario de Colombia, on democratizing credit, enabling rural areas to share in wealth creation, and the importance of foreign investment.

Luis Enrique Dussán
Prior to becoming the President of Banco Agrario de Colombia in 2016, Luis Enrique Dussán served as the President of Finagro and as a director in the Ministry of Agriculture. Between 2002 and 2014, he served as a House Representative for Huila.

How is Banco Agrario de Colombia transitioning toward becoming a development bank?

Banco Agrario de Colombia is a unique bank because we offer atypical services focused on the agriculture sector. We are also a public bank with specific clients. We realized there was something missing in rural financing when private banks were not able to give credit to rural people because of high risks and costs. We supply this financing. The bank is a sustainable bank, which it has to be in order to survive. But we also do this in order to follow a public policy. It is important to be a part of the development of the whole country. We are the most widely disseminated bank—with 750 branches in 728 municipalities—and in 454 of those municipalities we are the only existing bank. We have an important goal, which is to pay attention to the client while remaining profitable. We are not getting any financing from the state but are producing wealth for the whole country. Agriculture is one of the biggest sectors in Colombia and has a great deal of potential. The Colombian conflict was born of land distribution problems. Like in much of the world, large populations are migrating from the countryside to the cities; however, the actual wealth of the country, especially in Colombia, is in rural areas where there are a large amount of hydrocarbons and minerals. At the same time, there is a contradiction in that the highest poverty rates are in rural areas. It is important for us to analyze this, especially in the post-conflict era, where Banco Agrario de Colombia will take a leading role.

What role must Banco Agrario play to ensure a successful post-conflict economy?

An important step in this process will be focusing on much more social inclusion, not only because we want to give them access to credit for a better life, but also because giving access to credit for the rural population will help the development of the entire country. We irrigate money to rural areas in order to develop not only agriculture but also energy production and hydropower. One of the main ways of implementing this transformation is having a new model of attention and relationship with the client. The goal is not only to sell a financial product to the client, but enable the client to use this product to develop their lives and that of the country. The second most important issue is being closer to clients and farmers. We are the second-most widespread state entity in the country after the military and police. We plan to open new 130 branches, 95 of which are part of the “Banco Agrario Closer" model.

What are some of your strategies for becoming even closer to your clients?

In order to be more efficient, especially in giving credit, we want to decentralize and delegate these decisions to the regional level so people can more readily access them. The issue of technological modernization is also key; mobility means that people will go into the field using technology to make credit accessible to these people. Therefore, the volume of credit and financing the bank is taking care of is critical. In this line, we are developing a new application that can be used not only on smartphones but with any kind of phone. Another goal is to make our products relevant to local areas. This is why we are working to strengthen municipalities and local governments, providing credit for tertiary roads, energy, water resource management, logistics, market places, irrigation and collection centers, among other projects.

What opportunities are there for foreign investment in Colombia's agricultural sector and rural areas?

They play an important role. Foreign investment is incredibly important but a great deal still has to be done. Colombia has huge potential for agricultural business.