INTERNATIONAL BANKS

Colombia 2017 | FINANCE | B2B

Though risks remain, the upshot—and necessity—of foreign capital in ensuring Colombia's peace dividend does not go unheeded will be paramount in coming years.

Jorge Valderrama
JORGE VALDERRAMA
Country Head of Colombia & CAC
BNP Paribas
William Shelton Salazar
WILLIAM SHELTON SALAZAR
President
Multibank Colombia

What opportunities are there in the finance sector in Colombia?

JORGE VALDERRAMA In terms of opportunities, there are many in construction and infrastructure. The 4G infrastructure projects are large and comparable to Mexico's energy projects, which suffered from the decline in oil prices. In the region, this is still the main group of projects where we see many opportunities because BNP Paribas likes infrastructure. As a European bank, BNP Paribas also knows and likes product financing. We need to have international standards in developing our different toll roads for 4G. The same applies to the Bogotá Metro. Since BNP Paribas has participated in metro projects throughout Latin America, we have the expertise and knowledge. The other opportunity is related to capital and global markets. There are many opportunities in the development of Colombia's capital markets, though there are several initiatives needed to have asset managers be more sophisticated. These clients are mainly institutional investors, such as pension funds, banks, and insurance companies.

WILLIAM SHELTON SALAZAR We will see a strengthening in business intelligence and the management of data in the finance sector. There are larger investments going on in these areas, in data management and client services. After all, the main aim of financial companies is to adapt and identify the needs of their different clients; that is what Multibank is also doing, understanding and adapting to the needs of SMEs and tailoring solutions for them. On a more macroeconomic level, the outlook is positive because Colombia has a great administration and a growth economy, one of the fastest growing in Latin America, and that means we have a many foreign investors doing business here, as well as local investors seeking new opportunities. We are open to new investments, and our inflation, employment, and infrastructure figures are all healthy and strong.

What is your long-term vision for Colombia?

JV The international financial community plays an important and necessary role here. The overall USD20 billion budget needs funding from every available pool in the world. We are also demonstrating the extent to which domestic banks can support projects with international standards. As an international bank, we also help to develop the financial industry in Colombia. Before 4G, the Bogotá Airport was the only project under a project finance structure. BNP Paribas is a kind of exhibit where international investors come to see and learn about the country. We hear from three to four companies each quarter looking at Colombia and seeing what they can do. The perception of Colombia has undergone a major change. At times it is unfortunate because Colombians probably have an image of their country that is not as positive as the one that foreigners now have. I do believe investment will continue to grow in Colombia. There are many opportunities in the country, and people from abroad are looking at them seriously. We track our reputation digitally, and one of the analytics tools we use shows a dramatic increase in the number of people and investors looking at us from abroad.

WSS We have three main goals in the long term. The first is to strengthen the technological infrastructure and capacity of the company to create new and better opportunities for consolidating ourselves in the market. The second goal is to consolidate our business positioning as the leading bank in SME specialization in Colombia. The third goal is to develop and see to the needs of companies in Colombia with the support and backing of our Panamanian headquarters. We have a strategy that covers 2020-2021, which is to diversify the business. We want to be a business that helps companies export, and we want to create strategies to help companies export from here. We have faced various challenges here. The first were the technological restrictions in every area of banking. Procedures needed to change all around and technology needed to improve to serve the segment we wanted to serve. Second, we had to close all operations we had as a finance company so we could position our new brand as a bank. The strategy changed and we wanted to finalize the earlier business. The re-branding has not been completed yet, and we still have more to do in all possible channels. There is a high level of competition in Colombia's finance sector, and everyone has to keep repositioning in different ways.