REAL SOLUTIONS FOR REAL PEOPLE

Colombia 2017 | FINANCE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Juan Carlos Mora Uribe, CEO of Bancolombia, on how to boost regional integration, making innovation cater to people's real needs, and making the changes needed of a sustainable institution.

Juan Carlos Mora Uribe
BIOGRAPHY
Before becoming the CEO of Bancolombia in 2016, Juan Carlos Mora Uribe was vice president of innovation and digital transformation. He has been in the Bancolombia group for over 25 years and holds an MBA from Babson College.

What is Bancolombia's strategy for implementing further technology in the Colombian market?

My last responsibility for Bancolombia was as head of innovation. Therefore, I am aware of what is going on in terms of innovation and developments in the financial sector around the world. The financial sector is changing rapidly, but not just because of technology. People are also simply changing their behavior and their relationship with financial institutions. In the case of Bancolombia, we have been working on different ways of seeing our business, and this transformation to become digital has to be aggressive.

Do you have any innovations in the pipeline for 2017?

We have several projects, one of which is our digital bank, which we have been working on for the past 18 months and for which a beta version is already on the market. It is really a new way of doing business. It is separate technology and business model; therefore, we see it as a laboratory in which we test concepts before going to the market and incorporating what we have learned in the process. We call it “Nequi by Bancolombia,” a separate bank. It is a bank that is all digital and mobile with no branches and is a new concept we are introducing. We are learning a great deal from our customers, which we will then incorporate. It has been a great experience; this is innovation.

How does Bancolombia's “Human Banking” concept translate into actual banking policies?

We do more than live this concept—it is the foundation of how we conceive of banking: innovation and customer service that are based upon people. This means the responsible design and sale of products that people actually need—which are also the hallmarks of a sustainable institution.

What effect is tax reform having on the banking sector?

The tax reform project is now public, and its central elements from what we know are good. In general, the reform is intended to promote investment and reduce the tax burden on corporations, which is good. In Colombia, it is not just the rates, but the complexity of the tax code that has hindered investment previosuly.

How is the sector responding post peace deal?

It will be positive for the Colombian economy. Because of the conflict, many regions in Colombia have not been a part of the economic development that the country has had in the past 15 years. Peace will allow economic actors to enter previously untouched markets, many of which the government has also been absent from.

What are your strategies for expanding the bank's international presence?

We have a presence in three other major markets after Colombia: Panama, El Salvador, and Guatemala. We are not planning any additional acquisitions, but do want to consolidate these operations. Our operations in Colombia are large and continue to grow as we bring new products and services into the market. We are also bringing our experience, products, and business ethic in Colombia to our markets in Panama, El Salvador, and Guatemala.

What are your expectations for the bank and the Colombian economy in 2017?

We see 2017 as a transition year. Growth forecasts are slightly higher than in 2016, though they will still be below our potential growth rate. As such, it will also bring opportunities for us banks and the economy in general. Infrastructure will also start to play a bigger role in 2017, as will exports.