A BANKING SECTOR FOR ALL

Colombia 2018 | FINANCE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Eduardo Garcia, Representative Director and Country Head of Credit Suisse, on integrated banking, rural finance, and its Financial Inclusion Initiative.

Eduardo Garcia
BIOGRAPHY
Eduardo Garcia has an educational background in corporate finance. Over the last 20 years he has occupied several positions in the financial sector in Colomvoa, Brazil, and in the US for Citi, GE Capital, and Credit Suisse.

What have been Credit Suisse's main achievements and developments in Colombia?

Credit Suisse has been in Colombia for 40 uninterrupted years, during which time we have been supportive of the country's development from many different angles. We have wide coverage of the private banking, asset management, and investment banking business. In terms of private banking business, Credit Suisse has been close to the most important entrepreneurial families in Colombia over the past 40 years. Credit Suisse's brand and footprint are set for the long term. We have patiently experienced all cycles of the Colombian economy and sociopolitical scenarios. Our achievement has been to establish ourselves as one of the leading banks in Colombia that has carried out landmark transactions both in the public sector and in private banking.

Credit Suisse is well known for its integrated banking business model. How well does this model apply to the Colombian market?

In wealth management, asset management, and investment banking, the profiles of the professionals and the business vary. The reason Credit Suisse offers these different segments is that they have many synergies, and business is generated by collaborating across divisions. Every part of the business is in constant communication to support our clients in a holistic manner in line with their needs. In addition, we offer lending to clients from the corporate side that require funding. For example, in early 2017 we granted a syndicated loan for which Credit Suisse not only arranged the syndication, but also contributed a large portion of the funds. In 4Q2017, we dispersed a loan to a private company supported by the borrower's cash flow generation.

What is Credit Suisse's strategy to improve financial inclusion, a huge problem in Colombia?

From a global perspective, Credit Suisse is celebrating 10 years of our Financial Inclusion Initiative. We are extremely active in working with financial inclusion-focused partner organizations around the world. From 2011 to 2014, we supported Women's World Banking on product development for gendered products in rural finance in Colombia and supported Opportunity International (OI) to implement their projects. Since 2014, Credit Suisse has supported OI in the delivery of its Education Finance program, a specialized loan product for school owners and school fee loans for parents to send their children to affordable, quality private schools, which is also implemented in Colombia. We also support the Center for Financial Inclusion (CFI) at Accion as a founding partner. The CFI serves as a think tank for the financial inclusion industry for advocacy and training, and produces research on many pressing topics, such as digital financial health and risks in the microfinance industry. In addition, we provide grant money and capacity building support to Accion's Venture Lab, its venture capital investment vehicle that invests Accion's money in fintechs with a financially inclusive business model. Last year, an executive and a female talent of Fundación Delamujer Colombia participated in the “Leadership and Diversity for Innovation Program" of Women's World Banking that teaches participants leadership tools and methods with the goal of strengthening the offering of financial products and services for women in the participants' institutions.

What are your main goals and targets at Credit Suisse for 2018?

It will be a challenging year for the whole region. First of all, there are a number of presidential elections coming up in the region. Second, many are looking to the US economy. Added to this, any movement on the tax reforms in the US will have a direct impact on the Latin American economy. Hence, there are internal and external issues that will impact Colombia in 2018. Currently, Colombia has maintained its investment grade, and the fundamentals still seem strong enough. Now, it will depend on what happens on the macro and micro levels. Despite this, the Colombian economy is in an excellent position right now, and the peace agreement is in place.