ADDING VALUE

Costa Rica 2017 | FINANCE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Oscar Hidalgo Chaves, General Manager of Coopeservidores, on evolving the cooperative, incorporating values of sustainability, and what the signing of an agreement with Procomer means for customers.

Oscar Hidalgo Chaves
BIOGRAPHY
Oscar Hidalgo Chaves has over 20 years of professional experience and is currently the General Manager of Coopeservidores. Hidalgo, has led alliance projects with local and international investment institutions such as the Inter-American Development Bank (BID). His designation by the Federation of Credit Unions of Costa Rica (Fedeac) as a country delegate to the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) confirms his position. He studied at the University of Costa Rica and obtained a MSc in Business Administration and also received training at the Central American Institute for Business Administration (INCAE) and the Universities of Yale and Northwestern, United States.

How would you describe the evolution of the cooperative and its various areas of operation?

From the year we started to 1994, our company went through a steady evolution, but it was not until 1994 that we became supervised by SUGEF. That marked a new step in our company toward new growth and expansion. In 2001, we had around USD10 million in assets and 7,000 members, and for the current year we have increased to 30 branches and USD1.2 billion in assets. Because we are a credit union, the essence of cooperatism is to be a social organization, and instead of being focused on capital, it focuses on people. All the benefits of what comes out of the business are distributed among our members and also used for developing social and environmental strategies. Annually, we give around USD12 million in cash to members at the beginning of the year. Coopeservidores has a nearly 60 years' trajectory and the success of our work is due to our sustainability strategy, which is stablished over three major axis: the economical, the social, and the environmental. The main objective of our business is to bring overall wellness to our clients, transforming the economic wellness into social and environmental one.

How does Coopeservidores combine its sustainability and innovation strategies with its investments?

Our strategy also responds to this technological vision without loosing the humane feeling that has led us to become a much more digital and innovative cooperative, making everything easier without forgetting our environmental and social responsibility. Thanks to our greatly valuable ideas in this matter, nowadays we have become a reference point and example for the rest of the financial and cooperative sectors in Costa Rica. We have 30 branches but 28 of them are traditional branches where there is a counter and a person providing products and service. Today, we are proud to have fulfilled the requirements and certificate the entire company with the INTE 35-01-01 Social Responsibility Certification and the ISO 9001 Quality Certification. Also, all of our branches are already carbon neutral, this means that the cooperative takes care of its environmental impacts, specifically the ones that produce greenhouse gases. Hence, some of our new green objectives are to become a Positive Carbon and a paper free institution, especially in our back offices. This effort is strongly linked to several technological projects.

Coopeservidores has signed an agreement with Procomer to provide credit to companies wanting to obtain the ESENCIAL country brand. What results have you seen so far?

The country brand is Esencial Costa Rica, so we have been a 100% Costa Rican company since our foundation through to today. This alliance not only helps companies that want to obtain financial solutions, it will also help the ones that already have it and want to grow even more. This is not only a financial solution, but also developing them through the accompaniment and the development of their company. In addition to this alliance, the BID has given us USD50 million to support developeing companies, while another percentage is going toward social housing. As part of the alliance with PROCOMER, we have been analyzing six particular companies over the past two months; however, the potential is 250 and hopefully 1,000. We are structuring the process and analyzing who can be a part of it and how can we provide help and support along the process. Right now, we have started a process with the four core priorities of being digital, simple, innovative, and humane, asking ourselves how can we add value to people's lives. We are asking ourselves how we can translate this usually cold experience and transform it into something that they embrace, in a way that makes them feel they can trust us.