PEOPLE’S CHOICE

Dominican Republic 2015 | FINANCE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Manuel A. Grullón, President of Banco Popular, on 50 years of serving Dominicans, financial inclusion, and financing the country's tourism sector.

Manuel A. Grullón
BIOGRAPHY
Manuel A. Grullón was born in Santiago de los Caballeros in 1953. He obtained a degree in psychology from Tulane University in New Orleans, and completed his master’s degree in business administration at New York University. Mr. Grullon has been involved with Banco Popular Dominicano for more than 30 years and has held the presidency of the Dominican French Chamber of Commerce, and presided over the Dominican Young President’s Organization Chapter (YPO) from 1993 to 1996. He is currently a member of the World President’s Organization (WPO), an international non-profit organization dedicated to forging better leaders through the exchange of knowledge and ideas.

Banco Popular celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2014, highlighting its leading position in the Dominican market. How has the bank grown since its foundation and what do you consider its landmark achievement?

Banco Popular has always worked side by side with Dominicans, contributing and accompanying national growth and development over the past 50 years. Our institution rose from the Asociación para el Desarrollo, Inc. (APEDI), whose management was led by Alejandro E. Grullón E. and a group of accomplished professionals and businessmen from the city of Santiago. These men also created other national development institutions across the economic, regulatory, social, educational, and cultural spheres. Banco Popular opened its doors to the public on January 2nd 1964. It was inaugurated as the country's first commercial private bank and, thus, began an outstanding trajectory of contributions in favor of economic growth, democratization of financial services, diversification and modernization of products and banking services.

The banking sector in the Dominican Republic is developing into intensively competitive market with many well-established local and international players. How does Banco Popular distinguish itself from the competitors and what market segments are you targeting?

Throughout Banco Popular's 50 years it has cultivated deeps roots in the Dominican people. It has grown organically with the industry and has established a vast customer base throughout the years. The institution caters its services to all segments within the industry, from children with a savings account to multinational companies seeking new investments. Over the past decade the country has grown significantly, and with this growth a large number of international capital has found opportunities to invest within the country. Banco Popular recognized this change and has adapted to the current landscape creating different business segments within their structure. Among many areas in which we have introduced innovations is tourism where a division is focused solely on the industry catering to the needs of this demanding segment. Institutional Banking is an area catering solely to local and international regulated industries and government entities. Corporate Banking is a division focused on high net-worth clients of more than $5 million in revenue. Investment Banking is the newest division with three years in effect, and is responsible for several projects involving local and international investors. Some of their biggest international projects include M&A, interest rate swap, and syndications and debt issuance of major multinationals within the tourism and oil industries. Our Subagente Popular network is a pioneering new channel for financial inclusion, allowing hundreds of thousands of Dominicans access banking services. Currently, we have a network of nearly 300 banking subagents throughout the country. Other financial inclusion initiatives have involved work with country's main telephone companies, where we have implemented the option of card-free ATM withdrawals, or without a pre-paid virtual account, by means of a mobile phone, which allows thousands of people to have a bank account and withdraw money without a card, and without having to be a customer of the formal financial system. Impulsa Popular is our end-to-end support initiative for the SMS sector, which includes a range of financial products and services, and training programs, discussion forums, and digital tools that promote them, regardless of whether or not they are a client of Banco Popular. The object of this initiative is to strengthen this sector, which is essential for the sustainable development of the Dominican economy. This initiative has been recognized by the Asociación de Industrias de la República Dominicana (AIRD), which is the Dominican Association of Industries. Meanwhile, ProExporta Popular is a groundbreaking proposal to comprehensively support Dominican exporters, especially SMEs that seek an international presence. In addition to the financial tools that assist exports, we offer support and advice throughout the whole internationalization process as well as training workshops and educational materials.

What is Banco Popular's role in the development of the Dominican tourism industry?

Ever since its creation half a century ago, Banco Popular has developed and supported the industry's growth. In fact, for many years our institution was the first and only bank which loaned funds to the Tourism industry. In 2007, we created a ground-breaking area specialized in catering to the specific needs of this thriving industry. In 10 years, Banco Popular has financed over Ps1.4 billion. In 2013, Banco Popular was responsible for over 61% of credits to this sector with a nominal amount of $13.5 million. In 2014, the Asociacion de Hoteles y Turismo de la Republica Dominicana (ASONAHORES), which is the Hotel and Tourism Association in the Dominican Republic, recognized our institution as the tourism bank.