VAULT INTO THE BREACH

Ecuador 2014 | FINANCE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Efrain Vieira Herrera, Executive President of Banco del Pacífico, on funding development, and getting loans and technology into the hands of customers.

Efrain Vieira Herrera
BIOGRAPHY
After majoring in electrical engineering as an undergraduate, Efrain Vieira Herrera earned a Master's degree in business administration in 1991, and a second in business economics in 1994. Herrera’s academic career also included a position as senior lecturer at the Escuela Superior Politecnica del Litoral and Professor of Finance at the IDE Business School. His professional experience includes positions such as Director and President at DATAFAST, Vice-President of Business at Diners Club, General Manager at BIESS, and his current position as Executive President at Banco del Pacífico.

As a publicly owned private bank, how would you characterize the role that Banco del Pacífico plays in Ecuador's banking sector?

Banco del Pacífico is a private bank that was purchased by the Central Bank of Ecuador after the financial crisis in 1999, meaning that today the state is the owner of Banco del Pacífico. However, we have preserved our independence and our activity does not depend on the national budget. In a way, the bank has become a channel to comply with the public delineation of economic policy. For example, we have been active in financing activity within the transformation of the production matrix. We have also played an important role in providing funding for strategic sectors, and in 2013, we provided credit lines worth $350 million to strategic sectors. This has represented a shift in terms of earlier priorities, as we used to have a stronger focus on retail banking.

What is the balance between corporate and individual clients in your portfolio?

Today, 90% of our clients are from the corporate segment. However, if we add the activity of Incorporar, a company engaging in retail banking and the credit cards business, the balance would be 55% corporate and 45% individual. The vision of the company is to further increase the percentage of the corporate segment, as well as achieving a greater share of financing within the SME segment. Finally, our main aim is to provide high-quality products and services so our clients feel satisfied with us.

What are the competitive advantages of Banco del Pacífico for corporate clients?

We offer competitive and attractive terms for credit lines according to their specific nature. Our interest rates are also competitive for these products. In addition, we offer role management through electronic systems for our corporate clients, and financial and technical consultancy services. Our credit lines are flexible in all senses. This is all part of our business strategy; to prioritize global profitability over basic economic profitability.

How do you see the bank contributing to the national economy?

We do not see our contribution to the country's development strictly from an economic point of view, but as a concatenation of the different economic sectors that contribute to the development of the country. We are active in credit lines for the construction sector as well as for the purchase of housing units. We know the construction sector is important for the national economy, and as a result we offer credit lines to people constructing housing units and to those who are purchasing them. We try to do the same in other economic sectors. We also try to invest in government bonds and treasury certificates; though this is not our priority, we also take part in these types of investments.

How would you assess the presence of international banks in the country?

At the moment their presence is relatively small, especially if you take into account that in the past it was much larger. This is because the economy is still in a process of expansion into the regional arena, and is attempting to improve the position of local banks. At the moment, there is not much space for foreign banks, as large local banks manage the sector well. This means that local banks are meeting the demand of those multinationals present in Ecuador. For example, one of our main clients is Holcim, and we have strong and productive ties with it, meaning that we always come up with new products to meet its needs.

What are some of the key measures the bank implements to support SMEs?

SMEs have traditionally been a strong segment for us. However, over the past few years their importance has decreased. We want to change these dynamics again, and we are set to implement a series of strategies to regain our market share in this segment. We have a $150 million budget to use until the end of the year for specific actions aimed at this segment. We want to revive and revitalize this part of the bank with a medium- to long-term vision. I also think there is a huge opportunity in this segment, as SMEs are to be the main economic drivers of our future economic expansion.

What role do new technologies play in Banco del Pacífico's business strategy?

We were the pioneering bank in the development of new technologies in the banking sector in Ecuador. However, as occurred with the SME segment, this was gradually forgotten and we are attempting to bring it back, as I believe that the future of the sector is based on electronic channels. We were the first banking institution to introduce so-called recycler ATMs, which enable our clients to do other transactions and make payments 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We have also provided our clients with the tools at the local level (in small shops and pharmacies) to pay their bills and other invoices in those physical spaces.

What is the bank's future strategy?

We have allocated a budget of $400 million for credit lines for the strategic economic sectors over 2014. In 2015, this figure should reach the $500 million mark. Our challenge is to continue growing in the student loan segment, as well as in mortgages and SMEs, and we hope to reach $200 million in credit lines. I want to make this bank into Ecuador's leading banking institution within five to 10 years.