JOSÉ FRANCISCO PAREDES DURÁN BALLÉN

Ecuador 2020 | FINANCE | INTERVIEW

Currently the ninth largest, the BGR's goal is to become the best bank in Ecuador.

José Francisco Paredes Durán Ballén
BIOGRAPHY

Graduating with a degree in banking and finance from Mississippi State University, José Francisco Paredes Durán Ballén later earned his MBA from Tecnológico de Monterrey before completing several specialization programs at INCAE Business School, Babson College, and Northwestern. He has more than 20 years of experience in the banking industry.

Can you tell us more about the history of the bank since its creation?

BGR began its operations in 1988 with the purpose of covering the necessities of the Ecuadorian Army. The bank is focused mainly on providing service to army personnel. In 1994, Banco Pichincha became a shareholder of BGR. Other shareholders are the Institute of Social Security of the Army, ANDEC (the army's steel company), and the General Directorate of Civil Aviation. This alliance has been positive for the bank because it has allowed us to develop our banking expertise during all these years. Our focus is to provide services to military members. We also provide services to civilians and private companies, mostly SMEs. Our bank's assets are approximately around USD900 million, so we are a mid-sized bank. We are currently the ninth-largest bank in Ecuador. Our three main goals are to have strong financial stability, excellent customer service, and a great working environment. Our goal is to become the best bank in Ecuador. We have one of the best return on equities in the system. In addition, customer satisfaction levels are considerably high. We no longer talk about services, but customer experiences. We also want to have a great working environment within the institution. Employees are well trained, and we make sure everyone's ideas are listened to. We measure the satisfaction of our workers through specific metrics.

What products and services do you offer your customers?

We have a broad portfolio, specifically in terms of assets. We have consumption loans, credit cards, and mortgages for both military and civilian customers. For companies, we offer loans for working capital and capex. We also have a foreign trade service that consists of a service dedicated to companies wanting to import certain goods or machinery. We issue letters of credits to support these trade operations and offer competitive loan rates, but our main difference is the quality of our service.

Can you tell us more about the concept of financial efficiency?

It is the bank's strategic goal. Today, the country has slow economic growth. As a result, competition has become more aggressive, and the only way to differentiate from our competitors is by becoming efficient in financial terms. That means we must implement AI strategies, robotics, and optimization of costs and expenses. The goal is to eliminate unnecessary processes in order to maintain our excellent customer service at the lowest possible cost.

What steps are you taking to reach a digitalized banking system?

We started to work on innovation and digital transformation two years ago. We want to build a proper IT infrastructure to offer the best products to our customers. Our user-friendly app allows our clients to make online payments, see the status of their accounts, and make transfers. Nearly 20% of all the bank's transfers are made digitally, and we are growing on the delivery of online credits. Digital transformation also requires a change of culture, so the entire company is thinking in a more customer-oriented model. Clients want a faster response, and the global trend is moving toward self-service.

What are your main strategies for 2020 and beyond?

The strategy is to remain solid in the areas I mentioned. We have a well-defined roadmap in terms of digital transformation. We are launching a new, state-of-the-art digital platform between February and March 2020, the best in the Ecuadorian market, which we want to make user-friendly. We have some technological developments in terms of cultural transformation to make this an agile bank. We want to surpass the threshold of USD1 billion in assets so we can continue growing.

What is your assessment of the local financial sector?

The indicators of the banking system remain strong, but the government needs to do its homework and pass certain laws to facilitate foreign investment and reduce the fiscal deficit. We need more cash flow and economic growth to generate economic development.