The Colombian banking sector has barely been affected by the economic and financial crisis in Europe. Colombia learned a lot from the financial crisis that affected the country at the end of the 1990s and strengthened the regulatory and supervisory framework of the sector. This clearly contributed to shielding the national economy in general, and the banking system in particular, before potential external threats. Additionally, when the crisis hit those markets, Colombia barely had relations with them, and as a consequence the country has not felt an economic contraction. A great deal of Colombia's economic development is linked to its self-development, because the country is growing in terms of infrastructure and industrial production. Slower domestic economic growth and lower commodity prices have been the main economic worry the country has had. For example, we expected the economy to grow about 5% in 2012, and now we believe that figure will be around 4.1%.
Óscar Cabrera Izquierdo
Executive President, BBVA Colombia
Eduardo Fernández-Salvador C.
President, Banco Pichincha
Banco Pichincha made its incursion into the Colombian financial and banking sector coincidentally when Colombia was badly affected by the economic crisis of the 1990s. Obviously, those were tough times, and I have to say that banking supervision got stronger and many regulatory measures were adopted at the time, which clearly contributed to making the Colombian banking system very solvent. This helped to face the eurozone crisis, and, overall, I would say that the Colombian banking system is better positioned than other economic sectors in the country to take on any challenge coming from abroad. Since the company was a commercial finance company for almost 15 years, we inherited its products portfolio, and we called these financial services “specialized products;” credit lines for higher education students, the acquisition of both public and private vehicles, revocable insurance premiums, and so on. As a bank we broadened and diversified our products portfolio by incorporating retail banking, SMEs, and corporate banking services.
Jaime Munita Valdivieso
President, Banco CorpBanca Colombia
Colombia has many interesting aspects that appeal to our company. First of all, it has a much larger population, with 46 million people against the 17 million living in Chile. However, the penetration of banking products for the population is low in Colombia compared to Chile. In terms of total loan-to-product, Colombia has 30%, while Chile has 70%. If you compare that to countries like the US or Europe, Colombia's ratio is very low. There is a lot of potential to grow. There is political and economic stability here and there is a good financial system with very clear rules for foreign investors. Those factors were very important for us. There are also interesting industries and projects, particularly in infrastructure, which is one of our focus areas in Colombia. We want to be a good player to finance all of those projects.
Marcela Carrasco Heilbron
President Colombia & Ecuador, MasterCard Worldwide
Colombia is a very important market for MasterCard for many reasons. To start, its sheer size, growing youthful population, and dynamic economy are factors that are making the country a significant contributor to our performance in our Latin America operations. It's safe to say it is one of the countries with the highest potential in the region as Colombia provides us with a huge opportunity to penetrate the electronic payments landscape, due to the currently low penetration of electronic payments as a percentage of the personal consumption expenditure (PCE). Currently, the penetration of electronic payments in Colombia is around 9.8% of PCE. So, there is a potential to begin migrating the nearly 90%, of transactions that are still done with cash and checks. This makes Colombia ripe for growth in terms of the penetration and development of electronic payments, as well as the opportunity to develop strong relationships with our customers, who we consider our partners in the market.