How would you evaluate banking performance in Peru in 2015?
Peru represents 1% of the world's economy and we are not immune to the affects of large economies like China. The Peruvian economy has been performing quite well and the current government has implemented many regulatory measures to boost stronger management. However, there have been some issues in terms of politics and the mining sector; we are primarily a mining country, and two key projects have been brought to a halt. These projects foresaw a joint investment of around USD10 billion, representing 2% of GDP. This has taken its toll also in terms of social development. Inflation has been in the range of 2-3% over the last few years. However, for this year we expect a slightly higher number of 3.5%. Nevertheless, we are optimistic about 2016; elections always have an impact on the economic performance of the country and we will be holding general elections in 2016. Peru continues to grow and develop; we have developed the middle class in this country—before it did not exist. Overall, we have had a robust economic performance despite reports saying that Peru's growth has stalled. Also, since we have always been a dollarized economy, the performance of the dollar also generates certain effects within the economy and consumers. But we are trying to change this dollarized culture. For example, three to five years ago all newspaper ads were showing prices in US dollars. Today, this does not happen anymore.
What roles does ASBANC play in the Peruvian economy?
Our association is comprised of 16 Peruvian banks and the main concern at the moment for the banking sector is the penetration of banking and financial systems in the Peruvian population and SMEs. We are working on the implementation of new services and products such as the Electronic Purse and several others related to mobile banking. We are trying to develop a single platform for all banks. These efforts were directed to achieve wider banking inclusion in Peru, a diverse country with three differentiated regions: the coast, the Andean region, and the jungle. The challenge is to incorporate the Andean region into the financial and banking system, despite the linguistic and cultural differences. Nevertheless, we have already taken some positive steps with specialized programs targeting cities like Cusco.
ASBANC received the Business Innovation Award for 2015. What role does innovation play in the Peruvian banking system?
Innovation is the key element in the development of Peruvian banks. Innovation is the driving force in the development of new products and services, such as a mobile payment system that caters to a variety of outlets from paying for a cab to purchases at a pharmacy. We have to step this up and encourage people to make transactions through mobile or other digital devices. We do not want people to go to bank branches too often, mainly for security and convenience purposes.
What is your forecast for the banking and financial sectors in Peru for the next couple of years?
As the country grows, the banking system has to be able to accompany that growth with the required support. Without investment, there is no development, and without development there is no social development and financial inclusion. In this context, the Peruvian banking system is ready to give the needed support to the country.
What are your targets for 2016?
Our main target is financial inclusion. This is extremely important, because without financial inclusion we cannot fight informality in the markets. This is a big challenge and we implement regular measures and training to strengthen the banking and financial culture of Peruvians. We have also taken a leading role in the so-called Works for Taxes program. ASBANC will be supporting the development of police forces and their facilities in Peru. Many banks also participate by building schools across Peru. Education is one of the top priorities for Peruvian authorities.