The Business Year

Alfredo Ignacio Vargas

Corporate Director, Bancamerica

Maximo R. Vidal

Citi Country Officer, Citibank

Why did you choose to establish operations in the Dominican Republic? ALFREDO IGNACIO VARGAS SALAS We have been here for almost four-and-a-half years, and launched our business offering banking financial […]

Why did you choose to establish operations in the Dominican Republic?

ALFREDO IGNACIO VARGAS SALAS We have been here for almost four-and-a-half years, and launched our business offering banking financial services. We established a strategic hub here that allows us to manage and support our banking business in Panama, Curaçao, and Antigua. For the group, this is an ideal location, not only geographically for its proximity to Venezuela, but also because we already have the infrastructure and human resources to help us oversee our other operations. We have a large operation in Venezuela, with almost 4 million clients and 350 branches, and we can leverage that knowledge and try to implement certain strategies to test out market response. Although there are many players in the banking sector, there is still space for all, or at least those that perform well. We believe that mid-level people and companies are not well served, and perceive many opportunities to implement fresh technology and explore new ways of providing them with financial services.

Which aspects of the economy have you leveraged to grow your business?

MAXIMO R. VIDAL Citi has been at the forefront of innovation, being truly committed to providing the best financial solutions for over 50 years. The corporate investment banking business that we have in the Dominican Republic is one of our most successful operations in the entire region. The signing of the CAFTA-DR was crucial, not only because it opened markets for exporters, but also because it required the implementation of several laws that continued to add value in terms of the predictability of certain markets. Our natural customers are the global and regional multinationals. There is also an important number of emerging regional names. One of our advantages is that the economy has truly diversified. Tourism, free zones, and remittances continue to provide important foreign exchange generation. Growth in local demand has created a robust retail sector, and with increased mining activity and agribusiness as key sectors, financial services overall are important, posting average growth of two- to two-and-a-half times that of GDP. Telecoms are another relevant proposition that boasts strong players and healthy market penetration in mobile, at close to 100%.

What role does technology play in the strategic development of the bank?

AIVS In countries like the Dominican Republic with a significant socio-economic divergence, the fastest way technology can come into the country is through mobile phones. The penetration rate for mobile phones almost matches the national population, as some people have more than one. Now, many of them have smart phones, too. I think that is the cheapest way to introduce technology to the population as well. If you go to a massive population, you can spread the costs. We will definitely try to do something that combines access through the internet, either computers or phones, and also be close to clients with the contact center. We will have different ways to access clients, either by phone or email. Most people don’t even call the bank anymore; they are more likely to text, which is the way people communicate nowadays.

MRV We have developed a strong payment solution, Citi® Mobile Collect, introduced in the Dominican Republic in 2013 and also available in India, China, and South Korea. The solution makes it possible for typically unbanked small grocery stores and other businesses to replace cash payments to their providers with mobile transactions. The technology, exclusively for Citi corporate clients, was introduced through a strategic partnership with GCS Systems, a local mobile payment administrator. In collaboration with Banco ADOPEM, a leading microfinance institution and a long-time Citi partner, Citi® Mobile Collect allows small businesses that are not yet part of the banking system to open an account at Banco ADOPEM and perform more secure and convenient business transactions. This service in particular has helped the previously unbanked become banked, because the idea is for small businesses to track deposits and movements, and better understand their finances. The payment solution was recently recognized as the Best Mobile Money Deployment in the Americas in the 2013 Mobile Money Global Awards at the Dubai World Trade Centre.

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