BETTING ON SUCCESS

Mexico 2019 | FINANCE | INTERVIEW

Citibanamex seeks to build the bank of the future to offer the best banking experience in Mexico.

Ernesto Torres
BIOGRAPHY
Ernesto Torres was appointed CEO of Citibanamex in 2014. He joined Banamex in 1989. He previously acted as the President of the consumer banking division, regional director for Coahuila, Chihuahua, and Central Mexico successively. He holds a degree in industrial engineering from Tec de Monterrey and an MBA from Georgia State University.

How is the new administration impacting your business?

We have received encouraging signs from the government, such as its firm commitment to maintain the three pillars of macroeconomic stability: monetary, fiscal, and trade policy. Against this backdrop, Citibanamex continues with its investment plans and strategy to build the bank of the future. We remain optimistic about Mexico's growth and development potential. In the financial sector in particular, the young demographic profile of the country, the low levels of banking, and growing digitization, especially the wide and growing use of smartphones, offer a huge opportunity to grant millions of Mexicans and small businesses access to formal financial services. This will have a positive impact on the welfare of the people, generate greater productivity, and contribute to more dynamic growth. In addition, for banks, it will represent a huge business potential in the medium and long term. That is why we have been active in promoting and implementing the new Cobro Digital (CoDi) platform, which will allow people to easily open bank accounts linked to a smartphone and make free payments and transfers, opening the door for millions of Mexicans to access the formal financial system.

What factors drove the bank to establish a growth forecast of 1.2% for 2019?

Our growth forecast for the economy is 1.2% for 2019 and 1.7% for 2020. The main reasons for this adjustment were a significant deceleration in 1Q2019, associated in part to the start of a new government and other extraordinary factors that will not be repeated in the following quarters and will allow for a better growth rate the rest of the year. There is also the continuing stagnation in investment related to uncertainty and the drop in public investment, not to mention concerns about fiscal discipline. The great challenge is to ignite growth. A significant increase in public and private investment is required, and to achieve this it will be important for the government to implement market-friendly policies that generate certainty and confidence and improve the business environment. The approval of the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) would be a positive signal for the investment and growth of the country. However, President's Trumps proposal to impose 5% tariffs on all goods imported from Mexico can complicate or at least delay the approval of the trade agreement.

What new services or products does the company plan to release in the next three years to better meet the needs of its clients?

New technologies and social media are changing the habits, needs, and preferences of our society. In Mexico, for example, around 75% of Mexicans have a smartphone, and on average, Mexicans spend around six hours a day in their mobile phones. Thus, we have been advancing to consolidate an omnichannel network, namely aligning our different points of contact with clients at branches, ATMs, telephone banking, call centers, internet banking via website or mobile applications, point of sale terminals, for example, to offer the best products and services when and wherever the client needs them. Though the use of new digital channels is growing quickly, branches will not disappear. They will be used less to process traditional transactions—deposits, payment of services, cash checks, transfers, and so on—and will increasingly become centers where clients go to obtain financial advice. We have also promoted the use of digital channels, both our website and applications available on the cell phone. As a result, today we have more than 3.5 million digital users. Citibanamex represents 92% of the growth of mobile banking users. We are also betting strongly on our digital channels led by strong investment in our mobile and online teams. Last, but not least, we are betting heavily on the new CoDi platform.