JOSÉ CARRAL ESCALANTE

Mexico 2020 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

Club de Industriales sees various areas of opportunity in Mexico to further advance the economy and society.

José Carral Escalante
BIOGRAPHY

José Carral Escalante has 70 years of experience in international banking and holds a graduate degree in law from the National Autonomous University of Mexico, a postgraduate in comparative law and international trade at the University of New York and in banking and finance from the University of the Americas, as well as a scholarship by the Giannini Foundation at UCLA at California - Berkeley. He is chairman or member of the board of directors of several companies and institutions. He was awarded Order of the British Empire by Great Britain, Commandeur de L'Ordre de Leopold by the king of Belgium, and Order to the Merit for Distinguished Services by the government of Peru. He has honorary PhDs from the Technological University of México and from the International Law Mexican Academy.

What are your main priorities as the president of Club de Industriales?
Under my leadership, so far, we have been able to double our exquisite gallery of modern paintings. This is a unique club. Even though we are not a museum, we are famous for curating the best collection of modern Mexican art. Our gallery is famous among Mexican presidents and ministers. Notably, we have also had the opportunity to entertain kings and queens of the UK, Sweden, Norway, and Belgium, as well as several presidents of the US and almost all of the presidents of South American countries. We also host heads of banks and central banks. Our list of members contains all the big names from the oil, transportation, steel, and cement industries.

What is your perception of the new president's vision for business in Mexico?
As president of one of the most attractive and wealthy nations in Latin America and the world, Andrés Manuel López Obrador's challenge is to provide a better life for all 120 million Mexicans. His mission is to correct the mistakes of former presidents. His most important mission is to eliminate corruption and then fight poverty and generate jobs. The majority of businesspeople agree with the president's objectives; however, we do not necessarily agree with the way he is doing it and think he is making mistakes. He does not accept any contributions made by previous governments or members of the public or business world. We have built a great nation, and we must continue to fight and incorporate models of governance.

How do you mitigate the risks of the new administration while continuing to undertake new projects?
None of the major companies have left Mexico, which is a positive sign. They are all here and waiting to grow. We are the ones that are building industries and working to offer more and better paid jobs. We have brought in new technology and are the ones who maintain the relationships between Mexico and countries around the world. We will continue to work hard and advance our economy and society. Mexico has 11,000km of coastlines, which means the country will always be an attractive place for investors. The country also has significant potential to develop solar and geothermal energy. For example, we export geothermal energy to the US.

How has financial inclusion advanced in Mexico?
I was the first person to introduce a credit card in Mexico through the BankAmericard Credit Card, followed by Visa. Bank of America decided to launch its card in Mexico after I went to San Francisco and convinced my executives to offer it in Mexico under specific conditions. My suggestion was to introduce USD credit cards with a maximum limit of USD100,000 to the most important executives and business leaders in Mexico. Back then, we were the number-one bank in Mexico—we even financed Pemex. To date, Bank of America is one of the largest foreign banks in Mexico.

What will digital banking bring to the sector?
According to my understanding, the president recently approved a plan to use technology and innovation to offer banking services to people living in remote areas. These include agricultural and indigenous communities. I am not directly involved, but I am pushing for this technology to be enabled. It is one of the largest areas of opportunities.

What is your message for potential investors?
Mexico is making great efforts to improve the overall living standards. At present, the main challenge is to improve the economic conditions of around 40 million people living in southern Mexico and enable their participation in the economy. Education and innovation are two tools the government can use to its advantage to bridge the gap between different regions of Mexico. The end goal is to develop remote regions to the point where they can better participate in the export market.