PATRICIA ARMENDÁRIZ

Mexico 2021 | FINANCE | INTERVIEW

By focusing on providing much-needed financial services to the bottom of the pyramid in Mexico, Financiera Sustentable meets the needs of the unbanked population.

Patricia Armendáriz
BIOGRAPHY

Patricia Armendáriz studied actuarial mathematics in UNAM and holds a master's in economic development from Cambridge and a doctorate in economy from Columbia. She was involved in the negotiation of financial services in the first trade agreement between the US, Mexico, and Canada. She was previously vice-president in CNBV and associate director of International Payment Banks. In 2002, she joined Banorte as advisor to the president of the board. She went on to establish Credipyme and later Financiera Sustentable to support SMEs and the bottom of the economic pyramid.

What are the main areas of opportunity for investment in Mexico?

The most important opportunities are at a personal level; it is an opportunity for many people to reinvent themselves. At a sectoral level, the world will likely consume less for three reasons: we have learned that things like this can happen, and, therefore, we have become more risk adverse. We have learned that there are many things that we can live without, and we have become greener and want to protect the earth. For these reasons, we will consume better and healthier food and will be more sophisticated in that particular area, which is a huge market. In all, Mexico is rich in creativity and resourcefulness but lacks basic education to be entrepreneurs.

What main areas of opportunity have you identified to meet the needs of the unbanked Mexican population?

There has been a silent revolution since we established the so-called non-banked banks. When we negotiated the NAFTA agreement, the main push from US entrepreneurs was for Mexico to allow non-banked banks, as they do not take deposits but disburse loans. These legal bodies are extremely creative and free from regulations besides certifications against money laundering. Therefore, I would love to have the time, as there are many specialized SOFOMs in SMEs, which is a great portfolio.

What is your experience in financially aiding and advising the SME sector in Mexico?

My first attempt to aid the SME sector was in Banorte, when I was advisor to the president. My second attempt was when I told the director there is a real glass ceiling, and I decided to start my own company. Like all entrepreneurs, I failed at first, and the main lesson I learned was to specialize. If you want to do things big in the SME sector, you have to go sector by sector. I started with something familiar to me and focused on modernizing the public-sector transportation sector in Mexico. I first promoted the use of natural gas vehicles, as the costs of fuel are halved. From there I had to put gas stations in place and then GPS systems to prevent theft. I am now the main purchaser of Nissan vans that use natural gas in Mexico. COVID-19 caused a boom in the transportation sector, as everyone wants a van to distribute products. We also offer financial services to the unbanked population that cannot afford the costs of a traditional bank. The focus of Financiera Sustentable is for everyone to have a share in the value created. My entrepreneurs, employees, and loan owners all have a share. The business I am inventing now is to lower the rates based on inflation and market trends, but I will accept all the money that customers want to save with me and find ways to grow in terms of loans. I am now trying to purchase bunches of loans so that the administrator of the loan comes with the loan, and I give them incentives to continue developing the same product. That is the way to manage this demand for savings with supply. I started in April 2020 with MXN15 million in savings demands, and it grew to MXN200 million in savings per month. It has been a tremendously busy year, and capital is growing rapidly. In 2021, we will reach the minimum level of capital that the National Banking and Securities Commission (CNBV) requires from a small bank.

What new business segment are you venturing into?

I am now going out with dignified and green housing, as I anticipate a huge demand for such a product throughout Mexico. Everything I do is for the bottom of the pyramid. If we give this economic group value, they work hard to repay their loans, even if we have to restructure them sometimes, as it is their house, car, or education. I do not see any other bank truly working for the bottom of the pyramid.