TBY talks to Aimeé Sentmat de Grimaldo, President of Banistmo, on the first year of her time at the bank, Bancolombia's decision to use the Banistmo brand, and being listed on the Dow Jones sustainability index.

Aimeé Sentmat de Grimaldo
Aimeé Sentmat de Grimaldo has over 22 years of experience in the financial sector. She has a degree in Finance from Universidad Católica Santa María La Antigua and holds an MBA from Nova Southeastern University. Before assuming her current position, she worked with HSBC as Chief of Commercial Banking.

With over 20 years of experience in the financial sector, what have been your landmark achievements since becoming President of Banistmo in October 2013?

I would say that our main achievements have been the way customers welcomed us—both brand and bank, from the very first day—and the extremely warm and pleasant welcome our 1,500 partners gave me personally. These two elements combined have enabled us to achieve impressive growth and expansion during this year.

After Grupo Bancolombia acquired HSBC's operations in Panama, it decided to rename the bank Banistmo. What were the core reasons behind the decision?

Bancolombia's business vision promotes a more human banking model, i.e. banks that admire people and prioritize quality, inclusiveness, and respect. There was no better way to prove, on our arrival to Panama, before the eyes of customers, our respect toward the brand we represent in this country. Banistmo is an old and well-recognized brand in this country, and that is why the company decided to bring it back.

Which segments will capitalize on your future growth?

Our current strategy has two main pillars; transforming the organizational culture, meaning to make all our partners inclusive in the bank's activity and its development, and achieving a closer level of communication with our clients. Banistmo is a universal bank; we cover all types of clients with comprehensive products and services. Our growth strategy is to strengthen our presence in all segments of the market. Today, Panama offers some interesting opportunities, one being increased banking penetration among people with lower purchasing power, a segment we will grow in, among others.

After the purchase, Banistmo became one of the leading institutions in the sector with a market share of 14% in personal and corporate banking. What are your expectations for 2014?

When taking over in Panama, we are setting a growth goal at the same level of the banking and finance sectors. The country has a growth expectation of around 6% to 7%, whereas the industry will be around the 10% mark. We expect to be in line with this growth. During the first half of 2014, we have achieved great results, consolidating our presence in key segments with key products. For example, we have seen a positive and promising rise in the demand for mortgages, a clear representation of the growth of the construction sector and the increase in Panamanians' purchasing power. We have also experienced positive growth in other segments such as corporate banking, and expect the same for the end of 2014.

How would you assess the development of the banking and finance sector in Panama?

This sector has experienced positive and dynamic growth, positioning Panama as a regional finance and banking hub. There is a strong presence of multinationals in the sector. There is also a strong presence of Colombian banks, reinforcing the idea of a regional hub. Panama is a logistics and banking hub, and this regional leadership opens many opportunities for Panamanian banks to expand operations to other neighboring and traditional markets. The positive and dynamic trends we have experienced in the past few years will only become more relevant in the near future.

What are your expectations for the upcoming OECD review of Panama?

Panama has achieved much from a financial perspective. For example, it has signed around 19 double taxation agreements, increasing efforts to bring international standards into the finance and banking sector. One of the main challenges now is to continue adapting our industry to global standards in regulatory terms. The upcoming review will contribute to better identifying our challenges and necessary tasks. This will only help us to become stronger and will strengthen our regional leadership.