INCREASING ACTION

Panama 2017 | FINANCE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Olga Cantillo, Vice President & General Manager of Bolsa de Valores de Panamá (BVP), on trends in the sector, improving transparency in the country, and promoting synergies.

 Olga Cantillo
BIOGRAPHY
Olga Cantillo has over 20 years experience in the industry. Cantillo has worked in brokerage houses and banks with responsibilities in Panama as well as other countries in the region. She was the VP Operations at MMG Bank Corporation prior to assuming the position of Executive Vice President and General Manager at Bolsa de Valores de Panamá in October 2015, where she is responsible for the stock exchange as well as Central Latinoamericana de Valores. Cantillo was a member of the board at Latinex Holdings, Inc., Bolsa de Valores de Panamá, and Chair of the Board of Central Latinoamericana de Valores.

What were the trends and the performance of the financial sector in Panama in 2016?

Despite the slowdown, we have the second fastest-growing economy in the region after the Dominican Republic. Though we are not in double digits as we once were, 5.2% GDP growth is still excellent. The impact of the Panama Papers combined with the Waked scandal had a negative impact on the country's reputation; however, the financial sector is still performing well. Bank deposits and credit have had significant growth in comparison to 2015. As for the capital markets, the local exchange represents only 20% of the total investments volume reported to our local regulator (Superintendencia del Mercado de Valores de Panamá). The remaining 80% is represented by trades executed in foreign exchanges. Despite the difficult year, we have still increased our volume of negotiated transactions by almost 41% in comparison to last year.

A stable investment climate is the main premise taken into consideration when investing in a country. What actions should Panama take to improve its transparency among the international community of investors?

Promotion is fundamental; we need to disclose the actions taken by our government and regulators in an effort to comply and strengthen anti-money laundering and tax transparency. Latinclear (CSD) has an important agreement with Euroclear (i-Link) and in an effort to disclose to them these actions, we have been sending them and other interested parties a periodic newsletter. This will be an ongoing effort from our part until we are no longer rated as a high-risk country.

What is your strategy for promoting a greater participation of the private sector?

As a small country with little education on capital markets, the local exchange, and issuers, we have always been oriented to the banking sector and its savings culture. We are working on an education strategy for the long term with the objective to be top of the list, not only for investments purposes, but also as an employment opportunity for the younger generations. As for issuers, having a strong regulatory system is fundamental. Our regulator will soon require ratings for debt issues and this should be an important tool for investors when making their investment decision. Our vision is to be the financial hub of the region. Consequently, we are focusing on bringing regional issuers to Panama in 2017 and also completing our market integration with El Salvador.

The main sectors represented on the stock exchange are the financial segment, followed by industry and energy. How is BVP working to diversify its portfolio?

We need to work on liquidity, as having liquidity in the market can make us more attractive. The integration with Bolsa de Valores de El Salvador will provide the liquidity our market needs and also provide the inclusion of new industries for diversification.

What measures is BVP taking to promote synergies within other financial markets in the region?

We are in the process of launching the market integration between the stock exchanges of El Salvador and Panama. This integration will allow the approved stock members of each country to trade in the other country's exchange system on behalf of their clients, without double registration of the securities listed in each country. When concluded, we will continue to explore other regional exchanges to integrate with our market

What targets and priorities have you set for 2017?

We have identified several priorities for 2017 and will be focusing on education and the promotion of our market, not only in Panama, but around the region, including efforts to increase liquidity in our local market by concluding the integration with El Salvador and listing new issuers, both local and regionally, to the stock exchange.