SUCCESS STORY

Panama 2019 | FINANCE | INTERVIEW

The first Latin American bank to be listed on the NYSE, Bladex is also renowned for its long history of successfully lending to the region comprising 19 different jurisdictions.

Gabriel Tolchinsky
BIOGRAPHY
Gabriel Tolchinsky has served as Bladex’s CEO since 2018. He joined the Bank as COO– Executive Vice President in 2017, after serving as an external consultant since 2014. He was a founding partner of several investment funds and private capital projects, and previously held various positions in investment banking on Wall Street, New York. Tolchinsky holds a degree in mathematical sciences from Tel Aviv University as well as a master’s of science (operations research) and a master’s of arts (statistics), both from Columbia University, New York.

What does it mean to be the first Latin American bank to be listed on NYSE and obtain an investment grade?

It was a great privilege to be the first Latin American bank listed on the NYSE. Our listing provided international investors access to high quality diversified Latin American risk when investing in Bladex's shares. However, for Bladex, the listing was only the first step. Bladex's debt rating based on diversification, credit underwriting standards, and a strong business model achieved an investment-grade credit rating. With our shares listed on the NYSE and debt rated investment grade, Bladex is able to tap the international capital markets for both debt and equity in the most efficient possible manner. Furthermore, we achieve diversification through a portfolio construction that entails 19 different jurisdictions in Latin America, each one its own complexities and opportunities. We have the benefit of 40 years of experience in building these portfolios. In fact, part of the attractiveness of our business model and operations is that we have successfully lent to a region that has gone through significant ups and downs. An important element of our success is the degree to which Bladex has evolved with the economies of Latin America.

What are the main advantages of a stronger relationship between Panama and China?

Panama has an interesting challenge in continuing to develop excellent relations with China and the rest of Asia. Panama has a historic relationship with the US. Given current trade friction between the US and China, Panama finds itself in a delicate position. The US continues to represent the lion's share of foreign trade with Latin America. At the same time, trade with Asia, specifically China, continues to grow and cannot be ignored. Bladex has an interesting balance in terms of how we develop our lines of businesses. Much of the trade we finance today is between Latin and North America, and we need to further develop our trade channels to the East and West. Growth rates of Latin American trade with Asia are more than twice the growth rates of trade with North at this rate, by the end of the next decade, trade with Asia may surpass trade with the US.

What is Bladex's corporate community involvement?

We are dedicated to the concept that a country is only as good as its education. As members of the Panamanian community, it is our responsibility to promote not only better standards of education, but also to support institutions that are doing a good job, particularly for the underprivileged. This is why we are heavily involved with the Centro Educativo Marie Poussepin. Bladex is focused on examining how we can build on our efforts to continue to improve education in Panama. We view these efforts as a key core of our corporate responsibility and the legacy we would like to build upon.

What are your goals for the next five years, and how do you see the bank's future in the region?

The business model of the bank continues to be relevant to Latin America. That said, we cannot ignore the fact that more technologically efficient players, such as fintechs and other non-regulated entities, will compete with more established and regulated financial institutions such as ours. Our intention is to deepen Bladex's commitment to the region through the financing of trade transactions. That means a broader offering of trade finance products, better diversification of trade channels, and pursuing new markets, such as Asia and Europe, more aggressively. The holy grail of being able to finance trade is to be able to approach the exporters of Latin America with a value proposition that involves discounting entire portfolios of invoices of trade transactions, valuing them, and positioning or packaging them through securitization transactions as capital market instruments, and in off-balance sheet structures. We still have some work to set ourselves up operationally and technologically to approach our client base with such a value proposition.