Global Finance presents this year’s best Central American banks.
Few Central American governments had fiscal space over the past year to address the physical health of the people or strengthen the economic health of the country. This has made banks all the more important as bulwarks of stability and financial soundness.
Despite the social and economic challenges of 2020, the Central American banking sector has benefited from earlier investments in digital transformation. Indeed, banks have been regional leaders in stimulating technological development in these countries. Our Best Bank award winners are moving forward with digital transformation by innovating new financing products and approaches, while serving their communities.
For its investments in digital tools, its financial assistance to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and its role of supporting local clients, BAC Credomatic takes
Best Bank Award 2021 in three Central American countries: Costa Rica, Honduras and Panama. Controlled by the Grupo Aval of Colombia, the bank is also active in three other countries and thus wins the regional award for the best bank in Central America.
To better serve its clients and in line with the technological direction of the parent company, BAC in Costa Rica, Honduras and Panama has undertaken a significant digital transformation. The bank has improved digital platforms and expanded its channels to offer services through alternatives, such as WhatsApp. He introduced real-time transfers using debit cards, a system that allows store partners to act like small branches; and Swift gpi to make cross-border business payments more secure and transparent. With these measures, 90% of customer interactions with the bank are now digital. In addition, BAC is adopting new sustainability guidelines, both defining appropriate actions and setting achievable and meaningful goals.
In addition to extending loan repayments and other relief measures for individual customers and businesses affected by the Covid-19 health crisis, the bank has taken various steps to support the company in each of the three countries. BAC Credomatic San Jose, Costa Rica, has adopted programs in the area of social responsibility and for the empowerment of small and medium-sized businesses, as well as financial education for individual clients. BAC Credomatic Panama has followed the same path and has also funded organizations dedicated to victims of Covid-19. It has also created programs on financial education and women’s empowerment. A 20.4% growth in assets was recorded by BAC Credomatic Honduras, which now manages $ 4.5 billion. The bank adopted a special program for SMEs and funded nine organizations focused on health assistance.
Salvadoran bank Banco Cuscatlán benefited greatly from the acquisition of Scotiabank El Salvador in 2020. This ambitious merger resulted in Cuscatlán’s assets growing 112% to $ 3.8 billion and a jump of 127 % of deposits. Its efficiency rate jumped 64.4%. The investment in integrating the IT systems and digital tools of the two organizations is already profitable for 600,000 new customers.
In Guatemala, Banco Industrial has also improved its digital infrastructure, incorporating artificial intelligence into new products and adding features such as voice control. The bank has innovated its approach to SMEs – with new lines of credit: one for businesses founded by women, for example; another was designated for small food stores.
Among the main banks in Nicaragua, Banco LAFISE Bancentro has considerably improved its digital tools in 2020 while preserving its financial health in the face of the economic crisis. The bank has developed a new digital platform to increase financial inclusion for small businesses, a smart mobile payment system and a payment management module with access to financial lines. During the pandemic, Banco LAFISE Bancentro invested $ 115 million to support economic recovery and managed a fund that invested in Nicaraguan companies with high potential for success