World’s Best Banks 2022: Central America

High growth and low inflation drive up balance sheets.



Central American economies had a particularly prosperous 2021. Propelled by surging remittances and rising commodity prices, the region’s economies have on average fared better than neighboring South America. Inflation in the region was also significantly lower than most parts of the southern hemisphere, hovering between 3% and 5% in most economies in the region in 2021.


These figures allowed central banks to maintain a favorable monetary policy throughout the year, leading the capital markets to solid profitability. Currently, base interest rates fluctuate between 2% and 3% in the region.


In this flourishing scenario, our best bank in Central America, BAC Credomatic, has secured its position as the most profitable financial institution in the region.


The secret to the bank’s success is a strong and diversified presence in all major economies in the region, enabling BAC to offer its clients competitive advantages in cross-border and domestic transactions.


With $27 billion in total assets, $17.2 billion in total loans and $21 billion in total deposits as of September 2021, the bank has significantly outperformed the competition in several markets in the region.


To stay ahead of the digital banking market in Central America, BAC Credomatic has focused its innovation efforts on mobile payments, becoming one of the first banks in the region to integrate ApplePay into its mobile payment portfolio. services.


BAC Credomatic has also thrived in helping small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the region with its new e-commerce tool, Click Purchase, allowing businesses to transact securely online through the bank’s system. Click Purchase generated $546 million and helped 745 SMEs in 2021.


BAC also won Best Bank in Costa Rica, with net income of $85 million, strong return on equity (ROE) of 10.7% and return on assets (ROA) of 1.1 %. Furthermore, the bank has steadily increased its market share in the country, totaling 27% at the end of 2021.


Banco Custaclán is our Best Bank of the Year in El Salvador for its growing market share and strong loan portfolio. After merging with Scotiabank in 2020, Custaclán has taken the lead as the fastest growing financial institution in the country, prioritizing its operations in SMEs and retail. Currently, the bank is outperforming its market in most credit-related transactions, with a substantial advantage in mortgage lending.


A similar trend also took place in Belize. After acquiring the operations of Scotiabank, the National Bank of Belize experienced undisputed growth in its territory, achieving a market share of nearly 50%. The bank’s systematic efforts in sustainability and digitalization have helped confirm that the bank is the best in Belize in 2021.


In Guatemala, Banco Industrial took advantage of macroeconomic tailwinds to post diversified growth that amounted to a total jump of 11.1% in total assets, winning our award.


The bank has significantly increased the number of banking agents in rural areas, helping the country’s businesses and producers thrive amid soaring global commodity prices. As a result, agricultural transactions increased by 35% year-on-year (YoY).


In Honduras, Banco Ficohsa wins the award for best bank of the year for its recurring investments in financial services and online banking. Ficohsa recorded an 11% year-over-year increase in assets and currently holds the largest market share in Honduras. The bank also saw its net profit increase by 38%, with an ROE of 12.9%.


Banco Lafise Bancentro wins our Best Bank in Nicaragua award for maintaining its leadership position in several fundamental trends of the year. The bank recorded 29% growth in total remittances, representing a market share of 28.1% in the category, the highest in the country.


Lafise also excelled in the area of ​​international transactions, with a 35% increase in the total number of transactions leaving the country and a 21% increase in transactions entering the country.


Additionally, the bank’s online branch, Bancanet, increased its transactions by 28.1%, representing an astonishing 90.7% of the bank’s total traded volume.


Panama’s economy soared in 2021, outpacing most of its Central American counterparts. Construction, manufacturing, trade and shipping contributed to GDP growth of 15.3% year-on-year. The country’s economy has also received a huge boost from soaring global copper prices, which propelled the country’s Cobre Panam to profitability.


In this environment, Banco General maintained its secular leadership in credit and deposit activities, securing 27.6% of the country’s market share in the first and 18.1% in the second.


The bank has also moved rapidly in the area of ​​digitalization, increasing its total digital transactions to 58% during the year.


While the country still holds lower levels of digital transactions than most Central and South American economies, recent metrics point to growing profitability in the industry.



About Matthew Berkey

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