An economic slowdown across many Latin American markets poses a challenging operating environment for the region’s financial institutions, as asset and loan growth rates have begun to temper from previously robust levels. Banks in the region had already been planning for a rainy day by adjusting their business strategies and implementing ambitious efficiency programs, for which profitability levels still remain high.

The outlook varies substantially by market, with Mexico expected to be a star performer as it consolidates an economic rebound closely linked to ongoing recovery in the US, while Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela are bracing for further GDP contractions.

Regional Winner | BBVA

BBVA has a stated goal of building the best digital bank of the 21st century in a move that is helping technologically transform Latin America’s banking sector. The bank is investing $2.5 billion in its Latin American operations through 2016 (the plan was launched in 2013) to become the region’s top digital bank. The aim is to make BBVA a totally digital company, including all products and services. BBVA operates banks in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela, as well as a pension fund manager in Bolivia. Latin American operations generated nearly €3 billion ($3.2 billion) in net attributable profit in 2014.

Francisco González, chairman and CEO

Argentina | Banco Macro

Despite a difficult economic environment, Banco Macro remains profitable and retains its ranking as the second-largest domestically owned private bank in Argentina. The bank’s 434 branches give it the largest branch network of any private bank in the country, with 79% of offices located in the interior provinces. Macro is the exclusive financial agent for four provincial governments. It is the only Argentine bank that has posted 52 consecutive profitable quarters and maintains an efficiency ratio of 47.7%. Its varied corporate social responsibility activities include financial education initiatives for senior citizens.

Jorge Horacio Brito, chairman and CEO    

Barbados | Scotiabank Barbados

Scotiabank remains the dominant player in the island’s banking sector, with a 33% market share, despite Barbados’s eroding consumer confidence stemming from public-sector staffing cuts to face economic challenges. While many consumers have transitioned to credit unions and banks struggle to compete for business, Scotiabank retains its customers’ loyalty. In 2014, when its assets grew 12.35%, the bank focused on expanding its small- and medium-enterprise (SME) business portfolio by sponsoring entrepreneurship workshops and small business seminars.

David Noel, managing director (Caribbean East)

Belize | Belize Bank

Founded in 1902, Belize Bank is the oldest and largest full service bank in the country, with 12 branches and 26 ATMs nationwide. Its stated vision is “to become the preeminent financial services provider in Central America and the Caribbean.” To meet this goal, Belize Bank is strengthening its management structure, upgrading its infrastructure and improving customer service for domestic and international clientele. The bank is one of Belize’s best-regarded corporate citizens, with strong involvement in community projects.

Lyndon Guiseppi, executive chairman and group CEO

Bolivia | Banco de Crédito de Bolivia

Banco de Crédito de Bolivia continues to invest in projects that aim to provide customers with a better banking experience. In 2014 it continued to modernize many of its 51 branches, upgraded technology at its 247 ATMs, and completely rebuilt its online banking platform. It was also part of a $300 million equity deal that was the largest in Bolivian stock market history. It holds SME forums throughout the country.

Jorge Alberto Mujica Gianoli, general manager

Brazil | Banco Bradesco

Bradesco’s business philosophy focuses on improving financial inclusion, providing banking services to all socioeconomic classes in Brazil and maintaining a presence in each of the country’s municipal districts. Bradesco has even established operations in the “favelas” (urban slums) of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. The bank services its 74.5 million clients through a network of 4,659 branches, 4,631 ATMs and 75,176 customer service centers throughout Brazil. Its CSR program operates 40 free schools with more than 105,000 students. Bradesco is part of the Dow Jones Sustainability Index.

Luiz Carlos Trabuco Cappi, CEO

Chile | Banco de Chile

Banco de Chile is the most recognized brand among financial institutions in Chile, owing to its more than 120-year history and high customer loyalty. It has launched a three-year plan to further improve its customers’ banking experience. The bank operates 293 branches under the Banco de Chile and Banco Edwards/Citi brands, and 136 under Banco CrediChile, with each division focused on different market segments. Its stellar reputation allowed the bank to issue bonds in Switzerland, Japan and Hong Kong in 2014.

Arturo Tagle, CEO

Colombia | Bancolombia

Bancolombia continues an acquisitions drive that is making it a regional Latin American player, as well as a banking powerhouse in Colombia. It acquired HSBC Panama (now Banistmo) at end-2014, prompting a 1.5% year-on-year growth in assets. Net income grew 35.5%. The group has nine million clients across Colombia and Central America. In 2014 it rolled out standardized customer service guidelines and it launched the country’s first electronic fixed-income deal.

Carlos Raúl Yepes Jiménez, CEO and president

Costa Rica | Banco BAC San José

Accounting for some 10% of the financial system’s total assets, Banco BAC San José is one of the Central American country’s strongest banking franchises. The bank is a leader in both electronic and mobile banking services, and has become an important provider of microfinancing and SME loans that are considered an economic development priority by the Costa Rican government. It is the first bank to issue such loans under a development banking regulatory reform introduced in early 2015.

Gerardo Corrales, CEO and president

Dominican Republic | Banco Popular Dominicano

GDP growth of 7.3%, inflation below 4% and a stable currency exchange rate substantially improved the business environment in the Dominican Republic in 2014, which positively impacted Banco Popular Dominicano’s performance. The bank’s total assets grew by nearly 10% year-on-year in 2014, when its nonperforming loan ratio was 1.04% and coverage ratio was 227.15%. Its growth strategy is focused on commercial lending to productive sectors, particularly agriculture and tourism. In 2014 it was granted an AA+ local rating by Fitch, citing the bank’s market leadership and financial strength.

Manuel Grullón, chairman and group CEO

Ecuador | Banco Pichincha

Banco Pichincha is the largest private bank in Ecuador in terms of capitalization and deposits ($7.2 billion). The bank services its 2.8 million customers through more than 800 points of service throughout the country, as well as operations in Peru, Spain and Colombia. In 2014 its assets were $9.9 billion (up from $9.0 billion in 2013). Pichincha has hired US-based MetricStream to provide a multilingual, Cloud-based solution for business continuity management.

Fidel Egas Grijalva, president and CEO

El Salvador | Banco Agrícola

Banco Agrícola is El Salvador’s financial services leader, with a 28.7% market share of loans, 28.1% of deposits and 47.8% of net income. It maintains the largest nationwide footprint of any bank, with 66 branches, 540 ATMs and 206 electronic kiosks across 134 municipalities. The Salvadoran Industrial Association recognized the bank as being the most supportive of the local business sector. The bank’s nonperforming loan ratio of 1.48% is below the sector’s average, and it maintains an efficiency ratio of 46.2%. Electronic channels account for 83.3% of transactions.

Rafael Barraza, CEO

Guatemala | Banco Industrial

With a 27.7% share of total assets, 26.5% of loans and 24.8% of deposits, Banco Industrial is Guatemala’s industry leader. It is the country’s main check-clearing institution, major tax collector for the government and sole settling institution for the wholesale electricity market. Net income grew 28% in 2014, driven by a loan portfolio diversification strategy focused on credit cards and microfinance. In 2014 the bank achieved a Customer Satisfaction Index rating of 90%. It is the only bank in Guatemala with international ratings from Fitch, Moody’s and S&P.

Diego Pulido, CEO

Honduras | Banco Atlántida

Banco Atlántida is Honduras’ largest bank. Since its beginnings in 1913 in the coastal town of La Ceiba, the bank has grown into a nationwide institution. It boasts 182 branches and more than 800 points of service in all of the country’s 18 departmental regions. The bank is also one of the most highly recognized corporate brands in Honduras. Atlántida provides seed capital to SMEs at preferential rates and is eyeing a potential expansion into neighboring El Salvador.

Guillermo Bueso Anduray, CEO

Jamaica | Scotiabank Jamaica

After launching its small-business-banking offering in 2007, Scotiabank Jamaica has become a leader in providing lower-cost SME loans through a series of special programs. This initiative, which includes strategic partnerships with other organizations focused on entrepreneurship, continues to support the country’s economic development and competitiveness. In 2014 its customer contact center was certified by the Service Quality Measurement (SQM) Group as a world-class operation for the third consecutive year. The bank has been operating since 1889 in Jamaica, where it has 34 branches throughout the island.

Jacqueline T. Sharp, president and CEO

Mexico | BBVA Bancomer

Although impacted by lower-than-expected Mexico GDP growth in 2014 coupled with several interest rate cuts, which led to a drop in net income, BBVA Bancomer posted an 11.7% rise in total assets that gave it a 22% market share. BBVA Bancomer is forging ahead with an ambitious $3.5 billion business transformation plan, initiated in 2013, to upgrade all of its customer service functions, to be completed in 2016. In 2014 the bank launched a new digital banking unit, and it will open a world-class data processing center in 2015.

Vicente Rodero Rodero, CEO

Nicaragua | Banco Lafise Bancentro

Lafise Bancentro posted a 28.1% rise in consolidated net income to $41.9 million in 2014, the best result in its history. The bank reported a 25.9% market share of total loans in Nicaragua, with double-digit growth in all loan categories, including $670.2 million to SMEs. Lafise Bancentro is an important lender to the agricultural sector, a key engine for the country’s economic growth. Fitch upgraded the bank’s local credit rating in 2014 owing to sustained improvements in profitability and loan portfolio quality. Its nonperforming loan ratio was 0.7%. 

Carlos Briceño Ríos, general manager

Panama | Banco General

Banco General had another banner year in 2014, as net income rose 14.8% year-on-year to $312.8 million and total assets increased 12% to $13.2 billion. Return on equity (ROE) was 20.7% and return on assets (ROA) was 2.5%, with an operating efficiency ratio of 37.1%. The bank has launched a three-year (2015–2017) strategic plan to further improve performance. Holding a leading 25.6% market share of private-sector deposits and 18.7% of loans, Banco General also processes more than 42% of all ATM transactions in Panama.

Raúl Alemán Zubieta, CEO

Paraguay | Banco Itaú Paraguay

The Paraguayan subsidiary of Brazilian banking giant Itaú is the South American country’s largest bank, with more than an 18% market share of both total assets and total deposits. In 2014 its revenue represented nearly 32% of the sector’s total. ROE was 40.98% and ROA was 4.15%. In addition to having Paraguay’s largest ATM footprint (297) and 31 full-service branches, Itaú Paraguay runs a network of nonbank correspondent centers located mainly in neighborhood supermarkets. It was the first bank in Paraguay to introduce debit cards with chip technology.

Viviana Celia Varas, CEO

Peru | BBVA Continental

BBVA Continental outshines its peers, posting an 11.2% year-on-year asset increase in 2014, driven by 10% growth in its net loan portfolio and further strengthening of its risk profile. The bank’s nonperforming loan ratio was 2.2%, lowest among peers and below the 2.5% system average. Its coverage ratio of 202.11% was also above the sector average of 165%. ROE was 26.7% and ROA was 2.3%. In 2014, Continental opened 27 new branches in 2014 and maintained more than 3,200 express agents at neighborhood grocery stores and shops.

Eduardo Torres Llosa Villacorta, CEO

Puerto Rico | Banco Popular de Puerto Rico

As Puerto Rico’s banking leader, Popular presents a strong comeback in a market hit by persistent economic recession. Popular, which holds the largest market share by assets and deposits, acquired $2.3 billion in assets of failed rival Doral Bank in early 2015. The deal brought $1 billion in Doral deposits, strengthening Popular’s declining deposit base. Popular repaid its $935 million TARP debt without need to issue new equity. Its strategy is focused on solidifying its local base, as well as servicing the Hispanic community through US mainland branches.

Richard Carrión, president and CEO

Trinidad & Tobago | Scotiabank Trinidad & Tobago

As part of Canada’s most international bank, Scotiabank Trinidad & Tobago offers clients local expertise as well as access to a global network. In 2014 the bank celebrated its 60th anniversary in the country. The year also marked a 10% year-on-year rise in net income, 6% growth in assets and 12% growth in the bank’s combined retail and commercial loan portfolio. ROA was 2.5% and the productivity ratio was 46%. The bank is implementing a series of operating efficiency initiatives in Trinidad & Tobago and throughout the Caribbean.

Anya Schnoor, managing director

Turks & Caicos | Scotiabank Turks & Caicos

Scotiabank Turks & Caicos has been the islands’ leading financial institution since its arrival in 1982. The bank holds a 59% market share of mortgages, 78% of consumer loans and 72% of deposits. Unlike competitors focused on the territory’s two urban centers, Scotiabank operates on four islands, with full-service branches and 14 ATMs. It is the only bank in the territory investing in CHIP EMV card technology for ATMs, and it invested $800,000 in employee training in 2014. It is an important supporter of health, sports and education initiatives.

Sean Brathwaite, managing director

Uruguay | Santander Uruguay

With SMEs contributing 40% of Uruguay’s GDP and employing 60% of private-sector workers, Santander Uruguay’s support for small businesses has been crucial to their development and consolidation since the bank arrived in 1978. The local subsidiary of Spain’s Santander group offers special SME products (including commercial accounts and a loan guarantee program), supports training initiatives for entrepreneurs and provides SME loan approvals within 24 hours. Its CSR efforts range from support for youth orchestras and blood donation drives to rural education, recycling and poverty alleviation among children.

Juan Carlos Chomali, Country Manager

US Virgin Islands | Scotiabank USVI

Scotiabank, operating in the US Virgin Islands since 1963, offers retail and commercial banking services, including online banking and electronic cash management. While the bank has been expanding its ATM network (14), it decided to close two branches in 2014 as part of an efficiency effort, leaving it with only three. However, customer loyalty remains firm. Scotiabank’s CSR activities include support for education, arts and culture, and the environment, as well as assisting underprivileged and abused children. It also provides scholarships to the University of the Virgin Islands.

Lawrence Aqui, vice president and country manager

Venezuela | BBVA Banco Provincial

Operating in a market with an economy in meltdown mode is not easy, but BBVA Banco Provincial remains profitable amid a GDP contraction, soaring inflation and a currency tailspin. The bank’s net income grew by 39.8% year-on-year in 2014, when total assets grew 50.3% (representing 12.28% of the sector’s total assets). Its gross loan portfolio grew 67.4% in 2014, when consumer loans, particularly credit cards, rose 87.8% (15.05% market share), though the nonperforming loan ratio improved to 0.35%. The bank opened a new data processing center in 2014.

Pedro Rodríguez Serrano, CEO


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