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High ambition

Article - May 23, 2012
Having learned the lessons of the past and tightened up on regulation, Mexico can anticipate a bright future for its banking sector, says the CEO of the country-s leading financial institution
Soaring over one of Mexico City’s most prominent sites, where the Paseo de la Reforma meets Chapultepec Park in the Juarez district of Mexico City, an impressive new urban landmark is under construction. Due for completion in 2014, the 50-storey concrete and steel tower will be visible from across the city.

The striking design reflects Mexico’s architectural heritage, reinterpreting the unique texture of traditional latticework. Conventional approaches to designing office space have been put aside to create a unique and environmentally friendly workspace for 4,500 employees. The 92,300 square meters of office space feature vertical communities, or ‘villages’, with green open spaces integrated at various levels of the building, affording spectacular views across the city. Solar power will keep down energy consumption, and the façade of the building will be used for the projection of art displays.

This remarkable structure would on its own be an impressive declaration of confidence by BBVA Bancomer, Mexico’s largest financial institution, and its parent company, Spain’s BBVA Group. But there’s more...

Simultaneously, construction is under way on a new BBVA Bancomer Operating Center in the Parques Polanco complex on Avenida Mariano Escobedo, at Laguna de Mayran; a 30-floor building that will provide office space for a further 4,500 people.

Designed by internationally prestigious architects, the two buildings will comprise BBVA Bancomer’s new corporate headquarters as the business heads into what its top executives believe promises to be an exciting new era for Mexico and its financial sector.

“We can celebrate 20 years of having rigorous and responsible management of public finances, and the economy shows a high level of resistance to the global economic crisis.”

Ignacio Deschamps,
Chairman and CEO of BBVA Bancomer

Founded in 1932 under the name Bank of Commerce, BBVA Bancomer became part of the BBVA Group, one of the world’s largest financial conglomerates, in 2000. It is the biggest bank in the BBVA Group outside Spain, accounting for around 30% of the group’s worldwide revenues.

BBVA Bancomer offers a broad range of financial products and services through an extensive network that covers all of Mexico’s 32 states. It is Mexico’s largest bank in terms of assets, deposits, loan portfolio, number of ATMs, and number of branches. Currently, it has 18 million customers.

In June last year, BBVA Group’s chairman, Francisco Gonzalez, announced a plan to invest US$2 billion in BBVA Bancomer. He stressed that this would entail strong investment in technology and new platforms, and would be extended to branches, ATMs, and payment terminals, as well as rolling out mobile banking. Some of the money will go towards completion of the new corporate headquarters. The BBVA Group chief was at pains to emphasize the confidence that Mexico inspires among investors, pointing to the country’s social and economic progress, productivity, and growth capacity.

Meanwhile, Chairman and CEO of BBVA Bancomer, Ignacio Deschamps , believes Mexico has tremendous growth potential over the next 20 years.

“Mexico is an emerging country that has made significant changes, particularly in terms of financial stability,” says Mr. Deschamps. “We can celebrate 20 years of having rigorous and responsible management of public finances, and the economy shows a high level of resistance to the global economic crisis. Not many countries have low debt levels, with inflation under control, low interest rates, and stable exchange rate policy, as we have. This is very important, given our proximity to the U.S., and the capital that is entering Mexico, attracted by investment opportunities.”

He goes on to highlight Mexican democracy, the young population of just over 100 million, its free trade agreement with the U.S., its increasingly competitive manufacturing industry, and the cost advantages in terms of logistics given Mexico’s proximity to the U.S.

Mr. Deschamps says Mexico learned the lessons of the 1994-95 financial crisis – known as the Tequila Crisis – and is ahead of other countries in meeting tougher international regulatory benchmarks.

He foresees “enormous” growth ahead for the banking sector in Mexico City. “Mexico now has one of the strongest financial systems, and for this we must give credit to the financial authorities,” he says. “The Tequila Crisis was very painful, in fact survived by only four banks, including this one. Since then there has been a total change in the regulatory framework. The authorities are in the process of installing Basel III in Mexico, which many banks in the world will not be able to meet until 2018. In addition, banks are experiencing a huge growth process, and widening access to the banking system.”

BBVA Bancomer has a capitalization level above 15%, exceeding international bench- marks, and a stable level of non-performing loans of around 3%.

The bank is the leader in extending banking services in Mexico, having provided access to the financial system to more than 9 million Mexicans in the last 10 years.

Mr. Deschamps sees technology as the key to success. “The growth factor is the technology that is enabling low-cost access to banking services,” he says. “This is a very competitive market, and we believe that through innovation, technology, and the talent of our staff we can continue to expand our share of business in the various markets in which we participate.”

The bank has a built a reputation for tailoring its services to client needs, and is Mexico’s only financial group with a specialized banking division – its Preferred Customers Unit – catering exclusively to the needs of foreign nationals living or visiting the country.

BBVA Bancomer has also devoted considerable effort to teaching Mexicans how to use savings and credit to their advantage. Under its ‘Adelante con tu futuro’ program, launched in 2008, personal finance workshops have been offered to more than 413,000 people, at no cost.

Last year, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) recognized the program with an award as the most innovative and advanced initiative to foster financial education in different sectors. Having learned the lessons of the past and tightened up on regulation, Mexico can anticipate a bright future for its banking sector, says the chief of the country’s leading financial institution.