A wholly owned subsidiary of U.S.-based IDB Bank – in turn a subsidiary itself of 76-year old Israel Discount Bank
Limited – Discount Bank Latin America has served the entire region from its headquarters in Montevideo since 1958.
Discount Bank is not the sole foreign bank operating here; indeed, Uruguay’s financial stability has attracted in recent years several major international financial institutions, says Jorge Perez, the bank’s managing director. “At present, with the exception of one bank, all the banks are international banks,” he says.
When Discount Bank opened in Uruguay over 50 years ago, its purpose was to attract wealthy investors and depositors from neighboring countries. As the local economy grew, the bank’s management decided to transform Discount Bank into a domestic retail commercial bank that could serve all kinds of customers.
“Today, about 75% of our deposits are from Uruguayan residents, and in addition to large corporations, we also finance mid-size and small corporations,” explains Mr. Perez. “We are also expanding our activities in consumer lending. We started with only one branch in Montevideo and one in Punta del Este. With the change in policy, we began to develop a network of branches.”
In March 2011, the bank will open a branch in Colonia, raising the number of branches to 15.
A growing network and client base (the bank currently has more than 55,000 customers) is certainly one sign of Discount Bank’s commitment to the country, as is the fact that it remains conservative.
“We have worked hard to improve our trademark and are proud of our image as a conservative bank with important loan and investment portfolios, with a substantial liquidity, and maintaining a low risk factor,” says Mr. Perez.
The bank is also very proud that during the regional crisis of 2002, it was one of the few banks that repaid all deposits without any help from its parent bank.
Discount Bank’s conservative outlook does not, however, extend to its expansion strategy. Eight years ago, while other banks were downsizing, Discount Bank opened new branches, a strategy that proved quite successful, according to Mr. Perez.
Throughout good times and bad, Discount Bank has been a generous benefactor to the Uruguayan community. Working with several NGOs, the bank runs a school project as well as a housing development project. It also supports poor children by paying the tuition for their studies.
“We are really devoting much time, optimizing resources, and doing more with less,” affirms the managing director.