Few banks can claim to know their customers as people and not just figures on the balance sheet. BancoPanamá’s entire ethos revolves around making sure strong client relationships are at the centre of its strategy
Great changes give way to great opportunities. Changes in the financial sector, paired with Panama’s favourable economic conditions, have made the country a relevant banking centre in the world’s financial services industry. This, together with the arrival of new investments, encouraged the entrance of new players into the local banking industry. Banking mergers resulted in mega banks that, according to many, lost touch with their customer’s needs.
This was the reality back in 2007, when a group of successful and reputable investors weren’t receiving the treatment they deserved from the banks they used. They saw a chance to go back to banking basics, back to the days when a firm handshake sealed a deal and you had a familiar business relationship with the executive in charge of your account.
With that in mind, BancoPanamá opened its doors on April 21, 2008, with two branches, two ATMs, competitive online banking and attractive products targeted to the corporate and affluent segments. In order to demonstrate their compromise and commitment, the investor group capitalised the bank with three times ($30m) the required amount ($10m), giving the bank a solid start that it has maintained ever since.
A real local bank
Being a new bank is not an easy task in a competitive landscape, however BancoPanamá’s team has allowed it to overcome many of the hurdles and obtain unprecedented results.
The investor group brought together a team of highly experienced and capable executives to lead its institution, for example its CEO Ramón Chiari, who has more than 23 years of banking experience working for local and international institutions.
Right away he decided – and would later be proved right – that the bank would focus on customer service. Fast forward four years, and the bank has five branches, or ‘Relationship Centres’, as it likes to call them, eight ATMs, 4,000 clients, approximately $500m in assets, $350m in loans and over $400m in deposits. Not to mention that it was profitable at the end of its first fiscal year and has been profitable every year since, accumulating more than $5m in net income in its short existence.
Panama’s banking industry is a highly competitive market. There are more than 90 banks in a country of three million people, of which 46 percent use or are able to use banks. The country’s top four financial institutions control less than 50 percent of the asset base, compared to an average of 73 percent in the rest of Central America. Even with the local conditions, BancoPanamá´s business model has proven to be a success because they have been able to thrive in this environment, in spite of the competition.
The delivery of outstanding customer experiences has given BancoPanamá an excellent reputation, which has lead many people to establish it as their ‘go to’ bank. As a bank, it has achieved the impressive combination of delivering competitive products while maintaining a genuinely communal atmosphere.
Confidence in banking
The bank has a very talented managerial team comprised of individuals from different backgrounds, each with successful careers. Although many of them come with experience gained from the banking sector, many have worked in other industries. BancoPanamá is also fortunate to have people from countries other than Panama. This results in a diverse approach to each situation which is especially beneficial to BancoPanamá because it enriches its culture. It enables them to resolve situations by thinking outside the box.
The bank’s group of highly qualified professionals has many years of experience in the financial sector. All executives have a personal and professional history that commits them to the objective of building a bank for which the most important thing is establishing a relationship of trust with its clients. BancoPanamá values strong, individual service, and understands that it’s not easy to come by. It believes that there’s an opportunity, in giving people the attention they deserve, to really advise them properly.
The bank also utilities technology as an ally; from investing in sophisticated software applications to promoting the use of innovative mobile services, BancoPanamá is constantly identifying opportunities to improve its platform in order to better serve its customer base. Technology also helps it to comply with regulations established by the local regulatory entity. BancoPanamá has been characterised by always complying with local and international financial regulations, going the extra mile and maintaining a conservative approach to banking.
Customers are people, not numbers
For BancoPanamá, every customer represents a unique personal and corporate story that deserves to be heard. It strives to establish a warm and close relationship with every client, which enables it to understand their financial needs and efficiently fulfil them, utilising a portfolio of products that meets their requirements and a quality of service that makes for a memorable experience. BancoPanamá worries about its customers and works to help them achieve their personal and professional goals.
BancoPanamá is proud to support its clients’ progress in their various industries. Today, that includes airlines, pharmaceuticals, major housing developers, telecommunications and energy corporations. This year, the bank is financing the construction of one of Panama’s first totally green buildings, pre-certified Leed Core & Shell. By permitting all these companies to prosper they play a key role in the development of the country.
Besides focusing on customer service in the bank’s Relationship Centres, it has created spaces specially made for the comfort of its visitors. In BancoPanamá, what you hear and feel and how you’re treated are different – a place where modern decor meets traditional banking values. In order to give its customers a unique experience and extraordinary service, it has established very high standards. From the person who greets you at the door, who will know your name the next time you visit, to every detail that appeals to the senses, everything has been strategically planned to allow you to enjoy your stay at BancoPanamá.
Plans for the future
At BancoPanamá it’s not just about strategy; it’s a way of life. “We’re committed to our customer service culture,” says Chiari. This is why it tries to support its customers even in the design and decoration of the Relationship Centres. To create that special atmosphere, BancoPanamá relies on its own instincts, always thinking of what would be appreciated by its clients. It tries to keep waiting times to a minimum, but in the rare cases in which it can’t be avoided, customers may sit in lounge-styled areas while they play games or surf the net using an iPad. They may also choose to drink the bank’s own coffee blend, tea, or the day’s featured flavoured water.
BancoPanamá has big plans for the future. It is considering exporting its business model to other countries in Latin America. Locally, it will be expanding its target market and catering to new segments. In less than five years the bank expects to reach more than $1bn in assets and improve its profitability indicators. Although it will rely mostly on organic growth, the right opportunities in mergers and acquisitions are certainly an option worth exploring.
“We are excited about the future. We will continue to deliver excellent customer service and to develop long-lasting relationships with each and every one of our customers. The first four years have been full of interesting experiences, and we are convinced that the future holds many more,” says Chiari.
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