Year: 2021

Winner: BAC Credomatic

Central Americans no longer need to be burdened with a wallet, purse or even a smart phone when they leave the house. They can do most of their business using their wrists.

BAC Credomatic, Central America’s only fully regional bank, in 2021 began rolling out digital wallets using Garmin and Fitbit applications. It is the latest innovation for the company that began using touchless technology in 2019.

“You can pay with Fitbit, Garmin or your smart phone. It is part of our strategy to offer quality solutions that are simple and provide economic, environmental and social value,” says Gisela Sánchez, BAC Credomatic’s chief corporate affairs and sustainability officer.

The bank’s constant innovation, coupled with its consistently impressive results across its areas of operation, earned it the award for Bank of the Year for Central America. That, combined with its impressive growth in Panama, also earned it the Bank of Year award for that country.

BAC Credomatic is in six countries, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama. Sánchez says that while the bank is regional, an important element has been carefully controlling its participation in each market. It is not over-exposed in any country, with its market participation below 30% in each jurisdiction. This helped manage the public health crisis, she says.

The bank had $26.6 billion in total assets, $17 billion in loans and $20.2 billion in total deposits across the six countries as of December 2020. Profits last year were $445 million before taxes. Loans were up by 4% and deposits by 12% in the 12 months ending in June 2021.

The use of Garmin and Fitbit is part of the bank’s digital trend that began years ago and, like banks across the globe, expanded astronomically during the pandemic. Of the bank’s 3.8 million customers, at the end of 45% were fully digitally – compared to 17% in 2017 — and 85% of the bank’s transactions in the six countries are done on a digital platform.

Sánchez says that BAC Credomatic is constantly rethinking its model. “The reduction in physical contact accelerated with the pandemic and we need to respond. If 85% of transactions are not going through a physical bank branch, this means the model will change,” she says.

The change in how people do banking is not only digital. In 2013, BAC Credomatic launched a network of non-banking correspondents where banking can get done quickly and easily. It has not stopped.

The bank now has more than 9,000 Rapibacs in the region. Rapibacs are in restaurants, bodegas and other small shops, and allow customers can pay bills, transfer money and even get cash when necessary.

“This has been a super powerful way to grow our footprint and provide access to customers without them having to visit a branch,” she says.

Rapibacs have played an important role in the physical and digital growth of BAC Credomatic in Panama, where the bank has $5.8 billion in deposits and $3.7 billion in loans.

It has close to 50 full-service and on-site branches, as well as Panama’s largest network of ATM. Added to this are 320 Rapibacs. Panama’s population is 4.3 million.

The bank had impressive growth in Panama in the 12 months ending June 2021, with deposits up by 14% and loans by 7% compared to a year earlier.

“We saw strong growth in Panama because of the ambition behind our transformation. We are breaking paradigms about the traditional role of a bank which had allowed up to grow our customer base even during the crisis,” says Sánchez.

“We are breaking paradigms about the traditional role of a bank which had allowed up to grow our customer base even during the crisis”  Gisela Sánchez, BAC Credomatic