The short-to-medium-term outlook is bleak in this Central American country. GDP growth forecasts have been bumped down from 3.4% to 2.8% in 2015 and unemployment is on the rise. Fitch meanwhile, slapped Costa Rica with a negative outlook in January, just a few months after Moody’s downgraded the sovereign, to Ba1. 

However this year’s Banco of the Year Costa Rica, Banco BAC San José, enjoys the support of a stable parent, Banco de Bogotá, and is one of the country’s most profitable lenders. The bank has a 12.4% share of the loan market and 11.4% share of deposits, the largest of Costa Rica’s private lenders, according to Fitch. 

BAC’s assets grew from $3.68 billion in June 2014 to $4.32 billion 12 months later. Gerardo Corrales, the bank’s CEO, says BAC San José’s 13.5% capital ratio gives it enough capacity to maintain its growth projections over the next three years. 

A key source of growth has been BAC’s consumer banking arm, namely its Credomatic brand, which has built a franchise throughout Central America. Credomatic integrates banks, credit card issuers and financial services providers in the region. At the regional level, the launch of a cellphone payments system 2Móvil will offer corporate and retail clients opportunities, says Corrales. The new platform represents a “revolution in payment systems, especially for Costa Rica’s Generation Y segment,” he says. LF