Banco General’s long-term issuer rating stands at BBB+, a notch above Panama’s sovereign rating. There’s ample reason to justify the rating, according to Fitch.
In a recent report, the ratings agency cited the bank’s strong domestic franchise and a long track record of successful operations.
In addition, Fitch singled out Banco General’s strong asset quality which compares favorably with Panamanian competitors.
Claiming a market share of 20% of the country’s loans and 25% of deposits, Banco General president Raúl Alemán Zubieta says the success of the largest bank in Panama has a lot to do with its diverse business footprint.
Its loan portfolio is roughly split between consumers and companies, he says. Loans outside of Panama account for 10% of the portfolio.
With interest rates low and the Panamanian economy slowing, Alemán says the bank is emphasizing greater efficiency. “There’s not much you can do on the margin side,” he says.
Banco General’s digital strategy is key to improved efficiency. Of the bank’s 1 million customers, “more and more are banking through digital channels than the branches,” says Alemán.
Customers can tap into a range of services through their iPhones, such as opening accounts and paying bills.
The bank recently started offering insurance products. Along with the expanded digital menu, the bank is improving its cybersecurity measures, says Alemán.
An important part of the digital effort is data analysis, according to Alemán. Banco General has accumulated a trove of information that shows how people interact with the bank and highlights possible new digital strategies. “We know about people’s past behavior and perhaps their future behavior,” he says.