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PANAMA - Finance

Aimeé Sentmat de Grimaldo

President, Banistmo


Aimeé Sentmat de Grimaldo has over 20 years of experience in the financial sector. She holds a degree in finance from Universidad Católica Santa María La Antigua and an MBA from Nova Southeastern University. Before assuming her current position, she worked at HSBC as Chief of Commercial Banking.

"As a universal bank, we seek to promote the sustainable economic development of Panama through our business solutions."

Aimeé Sentmat de Grimaldo, President of Banistmo, talks to TBY about the Panamanian banking sector, working with public institutions to restore economic stability, and the role of digitalization.

As the second-biggest bank in a country with more than 60 banks, what role does Banistmo play in the Panamanian economy?

As a universal bank, we seek to promote the sustainable economic development of Panama through our business solutions. Since the pandemic, we have been highly focused on working with SMEs because those companies represent more than 80% of the total portfolio of companies in Panama. In terms of the consumer business, we are working to help our customers recover from the effects of the pandemic. Our role is to work together with our customers to find solutions so they can meet their financial commitments and maintain a solid record in order to ensure access to credit. Banks in Panama have been active in providing access to credit, and we need to make sure these customers remain as good credit customers for banks. Our role is to work together with our customers. In this situation, we are recovering, but we have not overcome the crisis yet. We need to maintain a close relationship with our customers in order to work together and find solutions for their different problems.

How is Banistmo collaborating with Panamanian public institutions to restore economic stability?

A credit guarantee program is not intended to help banks but a specific sector, such as tourism. IDB, the government of Panama, and Banistmo are working together to share the credit risk of customers, making it easier for them to acquire loans. We should be able to fund and qualify more customers because the three of us are sharing the risk instead of having a bank hold all the risk. That is how those such programs work in all countries. I expect the credit program for the tourism sector to be the first of many others. Tourism has been heavily impacted by the pandemic and employs more than 140,000 people in Panama. Such programs can help boost employment. There are two conditions to qualify for the program: being heavily impacted by the pandemic and having a significant number of people that could benefit through employment. We are the first bank to sign, and if the programs works well, it could set a precedent for new sectors. This is something that could be worked on with IDB as well.

What is your outlook for the banking sector after its digitalization as a result of the pandemic?

One of the positive impacts of the pandemic was perhaps the speed of the digital transformation of the entire economy. Even before the pandemic, banks already started on their digitalization process. Now, there is an opportunity to accelerate and foster financial inclusion. We have launched a new account that is 100% digital and can be opened with just USD5. Customers only need to have the Banistmo app on their phones. We will continue to launch new solutions to make it easier for people to access their accounts on their phones. We are working together with our digital bank, Nequi, to increase the number of solutions on that platform, including accounts, payments, recharge, credit cards, and a digital credit card in Nequi. In the near future, we would not only have bank solutions but all kinds of non-banking or non-financial solutions included on our platforms as well.



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