PANAMA - Finance
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.
Nequi has seen great acceptance in Panama. Our aim is to reach out to clients that might view traditional bank accounts as being more difficult. Traditional banking has simplified its onboarding processes and made it much easier to add new client. Nequi is a digital bank that allows us to reach that part of the population so that they can save money, use PayPal, own a car, and much more. Nequi had a steep learning curve, and today it has over 187,000 clients and is attracting more every day. The next step is to look for interoperability among these solutions. For example, we have worked with the national bank of Panama enabling people to take cash out at ATMs. We are certain the changes consumers have experienced will only continue to grow. Financial solutions are becoming increasingly invisible, though the opposite is happening with clients’ needs. We believe business models that allow interconnection are the solution and are what we are working toward.
As part of Bancolombia Group, we are committed and driven to monitor, identify and address the country’s needs, leveraging our utmost capabilities to ensure its fulfillment. We have a common goal: to promote sustainable development to help people’s well-being, which involves three pillars. First, to strengthen competitiveness in the Panamanian productivity sector, we are in talks with more SMEs. Some 80% of companies in Panama are SMEs and suffered greatly from the effects of the pandemic. Approximately 70% of the country’s economic growth is thanks to the private sector. If we do not strengthen competitiveness, it will be impossible to keep up with this growth or even surpass it. The second pillar is to have more sustainable communities and societies by ensuring decent housing for people, which improves their quality of life. We are the second-biggest bank in terms of mortgage credit, and we are working on having more solutions here. We also work with the energy transition. Panama is evaluating the hydric resource challenge. We have a credit card from Fundación Natura, and part of the resources of that card is used to preserve our water resources. This is a small project, and we want to make it bigger or have a bigger effect on the awareness of water resource in Panama. The last pillar is financial inclusion, and for this, we work with women on inclusion and equality. Since 2015 we have been working on a program called Impulsa that provides financial and non-financial solutions for women. In terms of financial solutions, we have a social gender bonus with the Inter-American Development Bank, while for non-financial solutions, we have mentoring and training programs. The challenge is to provide the same opportunities regardless of gender. This program’s main focus is inclusion and financial education for children and teenagers to make them more aware of the importance of the financial sector for Panama and why we should protect it. We have a mentoring program that is also part of a bigger overall training program for Panama to encourage more equality and higher quality of life.
Equality is an international responsibility. We want everyone to have the same opportunities. It is not just about gender; the more diverse and inclusive companies are, the more their businesses will thrive. This is not about social reasonability—it is about the economics aspect of it. Panama has moved forward in terms of gender identity matters, and the country has public-private support to better face these challenges. We already hold the gender equality badge and strongly recommend it. Such certifications provide more opportunities for selection processes, for example. Overall, Panama still has major gaps that we need to work on reducing.