COLOMBIA - Finance
CEO, Itaú Colombia
Baruc Sáez has a degree in economics from Bard College and a master’s degree in international economics and finance from Brandeis University in the US. He has more than 23 years of experience in the financial sector, 10 years working for Itaú Group, and has presided over the operation in Colombia since 2020. Before his posting at Itaú Colombia, he served as an investment banking director at Itaú BBA for Latin America, based in New York.
Baruc Sáez, CEO of Itaú Colombia, talks to TBY about the firm’s competitive advantage lying in its highly concentrated client base and offerings of regional transaction services that set it apart from other banks in Colombia.
What role does Colombia play in Itaú’s global portfolio?
Itaú’s Colombia unit is the third largest in our portfolio. As a Brazilian bank, we maintain over 80% of our assets in Brazil, while also managing significant operations in Uruguay, Paraguay, Argentina, and Chile. The Colombian unit currently accounts for 1-2% of our total assets across the Itaú conglomerate.
What are the company’s competitive advantages in Colombia in comparison to other financial institutions in the sector?
Itaú Colombia stands out from other markets with its highly concentrated client base in both retail and wholesale banking, which is the result of the merger of three banks, each with a unique approach to catering to affluent and emerging affluent retail, large corporate, and institutional clients in Colombia. Our competitive edge lies in our unwavering commitment to providing exceptional services and products to our clients, and our DNA is centered around placing our clients’ needs at the heart of our strategy. We measure the level of satisfaction of our clients through the net promoter score (NPS), and we take great pride in being a client-centric company. We have a fiercely loyal client base that we have integrated over the years, constantly improving our product and service offerings since 2021. Our affiliation with Itaú, the largest private bank in Latin America, provides us with a unique advantage, enabling us to leverage expertise, know-how, and technology from our experience in Chile, Brazil, and Uruguay, making us a truly regional bank. Itaú Colombia is the only bank in Colombia that can claim this distinction.
What companies is Itaú Colombia currently working with, and what criteria does it use when selecting its clients and partners?
It is our distinct pleasure to be the bank of choice for both large and medium-sized corporations throughout Colombia. Our selection criteria for working with these clients are rigorous and thorough, ensuring that we provide only the best credit process. Our regional advantage lies in our ability to analyze credit and provide tailored solutions that meet each client’s unique needs. We take a client-centric approach, focusing on what our clients require rather than what we want to sell them. Whether it be infrastructure projects, bonds, M&A advisory services, or mergers with other companies, we strive to deliver the optimal solution to every client. As an example, we recently raised USD2.2 billion for the Republic of Colombia and sought the best possible way to bring Colombia to the market, always prioritizing our clients’ needs. Our wide range of products is implemented to meet each client’s unique situation. It is no surprise that most major companies in Colombia would rank Itaú as one of their top-three banks in the region, given our unwavering commitment to providing the best possible services and products to our clients.
How do you divide your portfolio in terms of local and international companies?
We typically do not view our portfolio in such a manner; however, we can confirm that 65% of our portfolio comprises corporate clients, which is primarily wholesale banking, while the remaining 35% are retail clients. Within this corporate portfolio, around 40% consists of local clients, with the remaining 25% belonging to our multinational segment. In certain cases, local companies have a 50/50 ownership split between local partners, which means we do not differentiate between local and international clients. Despite this, our multinational and regional segments are fairly robust, as we offer transaction services in Chile, Brazil, and other countries throughout the region. This capability sets us apart from other banks in Colombia, as we are one of the few able to offer regional transaction services. Although we do not categorize our clients as international or local, our strong regional customer base is an advantage over local banks that do not have a presence in Brazil or Chile
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