The Business Year

Diana Torres

ECUADOR - Finance

Where the Grass Is Green

Managing Director, Citibank Branch Ecuador

Bio

Diana Torres is the Managing Director of Citibank Branch Ecuador and, since 1997, has served as the Treasurer of Citi Ecuador as well as FICC head for the country. She joined Citi in 1985 as an Executive Trainee in the Treasury department. She has an MBA with a specialization in Marketing from University Francisco de Vitoria, as well as a Master’s in Finance from the University of Management in Switzerland. She is also the Director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Ecuador and a Director at the Ecuadorean Association of Banks.

"The banking system in Ecuador has a very strong technological platform."

Since Citibank has been operating in Ecuador for over 50 years, how has the bank contributed to the development of the country?

Citibank started operating in Ecuador in 1960 with a clear goal: facilitate trade activity between Ecuador and other regional countries through our large branch network. In this context, one of our main focuses over the years has been local and multinational corporate companies in Ecuador, as well as the other markets in which we operate; we provide them with the right tools to develop their business activity, which enables them to take advantage of the synergies between Citibank branches in several countries. The government and the institutional sector is another one of our main focuses of activity. All in all, I think Citibank has contributed to the development of Ecuador from several points of view by providing finance tools to companies operating in the country, bringing in international banking practices and standards, boosting technology and know-how transfer, and playing an active role in the professionalization of the banking industry. Finally, we have also adopted a very active role when it comes to social responsibility, engaging with activities to boost financial education and entrepreneurship in Ecuador.

What would you say is the significance of Ecuador within Citibank’s global activities?

Citibank Ecuador belongs to Citibank Latin American operations, and due to the fact that we have local clients operating at the regional level and regional/global clients operating in Ecuador, I would say that the country plays an important role within the company’s global operations. Citi provides this global footprint to our customers. Ecuador is also a relevant market for Citibank due to the fact that it is a developing economy with very attractive growth rates and trends over the last few years.

“The banking system in Ecuador has a very strong technological platform.”

Who are the main clients of Citibank Ecuador?

We have a combination of local large corporations and multinational foreign companies operating in Ecuador. Regarding the corporate segment, most of our clients are large global or regional companies with operations in Ecuador. We also work very closely with clients from the professional sector, such as banks, and the public sector; we have a close working relationship with the Central Bank, the Ministry of Finance, and other such institutions.

How does Citibank integrate social responsibility into its activities in Ecuador?

We establish strategic alliances with leading foundations that have the capacity to reach a wider spectrum of society. We provide funding and volunteering to these strategic alliances, creating a very close link between our workers and these activities. We have a strong focus on activities related to financial and banking education, as well as entrepreneurship and business management education, implementing activities that simulate the daily activity of banks, companies, and the stock exchange, among others. We believe that financial and banking education has a very important long-term impact on communities. Regarding entrepreneurship initiatives, I would like to highlight the “Entrepreneurial Women,” program, which provides technical training and support on the implementation of their business ideas. This program has the unique goal to boost entrepreneurship among women in Ecuador. All in all, we believe in the need to support micro companies, and for that reason we have several strategic alliances at the international level with leading institutions to provide financing and training tools to these kinds of firms.

How would you characterize the way technology is integrated into the banking system in Ecuador?

The banking system in Ecuador has a very strong technological platform that is the result of increasing efforts within the last few years by banking institutions in the country. Market demands have clearly boosted the presence of the latest technologies in the sector, and banks implement continuous investments in this regard. As per Citibank, the main differentiating point is that our technological platforms comply with international standards, and we apply the same platform in Ecuador as we do in much larger economies and markets across the world. In this context, security levels are extremely high in our platforms, avoiding fraud or theft of information, for example. Also, our platforms are very user-friendly. In this context, I would like to add that we have been labelled as the best bank in cash management services for the last six years.

What are the advantages of working with Citibank for an international investor coming to Ecuador?

We have a presence in 160 countries around the world, and we have a unique footprint across the globe. Therefore, Citibank Ecuador can provide its clients with the much-needed connections and financial tools at the local and international level, while also adapting our products and services to their needs. Another thing I would like to highlight is that our current clients (multinational companies) know that our practices and platforms are standard regardless of the country in which they operate—it is very easy to operate with Citibank once you have the experience regardless of the country you are in. Also, we can provide our clients with a large list of connections as well as market experience and knowledge thanks to our presence in many countries. Finally, and despite having a local banking market dominated by local companies, I would say that Citibank also has vast experience in Ecuador, although we are a foreign player. We have the same level of experience and knowledge of the local market as any local bank can have.

What segments of the market you identify as the ones with the greatest potential for the growth of Citibank in Ecuador?

We have a strong market target: the corporate segment. In this context, current economic growth trends in the country and the ongoing support from the Ecuadorean government for the expansion of the corporate sector means that they will further need banking tools for their development, and Citibank will be there to provide them with the best tools. In this context, Citibank is to play an active role in the government’s efforts to change the production matrix in the country.

What is your outlook for Citibank’s operations in Ecuador for the next few years?

We aim to continue operating as a leading player in the corporate segment, while further differentiating ourselves from the competition thanks to the service to our clients; we will continue offering customized services and tools that best fit their needs and demands. We will further invest in technological platforms to continue being an innovative player in this field, and we see interesting opportunities within the public sector, as Ecuador continues growing.

What makes Ecuador attractive to the eyes of international investors?

Ecuador has experienced very interesting and dynamic growth rates over the last few years—it has undergone a significant transformation, positioning the country among the leaders in the region in terms of growth. In this context, such growth trends have been consistent and regular, and that means many growth opportunities for foreign investors. All in all, I think potential revenues when investing in Ecuador are higher than those in other regional markets, and the government’s efforts to change the production matrix of the country will mean many interesting investment opportunities for foreign investors.

© The Business Year – April 2014

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