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When asked what he enjoys most about working at Banco Nacional de Panama, General Manager Javier Carrizo’s answer is clear: that no two days are the same.
“What I like about working here is that you work in a versatile environment – one day you are in the office, the next day you are on a working tour with producers from the main provinces, who are the guarantors of food sovereignty,” he tells The CEO Magazine.
Since it was established in 1904, Banco Nacional de Panama has been a forerunner in the development of the agricultural industry in Panama. “Some of our main partners are our agricultural producers. That is why we work shoulder to shoulder to move the productive sector forward,” he explains. “This proven experience places us as the leader in the national market by offering the credit facilities that best suit this sector, which we will continue to strongly support in a forceful way.”
To further support the industry, Banco Nacional de Panama has created a program called ‘Field Days’. “The main objective of these Field Days is to reach more producers and, on site, update knowledge and share the experience of successful agro-entrepreneurs,” he reveals. The events allow the bank to share details of its facilities and benefits in the sphere of agricultural banking.
“For Banco Nacional de Panama, supporting culture and folklore is an investment, not an expense.”
Attendees are also shown methods to reduce their carbon footprint and how to increase the value of the products they sell, with a view to increasing exports as well as the use of organic nanotechnology. Although in 2020, two of the seven scheduled Field Days were cancelled due to the pandemic, Javier says the bank nimbly transformed the events into a digital format.
The program is part of a longer-term approach the bank is taking towards the agricultural development of Panama. “In order to guarantee food sovereignty, measures were approved for the benefit of the agricultural sector: the term of regular financing for the purchase of farms was increased from 15 to 20 years, and the term of financing for the purchase of livestock was increased from 12 to 15 years,” he points out.
Developing the country’s vibrant cultural landscape is also a priority. “For Banco Nacional de Panama, supporting culture and folklore is an investment, not an expense, since a cultured society that recognizes and values its customs, traditions and talents is a society that advances,” Javier says.
The bank holds annual art contests to stimulate creative talent across the country and supports numerous cultural events. In 2020, the bank drew on folklore and its agricultural roots to deck out its delegation for the Parade of Las Mil Polleras.
It also has its own museum, La Casa Museo, which has become part of Ibermuseums, a 9,000-strong collective of Ibero-American museums. Now, with the launch of a digital platform, entitled the Register of Ibero-American Museums, it can promote knowledge of Panamanian banking and share its vast collection of philately and numismatics worldwide.
While traditions and history are clearly of great importance to the bank, so too is innovation and securing its reputation as a bank of the future. That is why, at the start of 2020, it began taking its “first steps” towards a digital transformation. This included the formal launch of a new National Electronic Wallet and the Clave Transporte Card – both methods of electronic payment that aim to reduce the use of cash and promote financial inclusion.
“One quality that distinguishes Banco Nacional de Panama from the others in the market is that we reach places where private banking does not have a presence.”
A new Interactive Online Response Assistant uses artificial intelligence to improve its customer service experience by holding “live conversations” with clients through a variety of social media platforms.
But making sure the bank has a strong physical presence is also critical, Javier adds. “One quality that distinguishes Banco Nacional de Panama from the others in the market is that we reach places where private banking does not have a presence,” he shares. “That is why we have 90 branches throughout Panama.”
With the largest number of cardholders nationwide, Banco Nacional de Panama is also expanding its network of ATMs to supply the rise in users. “During 2020, we managed to expand our ATM network to 305 and maintained an average availability for the customer of 97.6 per cent,” he reveals. “We hope to increase that to 360 ATMs next year.”
Combine this growing presence with a redesign of the bank’s online and mobile banking platforms, and it is clear that Javier and his team mean business. “The bank that does not innovate lags behind,” he insists. By nurturing its strong roots while looking to the future, he has ensured it remains a leader in its field.