Delivering Domestic and Regional Excellence in Cash Management
An Interview with Carlos Gutiérrez Salán, Global Head of Cash, Santander
Latin America is a priority for Grupo Santander, with 10% market share and over one-third of the group’s attributable profit. By the end of 2009, Santander had over 37 million customers in the region with an ongoing strategy of investment. The strength of Santander’s cash management offering was recently recognised in TMI’s Award for Innovation and Excellence in Cash Management in Latin America. We were delighted to talk with Carlos Gutiérrez Salán, Global Head of Cash at Santander, about doing business in Latin America.
Santander has a long and successful history in Latin America: how would you characterise the bank’s capabilities in the region?
Santander has the largest franchise of any international bank in Latin America with the largest number of branches in the region. Our comprehensive presence, and the depth of our network in the region, is a significant competitive advantage delivering considerable value to our customers and providing full banking services throughout the customer’s value chain, from their customers to their suppliers. While in developed regions such as Europe, it is easier to serve customers using electronic means from a central hub, this is far less the case in Latin America where local branches play an essential role, particularly as the use of cash and cheques are so prevalent. We are able to compete and often exceed local banks in the availability and proximity of branches to our customers, as well as in the quality and suitability of our services. In addition to delivering local services in the markets where our customers need us, we have focused on building regional solutions to complement our domestic capabilities.
What features of the economies in Latin America would you highlight as we move into 2011, and why should corporates be focusing their energies there?
Latin America is clearly a major growing region with considerable potential for multinational firms across all industries. To leverage this potential, companies will firstly need to decide what sort of investments they need to make in the region to manage the demand for their products and services, and secondly, how they will fund these investments. These decisions are particularly challenging in Latin America due to the diverse and complex regulatory environments in each country. Consequently, companies need to consider to what extent they are able to operate on a regional basis or on a multi-local basis. To do this, an experienced banking partner with expertise in each market, and a regional approach to developing cohesive solutions is essential.
What key issues do corporates seeking business success in Latin America need to overcome?
Clearly the main issue that corporates face in this region is to deal with diverse regulations in each country. In addition to that, they have to live with the difficulty of transferring cash across borders, making it very challenging to construct liquidity management solutions, as illustrated in many cash and treasury management conference programmes, where a frequent topic of conversation is ‘trapped’ cash, i.e., cash that is held in-country that cannot be repatriated or used to finance activities outside the country. Finally I would also remark that low bankarisation levels imply heavy usage of manual intensive instruments like cash or cheques thus requiring great capillarity from bank partners to properly assist corporates.
We provide transparent, detailed information on accounts in all countries so that regional or group treasurers have complete access to data.
Latin America is evidently not a single region but a diversity of countries, each with its own culture, economy and regulation. How do you help your corporate customers to manage this diversity?
There are a variety of ways in which Santander is providing its expertise to its corporate customers in Latin America. Firstly, we help them to create the greatest possible efficiency and transparency over their local operations in each country, as well as providing the products and services that they require in each market. Secondly, we have been actively building regional cash management solutions so that our customers can benefit from cohesive solutions across the region, in addition to specific local capabilities. For example, we enable payments to be centralised through regional hubs, so that customers can send us a single payments file, which we then filter and reformat to end up making local payments in each of the relevant countries. Furthermore, by enabling payment files to be transmitted from the company’s ERP directly to the bank, our customers can leverage their investment in technology platforms and shared service centres effectively.