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BANKING

Could Itaú’s small bank in Argentina deliver big?

Itaú’s Argentinian firm is its smallest. Nevertheless, innovation in its retail segment could be a game-changer in the country – and potentially the region.

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Photo: iStock

In Argentina, the smallest bank in Itaú’s Latin American operations has been quietly developing new products that seem to be hitting a nerve.

The Argentine business has traditionally been a corporate-banking-led operation with a smaller retail segment: its presence in the country was primarily developed to help Brazilian companies navigate cross-border business and trading activity. But it’s in that small business of this small bank that Itaú may have generated a winner.

In May 2021, the bank launched 'Cuenta Chat', an account that can be opened in minutes and managed completely through WhatsApp. Clients get a virtual debit card and can buy products using QR codes.

Now, the bank is beginning to experiment with small credit limits – building up credit histories and scores for those attracted to the zero-cost, flexible and virtual account.

And a lot of Argentines are interested in such an account. The bank is already close to having one million Cuenta Chat account holders – and is targeting 1.5 million this year.

The cannibalization rate is low – fewer than 10% of people who open these accounts are known to the bank.