Euromoney Market Leaders: Latin America’s growing risk list
Building on analysis of the Brazilian market last year, Euromoney Market Leaders has now produced rankings from a broader group of countries in Latin America.
As 2023 beckoned, Latin America’s banks were adding an additional threat to their already considerable risk list: the rising odds of a US recession.
Mexico is a case in point, according to the inaugural Euromoney Market Leaders rankings for Latin American institutions. Since June, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has been warning that the central bank risked overtightening in its efforts to curb inflation. By November, Banco de Mexico pushed its key interest rates up to a record 10% to keep pace with the US Federal Reserve in Washington.
Banks in Mexico are on the front line not just for the resulting contraction in credit, but also for the risk of the globe’s biggest economy entering recession in the months ahead. In general, Latin America stands among the “most susceptible regions to a US recession,” say Fitch Ratings.
The region’s economies suffer from “various transmission channels, which tie them to US economic cycles and policy decisions,” Fitch say. But, they add, “lower US external demand primarily affects Mexico due to its export-dependence and geographical proximity.”
Euromoney research detected a sharp drop in credit demand in Mexico, with an inevitable hit to investment banking activity. Merger and acquisition mandates are down sharply, as is initial public offerings activity. Yet amid near-unprecedented uncertainty about the year ahead, the rankings offer some insight into the banks to watch in key economies across the region.
Market Leaders among investment banks in Mexico include BBVA, Santander Mexico, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs Mexico and JP Morgan. The ranks of the “Highly Regarded” include Banorte, BTG Pactual, Credit Suisse and Scotiabank. They’re followed by “Notable” names Actinver, Barclays, Citibanamex, HSBC Mexico, Mizuho, Puncto and UBS.
Mexico’s corporate bankers have focused on syndicated loans. Market Leaders in this segment include BBVA, Santander Mexico and SMBC, followed by Highly Regarded Banobras, CaixaBank, Citibanamex and Crédit Agricole.
Investment banks in Colombia have experienced less severe Covid-19 effects, resulting in a more robust environment for M&A transactions. Deals included Gilinski Group affiliate Nugil SAS launching a tender offer for Grupo Nutresa SA and JGDB Holding SAS launching a public tender offer for Grupo de Inversiones Suramericana SA. Market Leaders in Colombia include Bank of America and BTG Pactual, followed by Notable banks Citi Colombia and Goldman Sachs Colombia.
In Peru, bankers have been busy handling M&A transactions in the agriculture space. And despite ongoing political unrest, investment banks are racking up mandates for sustainability-linked bonds. Peru’s Market Leaders include Bank of America, Citi Peru, JP Morgan and Santander, followed by Highly Regarded Credit Suisse and Lazard and Notable banks BNP Paribas and Goldman Sachs Peru.
In Ecuador, the standout bank during a moderately active year of M&A deals in oil and gas is Citi Ecuador. In the Dominican Republic, which saw its first-ever IPO by a family-owned company – César Iglesias SA – the Market Leader is Banco de Reservas (Banreservas).
The deal pipeline for the year ahead is uncertain as the US economy loses altitude and China pivots toward reopening. In early December, Chinese leader Xi Jinping announced a U-turn on his “zero Covid” lockdowns, a change which is altering the growth trajectory of markets from Sao Paulo to Tokyo. It sent Latin American bonds soaring almost immediately.
Indeed, big commodity exporters such as Brazil, Chile and Peru are preparing for surging Chinese demand as Beijing ramps up both fiscal and monetary stimulus. It helps, too, that Latin America is less exposed to the fallout from Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Yet risks abound. These include a fresh surge in global commodities prices fuelling inflation. “Surely it will push up global inflation if China reopens fully,” says economist Iris Pang at ING Bank. “That’s because there will be more international travel, more sales, more production.”
Economist Santiago Acosta-Ormaechea at the International Monetary Fund notes that “despite slowing growth, Latin America will continue facing high inflation for some time.” The swift response of major central banks in the region, which hiked interest rates ahead of other emerging market and advanced economies, he adds, “will help bring down inflation, but this will take time as monetary policy needs to tame domestic demand to exert downward pressure on prices.”
Across Latin America, much of the action in 2022 was in serving small and medium size enterprises on the front lines of the quartet of risks facing the region.
In Mexico, SMEs are the backbone of the economy, accounting for roughly 95% of all businesses and more than 50% of gross domestic product. The sector also is homing in on female-owned entrepreneurs and other traditionally underserved and underbanked populations with targeted microloan programmes. The Market Leaders here are Citibanamex and Santander Mexico, followed by Notable bank BBVA.
In Colombia, where banks are rapidly expanding digital offerings for SME clients, the Market Leader is Banco Davivienda, followed by Highly Regarded Banco de Bogota and Bancolombia. In Peru, those earning Highly Regarded rankings include BBVA and Citi Peru. The SME Market Leader in the Dominican Republic is Banreservas.
The good news is that global market volatility isn’t curtailing innovation or investment in digitalization. In Mexico, digital offerings including new payment apps and platforms continued to thrive.
For example, the Market Leader-ranked Santander Mexico has expanded the digital payment platform it created for Mexico City’s public transportation system. Other Market Leaders BBVA and Citibanamex led the pack in incorporating ApplePay into credit cards, while introducing a variety of innovative digital solutions. One prime example: BBVA’s Smart Key cards with cutting-edge biometric technology. Highly Regarded HSBC Mexico is rapidly expanding is digital ecosystem for SME clients.
Of course, uncertain market conditions are taking a toll on progress toward digitalization across the region. According to consultancy Latitude, the amount of available funding for fintechs plunged 29% in the first six months of 2022 compared with a year earlier.
Undaunted, banks in Colombia are generating a bull market in digital tools to differentiate from the competition and woo customers. The nation is seeing rapid growth in digital transactions in both consumer and corporate sectors. The Market Leader rolling out user-friendly solutions – from apps to QR payment codes to mobile cards – is Banco Davivienda, followed by the Highly Regarded Banco de Bogota.
In Peru, competition is heating up among banks adding new features and improving functionality. Market Leader Citi Peru and Highly Regarded BBVA are handling the bulk of app-based transactions. In Ecuador, private-sector banks have taken the lead developing solutions four years after the central bank scrapped its digital payments system. The Market Leader is Banco Pichincha, followed by Highly Regarded Citi Ecuador and Produbanco.
While only about half of Dominicans have smartphones, the number is increasing steadily. So are banks’ efforts to boost market share. Banreservas is the Market Leader, followed by Highly Regarded-ranked Banco Popular and Scotiabank.
Innovation also can be found in regional efforts to embrace environmental, social and governance principles. Mexico, for example, is seeing an surge of green finance initiatives, as evidenced by increased sustainable bond activity. Euromoney research also points to a strong peer-pressure dynamic among banks vying to raise their ESG profiles.
Mexico’s Market Leaders include Citibanamex and Santander Mexico, followed by the Highly Regarded BBVA and HSBC Mexico and Notable names Bank of America and Goldman Sachs Mexico.
In Colombia, banks are expressing their green ambitions by increasing the ratio of sustainable projects relative to more conventional ones. Other priorities include offering credit and debit cards with a percentage of all transactions being donated to green causes, particularly reforestation. Highly Regarded there are Banco Davivienda, Banco de Bogota and Bancolombia.
BBVA is the ESG leader in Peru, followed by High Regarded Citi Peru. The local market features an increasing focus on winning sustainability-linked bonds, drawing on the deep experience of large international banks expanding ESG initiatives throughout Latin America. While in early stages, banks are also recognizing the optics and impact of taking sustainability issues more seriously.
The Covid era inspired banks across Latin America to ramp up corporate and social responsibility efforts. In Mexico, where Citibanamex and Santander Mexico are the Market Leaders in CSR, many banks are experimenting with credit cards that donate a percentage of each transaction to select charities and social causes.
In Peru, BBVA is Highly Regarded in CSR, followed by Notable ranked Citi Peru and Goldman Sachs Peru. The ranks of the Highly Regarded in Ecuador include Banco Pichincha, Citi Ecuador and Produbanco. In the Dominican Republic, Banco de Reservas is the Market Leader.
Diversity and inclusion
The commitment to diversity and inclusion is also on the rise around the region. In Mexico, where Citibanamex and Santander Mexico are Market Leaders, diversity initiatives are generally focused on gender diversity, the needs of the disabled and greater equality for the LGBT+ community.
In Colombia, where Banco de Bogota is the Market Leader and Bancolombia is Highly Regarded, banks are focused on recruiting more women and increasing the number of female executives. Many also are introducing online learning initiatives and seminars on topics such as unconscious bias and microaggression.
The year ahead in Latin America will be as challenging as any since the 2008 global financial crisis. Between the Fed’s most aggressive tightening cycle since the 1990s, risks of a US recession and geopolitical uncertainties, the region’s banks find themselves facing no shortage of challenges. How they respond will determine which banks maintain their position as market leaders in their respective sectors.
Euromoney Market Leaders is a new, comprehensive country-level ranking system. Banks are ranked according to eight categories: investment banking; corporate banking; small and medium-sized enterprise banking; ESG; Islamic banking; digital solutions; corporate and social responsibility; and diversity and inclusion.
Conclusions are based on bank initiatives, case studies, products, specific projects, transaction breadth, individual policies and numerical data and targets. Relevant accreditation such as awards, rankings and ratings is also taken into account. We also look for evidence of creativity, innovation and the importance of market impact based on a universe of quantitative metrics.