Cristofani prepares Santander Río for better times
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BANKING

Cristofani prepares Santander Río for better times

It is the biggest and the best bank in a troubled market. The bank almost got an IPO away in 2011 before Argentina’s economy turned. The market hasn’t improved since then. But rather than sit and wait it out, the bank is investing heavily to be in the best possible shape when – if – the political and economic outlook improves.

by Rob Dwyer

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Enrique Cristofani

Santander Río

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Today, when CEOs of banks meet anywhere in the world, the topic of conversation must surely turn swiftly to regulation. Swathes of new regulations are piling onto financial institutions: usually onerous, often conflicting and almost always constricting profitability. 

Yet Enrique Cristofani, president of Santander Río since its formation in 1997, could be forgiven for having a wry smile while listening to his contemporaries’ exasperations. 

For while he could never be got to admit it (the political risk being too high), he must at times think: ‘Try running a bank in a country that mandates banks to lend while capping fees and interest rates and setting floors on deposit rates. Try working with a central bank that changes the rules on dividend payments and capital ratios just to prevent the payment of around $20 million to foreign shareholders. Try working in a banking system without free access to dollars and with an artificial exchange rate. Try to make money from a consumer bank when your customers are facing yet another year of stagnation and your corporate clients have long since stopped investing.’

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