The material on this site is for financial institutions, professional investors and their professional advisers. It is for information only. Please read our Terms & Conditions, Privacy Policy and Cookies before using this site. Please see our Subscription Terms and Conditions.

All material subject to strictly enforced copyright laws. © 2022 Euromoney, a part of the Euromoney Institutional Investor PLC.

Banks at the heart of Cuba's existential battle for reform

Cuba’s return to the international community will be long, complex and fraught with contradictions – not least in financial services. Reform remains a dirty word in a system where banking services for the masses are non-existent. The authorities talk a good game about attracting foreign investment – but how will they attract capital when the central bank won’t even discuss what reserves it holds?

Cuba castros-700

Illustration: Britt Spencer

"We don’t have banks in Cuba!”

The taxi driver helming a splendid 1957 Pontiac Pathfinder clasico off the taxi rank at Havana’s Hotel Nacional snorts with scorn. Euromoney has asked him to drive us to a rare meeting at the Banco Central de Cuba (BCC), one of his country’s most important institutions. But the cabbie neither knows what a central bank is, nor where his country’s own is located.

Euromoney tells him the address, in Havana’s crumbling old town, along what was once Cuba’s raffish version of Wall Street at a time when his car arrived on this famously feisty island. He knows the street, but that’s all. “Are you sure it’s a bank?” he asks.

It’s a reasonable question. Fidel Castro’s communist command economy advantages its ruling military elite but pays most of its workers around $25 to $30 a month. Though five years into an erratic embrace of free-market reforms of their sclerotic Soviet-styled economy, most Cubans don’t yet have much call – or money – for banking services.

Cuba car portrait-400

Tourists outside the Hotel Nacional, the main
business hotel and where US and Cuban
bankers met in July

The cabbie is wrong, but he’s kind of right too.

You have reached premium content. Please log in to continue reading.

Read beyond the headlines with Euromoney

For over 50 years, our readers have looked to Euromoney to stay informed about the issues that matter in the international banking and financial markets. Find out more about our different levels of access below.


Unlimited access to and

Expert comment, long reads and in-depth analysis interviews with senior finance professionals

Access the results of our market-leading annual surveys across core financial services

Access the results of our annual awards, including the world-renowned Awards for Excellence

Your print copy of Euromoney magazine delivered monthly

£73.75 per month

Billed Annually


Unlimited access to and, including our top stories, long reads, expert analysis, and the results of our annual surveys and awards

Sign up to any of our newsletters, curated by our editors


Already a user?

We use cookies to provide a personalized site experience.
By continuing to use & browse the site you agree to our Privacy Policy.
I agree