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Argentine banks turn the corner

After three years of heavy losses, Argentina's banks are once again in the black. The sustainability of their recovery, though, depends on expanded lending to the private sector and greater duration for their liabilities. Sudip Roy reports.

Reshaping the banking landscape

How the crisis felled Argentina's banks

Jorge Stuart Milne: trying to
reconstruct relationships
with corporate clients

ENRIQUE CRISTOFANI HAD a simple plan to win back customers for his bank. The chief executive of Banco Río, Argentina's second-biggest bank, introduced a scheme whereby anyone using one of Río's credit cards to pay at the local cinema or supermarket would get a discount. It was not an unusual idea but something needed to be done. Argentina's banks were reeling from the sovereign's debt default and the devamilluation of the peso in 2001/02. Some were struggling to stay afloat; even the very best were losing money. Recovering customers was imperative.

Cristofani's move paid off. When the scheme was introduced in June 2002, Río's share in the credit and debit card market was hovering just above 11%. Since then its market share has risen by 1% each year and today stands at about 15%.

For Cristofani, as important as business growth was the way the scheme restored the bank's credibility with the Argentine people.

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