Banco Latinoamericano de Comercio Exterior S.A. (Bladex) has been in operation for 41 years, driven by the goal of promoting foreign trade and economic integration in Latin America and the Caribbean. It began operations in 1979, at the turn of one of the most complex decades Latin America has faced. The 1980s witnessed a climate of high debt and structural adjustments, which required crucial reforms in many countries across the region. It therefore became necessary to preserve access to hard currency, and the best way to do so was through foreign trade.
Bladex is a multinational organisation, established by the central banks of 23 Latin American and Caribbean countries. It originated to provide financial solutions to local Latin American banks, later incorporating financing to corporations and investors conducting business in the region. In 1992, Bladex became the first Latin American bank registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) by successfully carrying out the first public offering of shares by a Latin American bank in the US market. Since its inception, Bladex has disbursed more than $285bn in loans. Because its goal is to boost trade, the bank is more inclined to facilitate short-term financing. But its mandate to support regional integration and its international expansion has led to it providing its clients with medium-term financing too, whether on a bilateral or syndicated basis. At the same time, it provides investment opportunities to entities interested in participating in the financing of Latin American corporations and financial institutions, while opening up access to new sources of funding for its clients. Ultimately, Bladex acts as a true regional and global nexus.
CSR and international best practice
Consistent with the values that govern its corporate conduct – excellence, integrity, respect, commitment, and humility – Bladex has strived to strengthen its standards of corporate governance in line with international best practice and the requirements of the different regulators with which it interacts. Likewise, it continues to consolidate the work of the Fundación Crece Latinoamérica – the body that carries out the bank’s social work – which is focused on providing education and personal growth opportunities to children and young people from vulnerable sectors of the communities where it operates.
Headquartered in Panama, the bank has offices in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, and the USA, and a representation license in Peru. Today, the bank takes pride in being a modern, agile and efficient institution, committed to taking an increasingly leading role in regional development.
The bank’s performance in 2019
Bladex recently reported strong earnings results for 2019, with profits of $86.1m, net interest income of $109.5m and an efficiency ratio of 32%. The bank’s return on average equity (ROAE) was 8.6% and its capitalisation remained solid with tier 1 Basel III capital ratio of 19.8%. These results were particularly impressive given that in 2019 the global economy experienced its weakest year of growth since the financial crisis. Bladex continues to diversify its funding sources beyond its typical Latin American central bank deposits, bilateral lines of credit, capital markets and international borrowings. The bank started a new Yankee certificate of deposit (CD) programme that will complement its short-term funding structure. Bladex is determined to fulfill its vision of being recognised as a leading institution focused on driving trade and the regional integration of Latin America.