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B2B Banking Strategies for International Markets: Lessons Learned from Latin America

Latin America is showing the US a thing or two more than just flashy soccer moves. In the banking sector, it’s how to nail B2B e-commerce.

By Daniel Baranowski, Lee Delaney, Eric Aboaf, Karchi Lukac and Andre Castellini

B2B Banking Strategies for International Markets: Lessons Learned from Latin America

Latin America is showing the US a thing or two more than just flashy soccer moves. In the banking sector, it’s how to nail B2B e-commerce. Whereas US banks moved late in this space and have little to show to date, Latin American banks are positioned to be leaders in both eMarketplaces and in the promising horizontal space of e-payment solutions. This comes at a time when global B2B is expected to grow to $6.3 trillion by 2004, over half of which will come from outside of the US

The good news is that global banks can look to the Latin banks’ formula to craft their own recipes for success in international markets. Elements of the Latin American approach to B2B include: collaborating with customers, forging corporate partnerships from the start, leveraging leadership in technology; moving relatively early to market; and exploiting lower levels of competition.

By contrast, in the US, banks were late to the B2B market in creating exchanges and in providing e-payment solutions (credit authentication, back-end processing, payments and settlement, etc.) to clients and web businesses. Leading non-bank B2B eMarketplaces started to be developed as early as 1997 and there are currently over 500 neutral market-makers and consortia-led exchanges in operation. However, major US banks such as Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo didn’t even start announcing their eMarketplace ventures until early 2000. Additionally, it was not until recently that US banks finally announced e-payment ventures, a B2B solution that may offer a significant opportunity for value creation. Although large banks have strong internal capabilities in the e-payments space, they will face tough competition from early moving start-ups like eCredit. In order to succeed they will need to quickly roll out comprehensive, high-quality payment solutions and aggressively sign up major exchanges and corporate customers. Banks that are unable to do this will be relegated to offering commoditized, low-value added services such as transaction execution.

The story in Latin America, however, is quite different, and three Latin banks that are leading the B2B charge are Banamex, Bradesco and Unibanco. Banamex was the first bank to attack the B2B segment when it announced a joint venture with Commerce One in December of 1999. The partners will invest $35M this year to roll out Artikos.com, an e-procurement portal targeting small- and medium-sized businesses. In July, Brazil’s Bradesco announce that it is teaming up with Votorantim, Cemex and Alfa to create an e-procurement marketplace named Latinexus. The consortium expects to invest between $75M-$100M over the next three years in the exchange, which aims to coordinate B2B transactions in the region. In August Brazil’s Unibanco, Argentina’s Galicia Bank and Portugal Telecom announced that they would invest around $60M to create vertical and horizontal B2B portals in the Mercosur region.

Global banks developing B2B strategies for international markets would do well to study five key factors that have positioned these and other Latin banks to succeed in B2B:

    Collaborating with Customers – In Latin America banks are working to leverage long-standing customer relationships and intimate knowledge of their clients’ supply chains and procurement processes. They are positioning B2B offerings as another step in deepening collaboration with customers. Additionally, Latin banks have positioned themselves with customers as the most credible and secure transacting environment in a region which lacks dependable, established eMarketplaces.

Forging Corporate Partnerships – A few Latin banking e-procurement ventures are presciently signing-up large corporations to participate at the outset. This gives the exchange immediate scale and liquidity and is crucial to getting smaller buyers and sellers to join. Additionally, large corporations bring to the table an in-depth understanding of their industry, including peculiarities in the procurement process and what services can truly add value. To date only Latinexus, Citibank Brazil (agrobusiness exchange) and Unibanco/Galicia, to a degree, have adapted this strategy of partnering up-front with corporations but other exchanges would be wise to follow their lead.

Leveraging Technology Leadership – Latin banks are touting their technology leadership to attract B2B business. In many countries they’ve become technology leaders as a result of years of high inflation and financial turbulence. This environment required them to invest in infrastructure for rapid transactions in an era where time was literally money. In fact, in Brazil many small- and medium-sized businesses trust and rely on their banks to assist them with IT issues. Banks have also been quick to partner with technology firms like Ariba and Commerce One in areas where they lack internal capabilities, such as building the infrastructure behind eMarketplaces.

Moving Early in the Market Cycle – Internet markets in different countries and regions are at different stages of development. The Latin American market is about two or three years behind the US market, but has been evolving much more quickly as local players act on lessons learned from North America. Given this, Latin banks moved relatively early to roll out their B2B strategies. The Banamex/ Commerce One joint venture was formed at an amazingly early stage in the Latin Internet market’s evolution, analogous to where the US market was at in 1997. At that point practically no B2B exchanges had been announced and only a handful were even in development.

  • Exploiting Lower Levels of Competition – The type and degree of B2B competition that banks face differs by country and region. In Latin America, start-up and industry specific consortia exchanges will be nowhere near as powerful as they are in the US. While banks are flush with cash, many Latin B2B start-ups will not get past first-round financing and will have trouble establishing critical mass. Additionally, industry consortia exchanges will not be very popular, partially due to Latin American companies’ reluctance to enter into joint ventures where they don’t have majority control. In the e-payments space, banks will also face much less competition from start-ups.
  • Only a few exchanges in Latin America are currently hosting transactions but banks will be in the right place with the right solutions as transaction volume grows. In fact, in many international markets global banks are well positioned to be powerful players in B2B. Corporate customers will see significant value in banks’ ability to aggregate buyers and sellers, offer value-added services and provide comprehensive payment solutions. To succeed abroad banks must adapt their B2B strategies to local market conditions, move quickly and leverage their customer relationships.

    Equally important to note: these exchanges will not make much money by simply executing transactions. The path to profits lies in deepening the customer relationship by offering a wide selection of value-added services such as: in-bound logistics, inventory management/ securitization, credit services, trade financing, electronic billing, payment and settlement etc. The ability to offer one-stop shopping or an online financial supermarket will be very attractive to customers. Visionary banks will not see the Internet simply as a means to cut costs and shift service on-line but rather as a revenue- and, in turn, profit-enhancing opportunity. Banks that effectively execute their B2B strategies will realize the ultimate shareholder reward: Higher stock prices resulting from the creation of new value.

    USA – Daniel Baranowski ([email protected]) is an Associate Consultant and Lee Delaney ([email protected]) is a Manager at Bain & Company. Eric Aboaf ([email protected]) is a Vice President in Bain’s Financial Services Practice.

    Latin America – André Castellini ([email protected]) is Vice President of Bain São Paulo and Karchi Lukac ([email protected]) is Managing Director of Bain Mexico.

    Bain and Company is a global strategy consulting firm with over 2,500 professionals and 26 offices around the world.

    Foreign Direct Investment in Latin America and the Caribbean

    Gives a yearly regional overview of foreign direct investment income and the activities of transnational corporations in Latin America and the Caribbean, providing projections for the coming months. Analyses investment origin and destination patterns, as well as the impacts of investment on economic performance.

    Last title

    Foreign Direct Investment in Latin America and the Caribbean 2020

    This ECLAC annual report sets out and analyses the main foreign direct investment (FDI) trends in the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean. In the region, FDI inflows were up (by 13.2%) year on year for the first time in five years, at US$ 184.287 billion. This performance is explained by higher flows into just a few countries, however, mainly Brazil and Mexico. Moreover, it does not reflect equity investment, but higher inflows in the form of intercompany loans and, to a lesser extent, reinvestment of earnings. Manufactures and services were the sectors receiving most equity, although there was.

    Latin America Binary and Betting Markets

    Learn how the World Bank Group is helping countries with COVID-19 (coronavirus). Find Out

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    The World Bank is swiftly supporting the efforts of Latin America and the Caribbean to address COVID-19-related impacts, through new operations and by redirecting funds from existing projects.

    Overview

    After six years of growth deceleration, the Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) region had resumed in 2020 what seemed to be a path of modest but increasing growth. Unfortunately, this much-anticipated path was not to be, as the region hit several bumps in the road. Now, the region has entered a new phase of weak economic performance.

    The largest economies in the region face recession, macroeconomic turbulence, or growth deceleration. For example, the Argentinian recession will become deeper before the economy starts recovering, and Mexico’s deceleration is expected to continue. However, recent data for Colombia indicates a gradually building expansion.

    Growth in Latin America and the Caribbean is expected to be subdued in 2020, at 1.7 percent, reflecting challenging conditions in several of the largest economies. Gradually building momentum in Brazil and a recovery in Argentina are projected to contribute to a pickup in regional growth to 2.5 percent in 2020 and 2.7 percent in 2021. Growth in Central America is projected to accelerate moderately in the forecast period as the subregion moves past a difficult 2020. In the Caribbean, growth is projected to slow to 3.4 percent in 2020, from 4.3 percent in 2020.

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    The region’s main challenges include a mixed growth picture accompanied by a complex macro and external environment in several countries , and unprecedented flows of intra-regional migration. We are seeing large flows of migration from both Venezuela and Central America. With growth slowing, many of those who escaped poverty are at risk of slipping back.

    Despite soft global trade, regional export growth has picked up, boosted by trade diversion in response to bilateral tariffs by the United States and China, and by solid growth in the United States. As these effects wane and global trade decelerates further, export growth in the region is projected to slow. Risks to the growth outlook remain tilted to the downside. Sharper-than-projected slowdowns in the United States and China could have negative spillovers on regional growth through trade, financial, and commodity market channels. Adverse market responses to weak fiscal conditions and disruptions from natural disasters are other important risks. ( Growth alone won’t be enough to continue recent social gains and the reduction of LAC’s persistent inequality. To do so, the region needs to invest in people, particularly the poor. LAC continues to underperform in education: around one out of every three youth doesn’t finish high school. Investment in education quality will play an important role in allowing the poor to contribute to and benefit from future economic growth.

    Latin America and the Caribbean is extremely exposed and vulnerable to many natural disasters, such as earthquakes, floods that can ravage entire regions, and hurricanes that devastate Caribbean states. The region is among the most vulnerable due to high population density in the areas where these disasters strike and the need for better risk management practices. Fortunately, we are getting better at understanding and managing these risks. Examples supported by the Bank include the Pacific Alliance catastrophe bonds for earthquakes. In addition, risk sharing across countries through mechanisms such as the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF) can provide readily-available funds for the recovery after a member country suffers a hurricane.

    Last Updated: Oct 09, 2020

    Our work is grounded in a three-pillar strategy: promoting inclusive growth, investing in human capital, and building resilience. This includes encouraging better governance and economic integration and leveraging the private finance necessary to address the region’s pressing development needs. The World Bank is also focusing on improving the lives of the most vulnerable, including historically excluded groups such as women, Afro-descendants, and Indigenous Peoples. Partnering with the many different voices of society is key to these efforts.

    The World Bank offers a package of financial services that go beyond traditional loans (risk management, risk insurance, swaps, climate insurance, climate adaptation financing, commodity swaps). The institution also serves as a powerhouse of global ideas and experience and a meeting ground for key players to facilitate development solutions tailored to each country’s needs.

    Investing in Human Capital: Improving the quality of education is fundamental to developing the skills demanded by the global marketplace. LAC has experienced a historic expansion in access to higher education, but much remains to be done in terms of quality and efficiency. Only half of those who enter these programs end up graduating on time. Inequality persists in both access and opportunities. The Bank supports a host of initiatives designed to improve education services and nurture the human capital needed for future development.

    Protecting the vulnerable: Latin America underwent a profound transformation over the past 15 years. Between 2000 and 2020 extreme poverty (US$2.50 a day) was cut by more than half from 25.5 to 10.8 percent, and overall poverty (less than US$4 a day) decreased dramatically from 42.8 to 23.4 percent. Poverty at the International Poverty Line of $1.90 a day fell from 4.6% in 2020 to 4.1% in 2020. However, inequality still abounds, and many remain at risk. Despite the gains, 82 million people still live in extreme poverty. The middle class, which lives on US$10-US$50 per day, makes up 35 percent of the region’s total population. However, nearly 39% of Latin Americans live on US$4-US$10 per day and remain vulnerable to falling back into poverty. Improving the quality of health services and modernizing social protection systems are at the top of the Bank’s regional agenda. The key health-related challenges for LAC going forward are how to provide effective care over the lifecycle as populations age, and how to ensure the financial sustainability of the health systems. The region has been at the forefront of innovation in social protection, but regressive subsidies, inequality of opportunities, and exclusion of disadvantaged groups (Indigenous People, Afro-Descendants, people with disabilities, and others), still persist.

    Inclusive growth: The World Bank is working closely with countries to address fiscal and external imbalances, strengthen infrastructure services, and foster private sector development, innovation and jobs. From a macroeconomic point of view, the need to reduce fiscal deficits and rebuild buffers are the main challenges faced by the region. LAC’s infrastructure needs are enormous: the region has an estimated US$180 billion per year investment gap.

    Improving governance: Through finance and high-level knowledge exchanges, the Bank is working to foster more effective and transparent governance to improve services and support an integrated response to social challenges like growing crime and violence.

    Managing risks: Despite the big social gains of recent years, nearly 4 out of 10 households in the region are just one disaster away from falling back into poverty. It is often the poorest that suffer the most from these shocks, which are frequently followed by lower employment and consumption. The region needs to do better at protecting itself against natural disasters, and economic and social shocks (such as crime and violence). This can be done by strengthening disaster and risk management policies and developing markets for credit and insurance to contribute to a faster recovery. Preparation is costly, and rewards may seem far off, but the cost of inaction is far higher. The World Bank Group has been a pioneer in supporting innovative market-based solutions for de-risking in LAC, such as the recent Cat-Bond for the Pacific Alliance.

    Last Updated: Oct 15, 2020

    The World Bank approved $4.3 billion in lending to the region in fiscal year 2020, including $3.9 billion in IBRD loans and $428 million in IDA commitments. The Bank also issued the first ever multi-country catastrophe bond between Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru, valued at more than $1.3 billion. The priorities in the region centered on supporting inclusive growth through higher productivity and competitiveness, with an emphasis on investing in education, health, and other aspects of human capital. It also invested in infrastructure and worked to improve countries’ abilities to manage and withstand shocks—such as natural disasters, economic upheaval, and crime and violence— while promoting greater transparency and accountability. In addition, the World Bank prioritized the inclusion of groups that have traditionally faced exclusion, including Indigenous Peoples and rural communities. As countries’ needs often exceed public resources, the Bank supported activities and interventions that attracted private investment whenever possible.

    The World Bank tailors its extensive financial, knowledge and convening services to the region’s diverse needs. Countries increasingly turn to the World Bank for more than direct lending, taking advantage of services including risk insurance, commodity swaps, climate adaptation finance, technical assistance, convening assistance and development research.

    One of the recent reports was “Afro-descendants in Latin America: Toward a Framework of Inclusion.” About one in four Latin Americans self-identify as Afro-descendants today. They comprise a highly heterogeneous population and are unevenly distributed across the region but share a common history of displacement and exclusion. Despite significant gains over the past decade, Afro-descendants still are overrepresented among the poor and are underrepresented in decision-making positions, both in the private and the public sector. The report proposes a framework to organize and think of the myriad options available to address their situations, based on the experience accumulated by the region and the data available.

    A second report was “The Jobs of Tomorrow: Technology, Productivity, and Prosperity in Latin America and the Caribbean.” This report discusses technology adoption and its impact on inclusive growth through productivity, jobs, types of skills, and wages in Latin America. The report focuses particularly on two dimensions of inclusive economic growth: overall job growth, and how less-skilled, less well-off workers can also benefit from technology adoption.

    Some program highlights include:

    Panama: The National Indigenous Peoples Development Plan. Designed jointly with the Panama’s Indigenous communities and the government of Panama, this is a Project benefiting approximately two-hundred thousand Indigenous peoples, especially women and youth who are the most excluded populations. It supports the investments proposed by the traditional authorities focused on access, quality and cultural pertinence of service delivery in health, education, and water and sanitation. It also includes investments to improve governance capacity, planning and coordination between Indigenous Authorities and the Government of Panama with a vision to contribute to breaching some of the largest levels of ethnic based inequalities that exist in the region. Within the first months of implementation, two results are highlighted: first, passing an Executive Decree to legally formalize the National Indigenous Peoples Development Council; and second the acceptance by the traditional Indigenous Authorities to include a woman advisor as part of each delegation that participates on the Council.

    Honduras: The Rural Competitiveness Project (Comrural) seeks to increase the productivity and competitiveness of around 7,200 small rural producers in Honduras and link them to domestic and international markets. Comrural promotes productive partnerships between rural producers and trade partners and supports the development of business plans, and, to date, has created more than 9,000 jobs and has helped to increase productivity in sectors such as specialty coffee, horticulture, fruits, dairy, beekeeping, rural tourism and aquaculture. Producers supported by Comrural produce around 30 percent of all the specialty coffee exported by Honduras to the United States, Europe and Asia.

    Colombia: The World Bank is providing a US$100 million loan to support the Colombia Multipurpose Cadaster Project to strengthen land tenure security and provide access to cadaster information in the selected municipalities. Overall, the project will support the government to strengthen the system for land administration to be able to complete the national coverage of the multi-purpose cadaster and maintain the information in support of the property market in both urban and rural areas.

    Caribbean: Ongoing World Bank support to building environment and natural resource resilience in the Caribbean includes:

    · Developing renewable energy in Saint Lucia and Dominica and creating an insurance mechanism to include the fisheries sector in Grenada and Saint Lucia;

    · Building sustainable agriculture practices and competitiveness in Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, and the OECS;

    · Expanding marine protected areas in Belize and strengthening protection and climate resilience of the Belize Barrier Reef;

    · Banning of single-use plastics and/or Styrofoam containers across the OECS;

    · Developing a 7mW geothermal energy plant in Dominica, the first in the Caribbean.

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