Photo: Credicorp's CEO, Gianfranco Ferrari. Credit: Credicorp.
By Álvaro Ballesteros
Innovation sets the pace of new finance. Last January, while the World Bank published its Global Perspectives report, in Peru, Gianfranco Ferrari was appointed Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Credicorp, the country's main financial services holding company and one of the most important in Latin America.
After gaining more than 25 years of experience in this company, the executive takes the helm of the company at a truly pivotal moment in terms of innovation. “Technology and digital tools have managed to break old paradigms,” says the executive, who knows well how this transformation not only has an impact on the corporate structure, but also on its philosophy and behavior with society. “We don't talk about customers, we talk about people,” he says.
To speak of digital transformation is to speak of another increasingly common concept: agility. How is your company working to integrate this philosophy into its DNA?
At the moment, the entire bank is working under an agile system. And this is not a passing trend. We have identified that you must be agile where you generate the most value. However, we have entered a technical phase of innovation and I believe that the great challenge we have in general, not only banks, but also companies, is related to capabilities.
There are situations where senior managers do not have sufficient technological or technical skills to understand the changes that are taking place, when technology is essential to define the strategy of companies. We are experiencing a generational shift in capabilities, and I am convinced that the next Credicorp management team will have totally different technological skills than those that my team and I have.
The combination of technology and talent has become a pair that every company pursues in order to enhance its business and prominence in the market. At Credicorp, this merger has led to the creation of an innovation management team led by Francesca Raffo. What challenges are you looking to solve?
Undoubtedly, the first challenge we have is focused on attracting talent. Right now, we are facing a paradox because there is unemployment, but not enough talent. So, we need to think about how to attract new minds to help us.
However, after the pandemic and the increase in the popularity of remote work, new opportunities have arisen, so we have been able to access profiles that we have not found in our country, but that were present in other regions. In Spain we have a talent hub where we have very talented people in data analytics, which allows us to be more competitive.
Even so, it is also true that, on many occasions, companies are obsessed with looking for profiles abroad when we have a large amount of talent within the organizations. At Credicorp we dedicate a lot of time to this, in order to understand how we can adapt our knowledge and skills to market trends.
But amassing new profiles and mindsets is not the only challenge. We must also pick up the synergies of the innovation agendas of each of the subsidiary companies and maintain our leadership position by making the country grow.
The commitment to APIs is a new step forward in the innovation strategy of financial institutions. What is Credicorp's approach?
Currently, we are developing a whole API agenda within what we have called new innovation management. Each company can integrate these platforms with the objective of knowing what technologies are being used and connecting with new partners that can be incorporated into our business. Six or seven years ago, the innovation budget was 20 or 25 million dollars: now it is 200 million dollars a year.
Precisely, the use of APIs has positioned itself as an element that enhances the financial inclusion of citizens. What is the company's perspective?
Due to the characteristics of our countries and the participation we have in the market, we have the mission to contribute to financial inclusion. It is not only because of social responsibility or ESG criteria (environmental, social and governance), but also because it is a business issue. Also, having the opportunity to combine both facets is very exciting.
We have a very ambitious financial inclusion and education agenda. We are educating from the corporate side working together with partners so that, for example, a micro-entrepreneur has the knowledge or the possibility to use digital tools that allow him to improve his engagement. Another example regarding inclusion: BCP launched its digital wallet three or four years ago and today it has more than nine million users. In fact, more transactions are made in that wallet than in the debit card, and we have added more than three million unbanked Peruvians.
Betting on innovation and digital transformation is closely related to a change of culture and mentality. In a group like Credicorp, how do you combine the perspectives of different teams?
The main problem for transformation is in everyone's head. As an example, the most important thing that was done in BCP was the cultural transformation that was carried out in parallel to the digital transformation. Now, this company is nothing like the one that existed five years ago, because of the way of working and because the organization has been levelled.
Everything is built from culture, but it is a never-ending process. However, it is also necessary to maintain different cultures, because the business objectives are different in each organization. What we have at Credicorp are common principles and values such as codes of ethics, gender equity programs… But from there, each one has its own independent culture.
In this new culture linked to technological transformation, the environment is a cross-cutting issue. What is your position in this area?
Latin America is on the same course as the world, but I think there is a difference, and I agree with foreign investors with whom I have spoken: the social aspect is more important in the short term than the environmental aspect, and even more so after COVID-19, since it has revealed shortcomings that we must resolve.
However, we are working on the environmental aspect because we are aware that we have a great impact through our customers. We do this not only to define ourselves as a good corporate citizen, but also because it is a relevant factor in establishing a differentiated value proposition.
Published by OPINNO © 2022 MIT TECHNOLOGY REVIEW spanish edition.