Bank of the Year, Panama: Banco General

Nov 1, 2013

Opportunities abound for banks in in Panama, with a fast-growing economy and regionalizing banking system

For Panama’s banks, it has long been a familiar refrain: the foreigners are coming. For years, international investors have been drawn to Central America’s most sophisticated banking sector. Vying for regional expansion, global banks entered the market, including HSBC, which in 2006 snapped up Panamanian lender Banistmo.

The global banks have since retreated in the face of tightening global regulation and more stringent capital requirements — but the foreign incursions have hardly let up. Just as HSBC withdrew, Colombia’s two largest lenders made moves into Panama.

Bancolombia in February paid $2.1 billion cash for HSBC’s Panama operations, in a deal that instantly made it the number two bank in a fast-growing market. Grupo Aval,...

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