New Member Interview: Global Bank

Tuesday 30th April 2024

Global Bank is the second-largest commercial bank in Panama, serving more than 200,000 customers. The Alliance spoke with Juan P. Barragán, Senior VP of Personal Banking, about the bank’s strategy to drive economic development and social wellbeing, including its through its women-centered Única Program, green banking proposition, and DFS.

Alliance: Can you tell us about Global Bank’s overall strategic vision?

Global Bank: Our vision is to continue driving economic development, environmental stewardship, and social well-being across Panama. Two main themes within this broad goal are climate change (mitigation or adaptation) and inclusive and sustainable social development. To support these efforts, we work with a range of partners including IFC, IDB Invest and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

On the environmental management side, we support our clients to transition to sustainable business models by evaluating credit decisions through ESG criteria as well as promoting eco-efficient practices internally and externally. In this regard, we are aligning with both the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on climate change as part of the global banking sector. 

On the social side, we support women’s financial inclusion through our Única Program, which has a range of products and services designed for women customers, and through our internal gender diversity and inclusion efforts. Digital transformation and a focus on innovation to meet the changing needs of our clients have also been key points of our environmental and social strategy.

Alliance: What is your approach to supporting the Female Economy, and which women’s segments do you target?

GB: At Global Bank, we are focused on supporting women on their journey to full integration into the Panamanian banking system and financial independence. We support women across segments, from those newly entering the banking world, to women professionals, to those leading households and businesses. In 2022 and 2023, women represented more than 50 percent of our retail banking portfolio. Women also account for $69 million of our mortgage portfolio.

To build on these successes, we are now expanding our range of services for women SMEs. Together with local and international partners, we are developing specialized advisory and training opportunities that strengthen women entrepreneurs’ skills such as leadership, effective communication, and negotiation.

Alliance: How have you achieved such strong representation in your retail banking portfolio? What does your CVP for women look like?

GB: Through our Única Program, we support women with a value proposition that combines financial and non-financial services designed to accompany women in all stages and facets of their lives. For example, we designed a credit card  specifically for women, which is bundled with insurance and special assistance, and offers double rewards points for purchases in health, beauty and well-being. We also host networking events. Since launching the program last year, we’ve hosted 30 “Única Experience” events for women. It’s wonderful to see how this unique community continues to grow and thrive, and we are excited to expand it.

Alliance: How does Global Bank support customers to adapt and mitigate climate change? To what extent are you incorporating a gender lens in your climate initiatives?

GB: We are committed to helping our clients adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change through concrete measures.  As signatories of the Corporate Reduce Your Footprint (RYF) Program and the Declaration of the First 50 Carbon-Neutral Organizations of Panama by the Ministry of Environment, we have committed to establishing a plan to become carbon neutral by 2050. Furthermore, we have set an interim target for 2030, covering both the direct emissions generated by our organization (Scope 1) and the indirect emissions resulting from the consumption of electricity purchased from the external centralized grid (Scope 2).

To advance in these goals, we have designed a series of green financial products that support the development of low-emission technologies and their uptake by customers, including financing distributed solar energy generation, electric/hybrid vehicles, and sustainable agricultural practices. In addition, we provide clients with training and information to support their transition to a low-carbon economy. It is important to note that, in parallel with these actions, we actively work to integrate a gender perspective into all our climate initiatives.

As part of this, we have selected a group of clients, which includes women-led SMEs, to train them on carbon footprint measurement and support them in developing emission reduction plans. Likewise, we work to raise awareness about sustainable practices among our clients in the agricultural sector, help them build sustainability plans, and finance their investments. Our goal is to continue along this path, ensuring active inclusion of women producers, contributing to the country’s food security, and addressing social issues.

Alliance: What role do digital financial services play in your financial inclusion strategy, and for women in particular?

GB: We recognize that digital financial services are key to our mission of ensuring that all people have equitable access to financial opportunities. For that reason, we launched Global Tap, a 100 percent digital banking platform with a range of products including saving accounts and personal loans. We see it as a powerful tool to close the gender gap in access to financial services.

Alliance: Collecting sex-disaggregated data is critical to measuring success, but it’s often challenging to disaggregate legacy systems. Where is Global Bank in its gender data journey?

GB: One of the key advantages of our digital transformation is that is enhancing our ability to collect and analyze data more accurately and in real time. This will give us the opportunity to understand the specific financial needs of women and develop appropriate products and services. Although we are in the early stages, we recognize the importance of capturing gender-disaggregated data to support our programs aimed at women. We are aware that this process will require time and dedication, but we are committed to continuous improvement. Our goal is to use this data to inform our strategies and make more inclusive decisions that benefit all our clients, regardless of their gender.

Alliance: Why did you decide to join the Alliance and what are you looking forward to learning from and/or sharing with the network?

GB: Our membership of the Alliance is a direct reflection of our commitment to inclusion and gender equity. It also reflects our belief in the power of collaboration to generate knowledge and effect meaningful transformations in our society. In this context, we value the Alliance’s role as a leader in the B2B sphere of financial industries prioritizing women’s economy as a central part of its strategy.

We aim to leverage the best available practices, as well as the various workshops and programs offered such as the All-Stars Academy, mentoring, and ‘Ask the Expert’ sessions, to strengthen and enrich our value proposition supporting WMSMEs and unbanked women. We are also keen to make use of the Alliance’s data from the Female Economy Analytics Survey (FEAS) to support us in showing the business case for targeting women. And, we look forward to receiving the annual benchmarking report to assess our performance, help us better understand how we can tailor our strategies, and identify more effective solutions.

We are confident that this partnership will allow us to continue broadening our perspectives and significantly contribute to the inclusive and sustainable development of our customers and the country of Panama.