Itaú says retail roll-out coming to Colombia

Monday, November 28, 2016

After a number of delays, Brazil's largest retail bank Itaú says it is finally launching retail operations in Colombia next year, expanding its already extensive regional presence that includes Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay.

Itaú CEO Ricardo Marino announced the bank's imminent expansion into its northwestern neighbor in a press conference last week at Itaú's headquarters in São Paolo.

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While Marino did not set a specific date, the roll out of the Itaú brand is expected to come towards the end of 2017.

Speaking at the event, Marino said, "We are now on the task of analyzing the branding issue. We are in the process of surveying ourselves and clients to see how to land."

"We need to prioritize operational and systemic issues before launching the brand," he said. "Despite the volatility, the international market uncertainty, the fall in the price of a barrel of oil, which has strongly affected Colombia, ... we think that the environment is very favorable for the bank's development and for serving clients that need the services we offer all over the region."

The move comes as the culmination negotiations going back to January 2014 between holding company CorpGroup and Itaú Unibanco's, which led to their decision to merge Chile-based bank CorpBanca and Itaú's Chilean subsidiary Banco Itaú Chile in an effort to combine banking operations in Chile and Colombia.

The deal gave the Brazilian firm a controlling interest and opens the door to CorpBanca's Colombian operations.

Corpbanca's directors recommended the merger on the grounds of strategy, synergies, a regional presence, the complementary nature of their business and enhanced financial strength.

The progress of the merger has seen twists and turns over regulatory and stockholder issues; most recently clearing a major hurdle with a favorable ruling for the newly formed Itaú Corp from the court of appeals of Santiago on August 31. The court issued a favorable ruling over a 21.76bn peso (US$32.22mn) fine issued from Chile's bank regulator SBIF.