Chief executives from Brazil’s largest banks say the country’s Central Bank has enhanced the financial system and improved competitiveness with its regulatory innovations. But they warned against the rise of regulatory asymmetry between players.
“The current financial system is no longer composed of six large banks,” Santander Brasil president Sérgio Rial said on Tuesday during a panel conversation at Ciab Febraban, Brazil’s landmark annual conference for the financial services industry.
“We see a plurality of agents acting in the ecosystem, but it’s crucial a regulatory framework that allows a plural competitive process with more homogeneous bases.”
The Brazilian economy is already hyperconnected, noted Octavio de Lazari Junior, president at Bradesco. “Of course we need to have improvements, such as 5G, reverse logistics, ESG. But it has been the resilience that is a hallmark of our industry that has led us here. The competition is healthy and welcome. Open finance has to be really open, there can’t be any regulatory asymmetries,” he said.
Milton Maluhy Filho, president of Itaú Unibanco, said he is in favor of competition because it makes all parties grow and evolve. “But we are also in favor of legal equality. Our big concern is with the regulatory asymmetry,” he noted, adding that as a consequence of the BCB agenda there are more firms in the financial market.
The covid-19 pandemic brought a natural increase in digitization and has pushed an important evolution in improving the customer experience, he added.
During the pandemic, the banks also had to launch Pix, the Brazilian instant payment system that rocketed to huge success among peer-to-peer transactions. “Pix gained importance in the short term and I highlight the role of banks in putting Pix as a priority”, Maluhy said.
Moving beyond open banking in Brazil
Since the deployment of Pix, BCB is pushing forward the open banking agenda. Brazil’s bank CEOs said that open finance should go beyond banks and open data from companies from different sectors.
“We must expand the concept of open finance not to be just banks sharing data, but sharing data with other industries and with the consumer who owns the data,” said Itaú Unibanco’s Maluhy.
Fausto de Andrade Ribeiro, president of Banco do Brasil, stated that open banking and open finance are extremely positive, and banks welcome the competition in the market.
“Open banking opens a window of opportunity for us, banks, to get closer to customers, for instance, to understand their preferences and based on that being able to personalize services and products,” he said. He also raised the concern that there was a short period of time to implement it.
The digitization and innovation agenda increases competition, added Roberto Sallouti, CEO at BTG Pactual, but it’s important that all players have the same rules, he highlighted.
While agreeing that digitization is important, Pedro Duarte Guimarães, Caixa Economica Federal’s president, also said that Brazil is large enough to host completely different realities. Caixa, he said, is opening around 200 physical agencies even during the current expansion of digital transformation.
“There are two different realities in Brazil. One, with the exponential strength of digital and another that is not there yet, with millions of people who can’t connect their cellphones to the internet. This is a challenge,” he said.
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