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Santander’s 25th Latin American Conference: What does the future hold for the region?

February 2021

Although the new year has been full of uncertainty and disruption due to Covid-19, an extremely important event was still able to go ahead - Santander’s 25th Annual Latin America Conference.

Even though this year’s conference was for the first time ever a purely digital event, the conference remained as relevant as its inception in 1997, uniting important leaders, figures and investment firms from LATAM’s political and economic sectors to offer valuable insights into the region’s future.

Through a series of round table presentations and one-on-one meetings, we took advantage of the conference’s virtual format to reach a far wider audience with a stellar line-up of speakers, including Hilary Clinto, former US Secretary of State; former US Secretary of State; Roberto Campos, President of Banco Central do Brasil; Mark Carney, former Governor of the Bank of England; and Alejandro Díaz de León, Governor of Banco de México. 

Looking at key topics such as LATAM politics, ESG and digital transformation, the conference celebrated LATAM’s potential to attract greater foreign investment and boost sustainable growth despite the severe setbacks of Covid-19.

Despite these challenges, opportunities in LATAM are vast. One of the most important takeaways from the conference was that LATAM cannot be treated as a homogenous region, with each country having different realities and needs. If investments in the region are to be successful, financial bodies and investors need to be flexible and take advantage of this difference rather than see it as a barrier. As LATAM emerges from the devastating impact of Covid-19, the region will be focused on restoring its economic infrastructure, opening up a much larger need for investments from the private sector and specialist investors.

Conference speakers also highlighted that what is needed now is greater global alignment in the approach to sustainable financing. Indeed, the increasingly high level of cooperation between countries in the region has greatly accelerated the rate of digitalization in LATAM. Moreover, LATAM’s major economies maintained low inflation, allowing central banks to keep interest rates under control, and the banking sector remained resilient with ample capital and liquidity buffers. With this economic backdrop, it is likely LATAM will come out of the pandemic stronger than before.

Santander has long recognised LATAM as one of the most promising regions for investments. As one of the richest regions in terms of natural resources and food production and boasting a strong talent pool, the demand for sustainable infrastructure development in the region is extensive.

As global attention increasingly gears towards LATAM, we expect to see gradual improvements in the region’s economic management, including better social inclusion and the raising of both private and public capital to boost investment in infrastructure, innovation and technology. Brazil, a key market for us, offers enormous potential in terms of ESG investments, and Mexico’s focus on fintech and digital banking is making exciting headways for digital transformation across the region. 

Although change in the region is not linear, the progress that is taking place on all fronts in LATAM has only strengthened Santander’s commitment to play a substantial role in the region. Having commenced trading with LATAM since 1857, we now have 76 million customers in the region, 56% more than three years ago. As we continue to invest extensively in the region under the leadership of 400 senior management teams, we will also expand on the work we did during 2020 to channel money across the region, reduce fees for SMEs, expand our scholarship programme and invest in new facilities.

If the inspiring conference speakers showed us anything, it is that the current crisis can be transformed into a crisis of resilience and sustainability. Now more than ever we need to treat climate risk seriously, and LATAM is proving an ideal place to do this. We hope that by next year’s conference, which will be held in person at Cancún, LATAM’s instrumental role within the global sustainable economy will be unquestionable.