“We’d all be better off if we were a little more Latino”

In February 2016, Carla Everaerts, a KBC employee with 20 years’ experience in marketing and sales, visited El Salvador for BRS. Colleague Chris Berckmoes, senior auditor in the field of risk management, joined her. They each set off with their own specific mission, but got together in between times to exchange experiences and have a chat. In Dutch.

Carla: “We don’t work as traditional consultants who present a lot of fancy slides and then pack up and leave. No, we talk to operational people about their own processes. We share our experiences with them without being forceful. And without a hidden agenda that requires us to evaluate people or impose targets. 

“It’s not to be underestimated, you know, speaking Spanish all day long. You are so relieved to finally be able to speak your own West Flemish or Limburg dialect of Flemish to each other in the evening.”

Chris: “Even when it comes to small talk or mealtimes, it’s all done in Spanish, isn’t it? The whole time. But it did get better each day.”

Carla: “The project we worked on is called AMC. The name refers to the founder, Adel Morazán. AMC is a well-developed microfinancing institution with around 150 employees. They are active throughout El Salvador, especially in rural areas. First and foremost, AMC’s mission is a social one. Their customers are people who would not be able to obtain credit from the regular banking sector or only on very unfavourable terms.”

Chris: “This social objective means that they sometimes lose sight of the quantitative aspect. However, it’s still important for your figures to add up at the end of every day, precisely in order to make sure that the social mission is secure. I mainly worked on risk management, together with Carlos, who is responsible for this aspect at AMC. Among other things, I helped him map out all the risks, after which the audit committee and the board of directors can determine the risks they want to take.”

Carla: “My contribution was to increase the professionalism of their marketing and sales approach. Specifically, it was above all about improving efficiency. For this I worked with Wilfredo, the marketing manager, and the sales team. They all have many years of experience and a lot of ideas. By combining our working methods at KBC with their approach, I was able to make a number of work processes go a bit more smoothly. I actually served as a pacesetter and that was really fun.”

Chris: “For me, as an employee of a large bank used to complex forms of banking, translating my experience to a small institution with a social mission was a particularly exciting challenge. In the case of microfinancing, credit lending is partly based on trust. As an auditor, it’s not easy to measure that. It forces you to think about risk management in a new way and search for the essence of banking. A challenge that motivated me even more.”

Carla: “Chris and I presented the recommendations we prepared with the employees during the final presentation. It was striking how interested and incredibly involved all the employees are. They are amazingly socially motivated, which means their motivation is very high.”

Chris: “They are also very warm and open. We’d all be better off if we were a little more Latino,” he laughs. “Despite their history of conflict and violence, people in El Salvador have a positive attitude. They really want to move forward. And they want to tell a positive story with AMC. That’s amazing, it goes very deep. And it’s something that really struck a chord with me, that I took back to Belgium.”