Corporate Social Responsibility2019-09-05T15:40:59-05:00

Social responsibility is
our way of conducting business.

Social responsibility is our way of conducting business.

Governance

Social responsibility is our way of conducting business.  Ethics, transparency in operations, and our social commitment to the sustainable development of our country, guide Banco General’s business decisions.

It is a human issue that transcends throughout the organization, because we understand the commitment we have with our stakeholders: shareholders, employees, customers, suppliers, community and regulatory entities.

Our stakeholders are those who are impacted by the bank’s influence and, that at the same time, impact the bank’s operations.  Our stakeholders were defined in 2008 as part of an exercise with that purpose, performed by members of the Social Responsibility and Business Ethics Committee, in which executives within the different areas of the organization participated.  For their definition, the groups that were more directly impacted by the bank, due to the nature of its operations, were taken into consideration, and six groups were defined:

Commitment and dialogue with our stakeholders

Employees
In order to include employees and obtain knowledge of their expectations and interests, we periodically carry out an anonymous Organizational Climate Survey.

The results of such survey are analyzed by a special Human Capital Committee, and based on this, a plan at organizational level by department is developed to address the needs found.

Additionally, the Chairman of the Board of Directors has weekly business breakfast events with groups of employees from the different areas and levels of the organization. During these breakfast events, there is a pause to listen, and their concerns are systematically recorded for follow up.

Additionally, the bank always reinforces the open-door policy, whereby all employees have the right to express their concerns.

Shareholders
Banco General has an open-door policy for its more than 900 shareholders, their needs/concerns addressed every day of the year by the Office of Shareholder Services, available to them at the corporate offices. The bank has a person exclusively dedicated to dealing with the shareholders and addressing their concerns and questions that are always welcome. Additionally, they receive formal quarterly communications from the Chairman of the Board with information on the company, as well as the Annual Report and the Report on Social Responsibility. Banco General’s results are presented annually at two Shareholder general meetings of Grupo Financiero BG and Empresa General de Inversiones.

Customers
Listening to our customers is a priority at Banco General, and therefore, we have various communication channels customers can use to contact us. These include:
• Suggestion boxes at the branches. It is worth mentioning that all suggestions are received and evaluated by Customer Service.
• Mailbox on our website www.bgeneral.com.
• By telephone at our Customer Service Department.
• Customer Service chat.
• Claim Management Department
• Social media (Twitter:@bgeneralpromos and Facebook/bgeneral).
• Surveys outside bank branches
• Focus groups specific for product development.

Suppliers
The relationship with more than 1,500 suppliers is based on good faith and ethics principles. The policies that guide our relationship with them are embodied in our Code of Ethics and Conduct, and our purchasing management is always in contact with them, either by phone, e-mail or by personally visiting their companies. Many of our suppliers are also our customers, therefore their company, reputation and moral soundness is well known to us. In 2014 we started a series of meetings with a group of suppliers to present our Social Responsibility vision to them, to acquire knowledge of theirs and exchange improved practices.
Regulatory Entities

The Compliance and Safety Department, and Legal Services, work together hand in hand to guarantee an open relationship with regulators and strict compliance with the laws and regulations that are being updated.

Our Code of Ethics and Conduct clearly details that our relationship with regulators must be based on principles of good faith, transparency and collaboration, always through the individuals designated for that purpose.

Community

Our relationship with the community is developed through 170 NGOs supported by us, who visit us regularly. Personnel from the Good Neighbors Foundation also visit communities, and as part of the protocol for resource allocation, a detailed report of the work performed by these NGOs is prepared.

Likewise, we are in contact with the community through information channels, calls, e-mails and appointments where, with expert individuals, we discuss different social subjects regarding the needs of our communities and country.

Thanks to this direct relationship, Banco General has been able to understand that the community’s greatest need lies in education, therefore, investment in this area has increased during the last few years.
Materiality

In 2013, Banco General contracted the consulting services of KPMG Mexico to carry out a materiality and benchmark study regarding corporate social responsibility, with the purpose of finding the sustainability matters of more relevance to the organization and identify those matters that are not currently part of our strategy and represent opportunities.

The analysis identified the economic, social and environmental aspects which are relevant both intrinsically and because of the relevance of these concepts for different interest groups. It is worth highlighting that since all Banco General’s subsidiaries operate within the banking, finance, insurance and retirement management industries, all similar, the material aspects apply to all.

In the materiality study, the following were found as urgent issues:

• Operations
• Customer relations management
• Development of products and services
• Corruption, bribery, transparency
• Ethics and integrity
• Labor practices
• Risk management
• CSR management
• Relationships with stakeholders
• Brand management
• Human capital development
• Impact on communities/financial inclusion
• Water resource management
• Human rights

We also found that, even if not of urgency, there are issues that are mature in the financial industry and that, for this reason, could represent an area of opportunity for the bank:

• Waste management
• Attract and retain talent
• Energy efficiency
• Materials

Taking this into consideration, Banco General developed a three-year CSR strategic plan to achieve the short and long-term goals. This plan is based on the more relevant issues found in the study.

As we report

We translate our management into concrete and measurable actions, based on the guidelines represented under ISO Social Responsibility Standard 26000 and the principles of the United Nations Global Compact, and we share the results of our Social Responsibility Report annually.

Good Corporate Governance practices are fundamental for the strengthening of our management.  Corporate Governance refers to the set of rules that transparently order the relationship and behavior between the Board of Directors, shareholders, customers and stakeholders.  In our Corporate Governance Manual, available to the community at www.bgeneral.com, the responsibilities of each group are detailed, the responsibilities of each group are detailed, the different committees that exist, who compose it and the responsibilities of each one in the decision-making process.

Among the goals recently achieved, we can highlight the addition of a Female Independent Director to the Board of Directors, that in addition to promoting independent decisions, helps us broaden our gender diversity in the composition of the Board of Directors.  We can also highlight that we are benefactors of the Corporate Governance Institute of Panama, a non-profit organization that promotes good practices throughout the country.

Banco General has a Legal Compliance and Corporate Security department with the purpose of guaranteeing that all bank operations are performed in accordance with banking rules and regulations, especially, the ones established for the prevention of money laundering and terrorism financing.  This area is well structured, allowing us to comply with required national and international legal rules, and be a leader in the national and international banking markets.  This area supervises physical security, as well as security of information, fraud control, among others.  The Legal Compliance and Corporate Security department is structured as follows:

The Compliance and Security department places great emphasis on constant personnel training regarding money laundering and terrorism financing prevention, in compliance with banking rules.

It is important to highlight that our Security department also trains security personnel subcontracted by the bank in order for them to acquire full knowledge of internal protocols and security.

Banco General has an integral risk management system based on a set of objectives, policies, procedures, structures and limits for integral risk management; supported by the appropriate documentation and registries generated in the process; necessary competent and experienced personnel or compliance with the roles of responsibility; necessary resources to carry out the work; and tools and information technologies in accordance with the sophistication of corresponding methodologies and activities.

The Risk Vice-president supervises the area’s work covering several types of risks and has detailed procedure, responsibility and role manuals.  The Integral Risk Management Manual gathers the manner in which Banco General identifies, measures, follows up, controls, mitigates and informs the operating areas of the different types of risks to which they are exposed.  The Risk Vice-presidency is structured as follows:

Our People

Banco General is one of the largest employers in Panama, more than 4,000 Panamanian families work for the company and contribute to the growth of our country.  We know that the working environment of the organization is key to the long-term success and sustainability of the company.

Therefore, we clearly detail our policies regarding our relationship with collaborators in our Ethics and Conduct Code.  From these policies you can summarize that fair and equitable treatment are the basis of our labor relations.

Health

We worry about the health and wellbeing of our collaborators, therefore, in 2012 we created Personal Wellbeing, an area dedicated to the promotion of physical and emotional personal health for the improvement of quality of life, and therefore, of our society.

We have a Care for your Health Program that visits the bank’s different departments and measures collaborators’ blood pressures.  Additionally, monthly health capsules are published on our intranet in an effort to educate personnel on illness prevention.

Likewise, we promote a healthy lifestyle and sporting activities, offering our collaborators free sports leagues for them and their families.

Motivation and recognitions

We recognize the loyalty, dedication and work of our employees through the celebration of their years of service with a great anniversary dinner.

Additionally, every year a Star Collaborator is selected, the distinguished employee of the year.

Food Subsidy Program

Due to the excessive increase in basic food costs in Panama, starting in 2008, a food subsidy program was implemented, a food voucher program redeemable at various supermarkets and pharmacies in the country.

Other benefits

Banco General offers their collaborators multiple benefits, including private health insurance, store discounts, aid with financial interest issues, among many others.

Banco General Corporate University is the pillar that guarantees the organization’s most important investment in training and support for the professional development of its collaborators.  Training is provided by internal and external personnel since Banco General has strategic partnerships with prestigious schools such as INCAE, University of Louisville, IESA and Harvard Business School, among others, that provide the highest quality educational material and tools.

Every year more than 182,000-man hours of training are provided, with an investment of more than one million dollars.

The academic offer includes nine thematic pillars:

  • Managerial development that includes risk management, effective meeting organization, coaching, negotiation, change management, leadership through generations and basic managerial modules.
  • Professional development, with topics of process methodologies, accounting and finance programs, complete English program as a second language, writing and spelling and sales programs.
  • Personal development, that includes relationships, parenting, self-esteem and personal improvement, emotional health, among others.
  • Customer service, that includes topics focusing on improving skills to offer excellent service.
  • Tools and technologies that include diverse Microsoft programs at basic, intermediate and advanced levels.
  • Organizational programs including induction and integration.
  • Frequent programs for specific capacities such as ATMs, platform management, operations.
  • “Always Ready” Program to improve the skills of managers in the different areas with the objective of serving in different areas of the organization if necessary.
  • Regulatory programs on compliance and security and prevention rules.

We acknowledge the importance and responsibility we have to include disabled persons in our labor force, and therefore, we constantly work towards achieving our goals and exceeding the challenges we face.

In 2013 and 2014, we participated in the Identification of Labor Opportunities Roundtable for disabled persons, organized by the local network of the United Nations Global Compact, whereby an Inclusion Guide was redacted with our cooperation.

In this process, the recruiting and selection department of Banco General, together with other areas within the organization, is making great efforts to promote inclusion, hire personnel, and sensitize and educate the rest of the team on the subject.

Relationships with Customers

Offering excellent service is a priority for Banco General.  The bank has an area dedicated specifically to ensuring that the service we provide is excellent, in each contact with a customer.  We have a Vision of service and seven standards that are continuously reinforced within the organization.

To monitor the quality of the services we offer, we periodically measure customer satisfaction through surveys where satisfaction, speed, friendliness, ease in processing and knowledge of products and processes by our service executives is measured.

We also have an area dedicated to promoting a service culture within the organization that manages several internal programs.  These include recognition of collaborators that Excel in service, reception of ideas by collaborators to improve such service and weekly meetings to reinforce service standards.

We can highlight the great emphasis that the organization places on service training, through the Banco General Corporate University, offering programs, workshops and extensive personnel training courses.

Likewise, the organization has placed great emphasis on the service offered to our commercial customers, developing banking relationships focused on customers, adapting to their needs.

Management of Requests and Claims

Customer requests and claims are handled very seriously at Banco General, with concrete goals and well-defined processes.  The goal is to take care of any request made through the system within an average of five business days.

As stated by our Code of Ethics and Conduct, all of Banco General’s communications with its customers is clear, precise and truthful, ensuring that our advertising is oriented towards respect for good habits and positivism.

All our institutional campaigns promote values as a way of making positive contributions to society.

Banco General’s financial education program has the purpose of helping individuals properly manage their personal finances and understand its importance.

There are three components to the program:

  • Active participation in the financial education program of the Banking Association of Panama, addressing middle school students in the Provinces of Santos, Veraguas and Chiriqui. The program consists of a series of five one-hour talks given during a period of five months by bank volunteers addressing different subjects regarding the management of personal finances.
  • Talks to collaborators of companies and ONGs that seek to expand their knowledge on personal finance management. The talks are given by bank volunteers and address matters such as savings, credit, management of family budgets, among others.
  • Talks at schools upon request. When volunteers give talks and there is interest regarding the subjects, they contact the schools they visited or the schools and their communities and give the material to youth between the ages of 14 and 17.
  • Additionally, on our website there is a section called “Financial Football”, that through a fun game, participants learn important topics regarding better management of finances.

Fair Operating Practices

Banco General has over 1,500 suppliers, a value chain made up of small, medium and large companies that provide all types of services.  Their operation directly impacts our business since we depend on them to offer quality products and services in the stipulated time.  Our operation impacts them since we are an important customer for their business.

Pursuant to our policy, established in the Code of Ethics and Conduct, we select our suppliers in a fair manner, taking into account competitive pricing, quality, experience, service and reciprocity with the bank.

Even though evaluation of our suppliers does not formally include social or environmental criteria, our policy guides us to closely look at the moral solvency of a supplier before contracting it, through banking and professional references.

Additionally, we continue sending commitment letters in which we explain our expectations regarding sustainability issues.  These letters are signed by them and kept in their file at the bank.  If there is evidence of noncompliance with our expectations, the commercial relationship with them may be terminated.

Banco General cuenta con más de 1,600 proveedores, una cadena de valor compuesta por pequeñas, medianas y grandes empresas que proveen todo tipo de servicios. Su operación impacta directamente nuestro negocio ya que dependemos de ellos para ofrecer productos y servicios de calidad en el tiempo estipulado. Nuestra operación los impacta a ellos ya que somos un cliente importante para su negocio.

Según nuestra política, establecida en el Código de Ética y Conducta, seleccionamos a nuestros proveedores de forma justa tomando en cuenta el precio competitivo, la calidad, experiencia, servicio y reciprocidad con el banco.

Aunque la evaluación de nuestros proveedores no incluye formalmente criterios sociales o ambientales, nuestra política nos da guías para mirar de cerca la solvencia moral de un proveedor antes de contratarlo, a través de referencias bancarias y profesionales.

Además, continuamos enviando cartas de compromiso en las cuales explicamos a los proveedores nuestras expectativas en temas de sostenibilidad. Estas cartas son firmadas por ellos y reposan en su archivo dentro del banco. Si se comprueba alguna falta a nuestras expectativas, podríamos terminar la relación comercial con ellos.

Enviroment

The Environmental and Social Risk Management System ensures that our credit decisions consider environmental and social risk factors among the basic points of analysis for each credit proposal.  Its application consists in the verification of compliance with the corresponding environmental regulations, encouraging our customers to prevent and mitigate environmental and social risks and discuss the impacts with them.  Added to this, and as a part of SGAS, Banco General has an Exclusion List of industries in which it does not participate with financing.

The system is applied to the areas of Corporate Credit, Commercial Credit, International Banking, Investment Banking and Residential Mortgage Credits.  SGAS is managed by a highly trained team that works from the Risk area and analyzes the aforementioned credits.  To learn more about the latest developments in the application of SGAS, you can refer to our Social Responsibility Reports.

In 2011, and upon implementation of SGAS, Banco General became the first Panamanian financial institution to become a Signatory Member of the Financial Initiative Program of the United Nations for the Environment (UNEP FI in English).  UNEP FI is a unique collaborative initiative at a global level between the United Nations and the global financial sector.  Its mission is to identify and promote the adoption of better environmental and sustainability practices at all levels of operations in financial institutions.  The voluntary signing of this document demonstrates our commitment to working towards the principles of the partnership and is proof of our commitment regarding the subject.

With 74 branches, office buildings and more than 4,900 employees, we know we must monitor our consumption of natural resources and be responsible users.  Therefore, we have a responsible consumption program based on the three Rs.

Reduction

Energy:

  • We constantly communicate internally to encourage energy savings.
  • We do not turn our signs on at night (with the exception of the Headquarters, which is turned off at 10 p.m.).
  • We encourage not to print receipts at our ATMs, as well as statements.

Reuse

Ink and toners.

We collect used toners and ink in all bank departments and branches and subsequently deliver them to a company that reuses them.

Recycle

We properly discard for subsequent recycling or treatment:

  • White paper, newspapers, folders and manila envelopes used internally.
  • Electronic scrap.
  • Fluorescent bulbs.
  • Tetra Pack.
  • PET 1 plastic and plastic bags.

Additionally, we sponsor and support the “I Recycle Fairs” that take place monthly in the City of Panama to collect recyclable waste and provide education on the subject of recycling.

Banco General believes in the importance of incorporating sustainable concepts in the construction of its offices.  Therefore, we are part of the Panama Green Building Council and we have started involving our architects in these processes.

In 2013 we inaugurated two LEED® Gold Level certified branches: Clayton and the City of Knowledge.  The “LEED” certification system was created by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and is the main program at a global level for buildings, homes and communities that are designed, built, maintained and operated to achieve superior performance.  Subsequently, we inaugurated two additional certified branches: Panama Pacifico with LEED® Silver certification and Versalles with LEED® certification.

In all the branches, clean construction processes and materials – like paint and glue – were used, free of toxins.  Additionally, they were designed for efficient consumption of energy and efficient water management.

GHG Protocol: measuring our environmental footprint

In 2012, we ventured into a mitigation project for our environmental footprint, the GHG Protocol.  To start off, we established the scope of the project that would include all our branches and corporate and operating offices, that at the same time, included our subsidiary, BG Valores S.A. and General de Seguros S.A.  From this, different sources of emissions such as messenger automobile fleets and electrical plants were measured, among others.

While calculating our environmental footprint, we have initiated the planning of incentives that will help with its mitigation.

Community

  • Banco General’s corporate volunteer program, Neighbors in Action, comprises more than 300 collaborators that donate their time and effort with no compensation in support of our community. Created in 2001, the program is based on the social commitment of the collaborators, supported by the company through resources and tools for its organization.
  • Neighbors in Action partners with non-governmental organizations and provides support to these foundations in an orderly fashion. Among them are, Casa Esperanza, FANLYC, Special Olympics, Fundación Pide un Deseo, Techo, Nutre Hogar.
  • Banco General’s vision is to support the volunteers in their effort, helping in the execution of projects, acknowledging their work and motivating them to continue.
  • During the last few years, Neighbors in Action has carried out approximately 190 volunteer activities per year for the benefit of more than 15 ONGs and more than fifteen thousand people.