Where Nordic bank SEB sees business opportunities in Latin America

Where Nordic bank SEB sees business opportunities in Latin America

Nordic corporate bank SEB – which is headquartered in Swedish capital Stockholm – has been present in Latin America for 50 years.

Officials serve Latin America and the Caribbean from a representative office in São Paulo, providing financing, advisory and other services for companies doing business in the region.

To find out more about SEB’s regional operations and where it sees growth seams, BNamericas interviewed with two of the bank’s Brazil-based senior staff: chief representative Christian Rezende (pictured left) and deputy representative and associate area manager for Latin America Vilhelm Dhejne (on the right).

BNamericas: What types of services or products do you tend to provide in Latin America?

Rezende & Dhejne: SEB is present in Latin America since 1972 with a representative office in São Paulo, Brazil. Since 2019, SEB São Paulo is also responsible for the Latin America and Caribbean regions covering all countries from Mexico to Uruguay.

Over the years, SEB has focused on supporting Scandinavian, Baltic, German and UK corporates in doing business in Brazil through providing financing, trade finance solutions and advisory services. SEB São Paulo was the first international office outside the Nordic region. SEB works with a large network of correspondent banks in the region to facilitate payments and trade finance transactions in relation to our core clients and their subsidiaries in the region. SEB’s offering includes letters of credit, guarantees, export financing transactions, project financing and in some countries bilateral working capital facilities.

BNamericas: What countries are you chiefly focused on?

Rezende & Dhejne: SEB has been following our clients in their international expansion, always striving to assist their needs where it is relevant for them. SEB works with a wide range of correspondent banks across the entire region, constituting a mix of international, local and regional banks. This infrastructure is paramount to support the needs of our global clients, not only in the large economies but also in smaller countries. It is important to highlight that our clients are more present and have more business activity in the largest economies of Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and Uruguay, which demand an enhanced focus. However, SEB upholds relations with correspondent banks in more than 20 countries in the region to be able to assist our customers. 

BNamericas: What sectors are driving demand currently and where do you see growth coming from over the next few years, for example, energy, infrastructure?

Rezende & Dhejne: SEB’s ambition is to be a relevant and trusted partner for our global clients, who need our insights and support to facilitate their business. Those clients are spread among a wide range of sectors, but are particularly found within the pulp and paper, energy, ports, telecom, automotive, and industrial segments. Telecom, for example, is driving a lot of attention as many Latin American countries are moving ahead with the 5G rollout this year and next. Pulp and paper has also been in the spotlight as the sector has been facing a significant expansion during the past three years, with several new plants under construction in countries like Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, and Paraguay. However, one of the most relevant sectors now and for the upcoming years is the energy sector, due to the increasing demand to accelerate investments in renewable energy sources (mostly solar and wind) and new projects related to the energy transition, given the ESG goals of several players in this sector.  

BNamericas: What’s your general outlook on Latin America? There is of course political risk but also opportunities, particularly those linked to the energy transition: renewables, transmission lines, hydrogen and derivatives.

Rezende & Dhejne: SEB has been present in Latin America for the past 50 years and will continue to be here for our global clients. During this period, SEB has navigated through several economic crises, moments of political instability and adverse market conditions. However, SEB has always maintained its long-term view and commitment to support our global customers in the region. 

The challenges Latin America is facing this year relate to increased inflation, disruptions in the global supply chain and the consequences of the Russia-Ukraine conflict on commodity pricing. All those factors have been compelling central banks to increase interest rates to slow down inflation, which translates into more expensive financial conditions for companies and individuals with the potential to reduce GDP growth next year and increase social inequalities. On the other hand, several companies started to unlock their investment plans that were frozen during the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The positive effect is the improvement of labor markets across several countries.   

Latin America has plenty of natural resources needed in the modern world and good conditions for a clean energy transition. Latin America has great natural potential for solar and wind projects, and it has been the most important driver for the growth of new energy offering. Thus, we foresee many opportunities throughout the region for the companies involved in the renewable energy sector.

SEB will not change its strategy and will continue following our clients and their demand for letters of credit, guarantees, export finance, project finance and working capital facilities. SEB has been working closely with customers on their energy transition plans and will continue to help them achieving ESG goals.