Business Monday

Bank of America Merrill Lynch: Helping clients in Latin America ‘connect the dots’

Juan Pablo Cuevas, managing director and head of global transaction services for Latin America and the Caribbean at Bank of America Merrill Lynch
Juan Pablo Cuevas, managing director and head of global transaction services for Latin America and the Caribbean at Bank of America Merrill Lynch Courtesy: Bank of America

“In the past, the banker sat in his office and clients would come to the office,” said Juan Pablo Cuevas, the Miami-based head of global transaction services for Latin America and the Caribbean for Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

“Things have changed. Now, we’re going to the clients to find out what they need and offer them solutions,” said Cuevas, who was born in Chile and now heads operations for BofA Merrill Lynch throughout the region.

Today, BofA, a subsidiary of Bank of America Corp., provides multinational companies, governments, large national and regional enterprises (“multilatinas”), fund managers, non-bank financial institutions (like insurance companies, pension funds and stock exchanges) and other clients with a range of specialized services.

These include corporate money management and inter-company lending across borders, supply chain financing, foreign exchange solutions, risk evaluation and consulting in other areas.

BofA also assists U.S. middle-market companies (with annual revenues up to about $5 billion) that want to enter Latin American markets and, through Merrill Lynch, provides wealth management services.

“Our customers are mostly large multinationals from the U.S., Europe and Asia, but we work with a lot of local blue chip companies,” said Cuevas, who studied commercial engineering at the Universidad Diego Portales in Chile and graduated from Trinity College with a bachelor of business administration degree in finance. “We are a wholesale bank, not retail, and we have an important presence in the region.”

The bank has several representative offices in Latin America for corporate customers, but does not offer retail banking services to individuals (like checking and savings accounts), leaving this to local banks.

Cuevas, whose Miami headquarters has more than 100 employees, says that a key goal of his bank is “to help companies be more efficient and profitable, to play in different markets and to finance their plans to expand and be part of the global success story.”

Having built and retained a team of talented professionals, BofA Merrill Lynch has a wealth of expertise which it combines with local knowledge and global products that can assist regional customers, he added,

BofA has had its Latin America/Caribbean office in Miami for decades and the region has always been important for the bank, said Cuevas who has been with the company for 25 years.

BofA has worked with customers in Latin America for more than 100 years, he added.

“Miami is the right spot to be,” he said. “This is the entrance corridor to Latin America and a lot of multinational companies have their Latin American headquarters here.”

BofA provides a range of solutions to clients throughout Latin America, Cuevas said.

“We work with the owners of large companies that want to expand to the U.S. or make a regional acquisition,” the BofA executive said. “With our international expertise, we help them evaluate the alternatives and look at ways to finance their plans.”

The bank’s expertise is also useful for some large foreign companies that come to the region and think they are going to find the same market practices they see in Europe and Asia, which is not always true.

They work with treasury officers (CFOs) to make cash flow more efficient, and with big family-owned enterprises that are looking for new investment opportunities. The bank also advises clients on how to handle cross-border tax liabilities, manage receivables and efficiently move money between units in different countries.

“We help them connect the dots,” Cuevas said “Customers are looking for best practices, and if I can make their lives easier and save them money, they’re happy.”

BofA has seen strong growth in Latin America, despite weakness in some regional economies and issues like a heavy dependence on raw material exports to China.

“The last two years have been phenomenal, with double-digit revenue growth for the bank,” Cuevas said. The recent surge in direct foreign investment is an important sign of international confidence in the region.

BofA is in Latin America for the long term and views the region as critical to the global economy. “Latin America offers some of the greatest opportunities in the world, both for the bank and its clients,” he said.

“I’m a very positive person and I like to see the glass half full,” the Bofa executive said.

“You have to learn to play differently than in the past as an international bank, and we have learned to play differently.

“There are still a lot of opportunities in the region and you have to go there and find them.”

The writer can be reached at josephmannjr@gmail.com

Bank of America

Business: One of the world’s largest financial institutions, Bank of America, a subsidiary of Bank of America Corp., provides individuals, small businesses, major corporations and governments with banking, investment, asset management and other financial and risk management products and services. In Miami, the Bank of America Merrill Lynch office oversees operations in Latin America and the Caribbean. It provides services to local, regional and international clients in areas such as trade and supply chain financing, supporting mid-sized U.S. companies that want to begin operating in the region, corporate money management and inter-company lending, risk evaluation for fund managers, consulting for non-bank financial institutions (insurance companies, pension funds, stock exchanges), wealth management and foreign exchange. The bank has representative offices in the region for its corporate clients but does not offer retail banking services to individuals (checking and savings accounts, etc.).

World headquarters: Charlotte, North Carolina

Regional headquarters for Latin America and the Caribbean: 701 Brickell Ave.

CEO: Brian T. Moynihan

Regional management: Juan Pablo Cuevas, head of global transaction services for Latin America and the Caribbean at Bank of America Merrill Lynch Miami.

Founded: Bank of Italy, which later became Bank of America, was founded in 1904 in San Francisco. In 1998, Bank of America was taken over by NationsBank, which retained the name Bank of America. NationsBank traces its origin to Commerce National Bank, founded in Charlotte in 1874.

Founder: Amadeo Giannini founded Bank of Italy and grew Bank of America into an international giant.

Employees: More than 100 in the Miami office

Financial results: 2014 total revenues worldwide $85.4 billion; net income $4.8 billion.

Ownership: Bank of America Corp. is traded on the NYSE (symbol: BAC).

Website: www.bankofamerica.com

Source: Bank of America

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