The original report was published in the USA Today on Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Financial group goes from strength to strength
Exciting changes are in the air for Grupo Bolivar, one of Colombia’s key financial groups
In 1939, just three months before the outbreak of World War II, a group of Colombian investors founded one of the most important insurance companies in the country: Seguros Bolivar. Strong growth over the next several years helped Seguros Bolivar grow into a financial group, and two more companies were established in 1948 – a general insurance company and a savings and capitalization corporation.
The next several decades witnessed huge expansion for the Bolivar group under the leadership of Enrique Cortes, one of the original founders, and later under his nephew, Jose Alejandro Cortes.
In 1972, Grupo Bolivar, along with various other insurance companies and a bank, set up Banco Davivienda, a savings and mortgage bank. Four years ago, Grupo Bolivar bought 99% of Banco Davivienda’s shares, and with this purchase also acquired affiliates Fiducafe S.A., Bancafe Panama and Bancafe Internacional Miami, thus strengthening its presence abroad.
At home in Colombia, the group is one of the most important players in the financial sector, and as such, is the partner of choice for a good number of foreign companies. “Many American and European companies we work with come here,” explains Mr. Cortes. “I think that we are the ones who mostly work with U.S. and European insurance companies and banks.”
The year 2011 brings two important changes in the company’s direction. In March, Jose Alejandro Cortes stepped down as president, leaving the group in the capable hands of his son, Miguel. Earlier in the year Grupo Bolivar added a new activity to its portfolio when it established VivaColombia, a low-cost airline, with partners Grupo Fast, Iamsa and Irelandia.
A UNITED WORLD SUPPLEMENT PRODUCED BY:
Gemma Gutierrez, Alvaro Buenaventura, Carlos Rodriguez-Villa, Irama Vega, Alberto Mariscal, and Saturnino Izquierdo
Northern South America, bordering the Caribbean Sea, between Panama and Venezuela, and bordering the North Pacific Ocean, between Ecuador and Panama
AREA - comparative:
slightly less than twice the size of Texas
tropical along coast and eastern plains; cooler in highlands
GDP - composition by sector:
services: 52.7% (2010 est.)
AGRICULTURE - products:
coffee, cut flowers, bananas, rice, tobacco, corn, sugarcane, cocoa beans, oilseed, vegetables; forest products; shrimp
textiles, food processing, oil, clothing and footwear, beverages, chemicals, cement; gold, coal, emeralds
$40.24 billion (2010 est.)
EXPORTS - commodities:
petroleum, coffee, coal, nickel, emeralds, apparel, bananas, cut flowers
EXPORTS - partners:
US 42%, EU 12.6%, China 5.2%, Ecuador 4.5% (2010 est.)