Aislinn Flores – Banco Sabadell
Shuttered hotels and darkened restaurants and pubs are no way to celebrate a tourist season, but all are a grim reality as Mexico and the greater world works through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Banco Sabadell is not alone in working with borrowers who have been devastated by the imminent collapse of tourism or other industries, but Associate General Counsel Aislinn Flores has helped guide a targeted approach that’s assisted customers by covering their needs in the quickest and most efficient way.
“All our holidays and vacations may not happen, so we tried to be as proactive as we could,” Flores says. “I’m pleased to say we’re creating a structure that provides legal security to our customers and to the bank.”
Part of the solution
Banco Sabadell opened its first office in Mexico in 1991. Much of the bank’s recent growth is because of its focus on branchless banking, offering digital services for corporate, commercial and personal customers.
“The kind of customers I work with are the national and international corporate ones,” Flores says. “They have a very complete structure, usually with legal and business departments.”
In March 2020, as COVID-19 began closing down segments of Mexican industry, Banco Sabadell’s corporate and investment banking department began reviewing its portfolio of loans to check which borrowers were most affected by the pandemic.
Key industries included hotels, food and beverage, cinemas, malls and transportation. According to Flores, once these were identified, Banco Sabadell began to get in touch with their borrowers to see how it might help to lower the pandemic impact by amending their payments and terms.
Making it work
The options were to reduce the principal payments and specific terms and conditions of each loan.
“Our great advantage was having reacted very quickly to the pandemic,” Flores says. “It was also significant to apply this as simply as possible and without using an outside counsel sometimes.”
Handling the refinancing in-house prevents the additional cost of outside counsel, which would be passed on, Flores adds.
Not only is she proud that Banco Sabadell is reaching out to its customers to assist in dire times; it also means a great deal to Flores that she’s getting the opportunity to take on important responsibilities and decisions.
“I give thanks to Federico Santos, our general counsel and Luis Cárdenas, our legal director, for trusting me to lead these efforts in times of such uncertainty and where supportive leadership is required,” she says. “I’ve been able to create an important synergy with our business partners like Francisco Lira, our assistant director-general of corporate investment banking; and Eduardo Barrera, the executive director of corporate investment banking, too.”
Susan Grisso de Ortega, an attorney with her own practice who has represented Banco Sabadell and worked with Flores on various New York law matters, such as a large credit agreement with the International Finance Corporation, says Flores always makes the most of her opportunities.
“She’s one of the rare women attorneys in the Mexican banking industry who has quickly risen to a senior position in a global banking institution due to her clear judgment, deft management of her team and extraordinary ability to obtain the best terms for Banco Sabadell in important transactions with large counterparties,” Grisso de Ortega elaborates.
“Women lawyers face unusually large obstacles to this kind of career growth in the male-dominated legal industry in Mexico City, which makes Aislinn’s achievements and career trajectory of even greater note,” she adds.
Learning from experience
The pandemic and Banco Sabadell’s restructuring efforts are also a learning moment, Flores says, because the legal concepts and the fortuitous circumstances are not understood well enough.
“I think our current regulations are not prepared for these kinds of situations, and the training is not yet specialized,” she says. “I teach at Ibero-American University, and now I will include this expertise in my lectures.”
As a native of Mexico City, Flores found her inspiration for a legal career in her father and a female cousin, who are both attorneys. Her cousin is a lawyer and a notary public—the latter requiring far more stringent requirements in Mexico than the U.S. (including a law degree).
“Being a notary in Mexico is an honor—you must be a lawyer to be a notary, and there aren’t many women who do it. I accompanied her to her work and I did a lot of research on this profession and found it interesting,” Flores recalls, adding that because there are few female notary publics and female attorneys, seeing her cousin serve as one made a legal career seem possible.
While her father also had a law degree, and loved to read and talk about the law, he never practiced it professionally, Flores says.
“It was a passion, but he was a businessman,” she explains, adding that also grounded her in the desire to apply law in the banking or business world.
Flores earned her law degree from the Escuela Libre de Derecho in Mexico City in 2007, and a master’s in financial law from Universidad Panamerica in 2019.
Early in her career, she was an associate at Ponce de León Lawyers and then moved on to handling financing for municipalities at the global firm Fintegra in 2009. The following year, Flores joined Cinépolis, a move that shifted her legal focus.
“I liked banking; then I went to real estate law because it involves several areas of legal knowledge, such as administrative, civil and commercial law,” she says. “I worked in financial model development and marketing. There, I was involved in various investments where I participated in issues beyond the legal learning of business and strategic topics to understand the needs of clients and the company.”
Flores later returned to financial law, becoming an associate general counsel at HSBC Global Banking and Markets prior to joining Banco Sabadell in 2016.
She joined the bank looking to make a difference. For Flores, helping bring peace of mind to Banco Sabadell customers facing economic hardship during the pandemic has been one of the most rewarding parts of her legal career.
“For me, and for the bank, it’s vital to help our clients by being their allies,” she says. “We need to do good things in these kinds of situations, and I know this will teach me how to become a better lawyer, but more importantly, a better human being.”
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