Luis Augusto (Lucho) Zelaya – Banco Industrial, S.A., Guatemala
When the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in 2020, most companies shut their doors and scrambled to move services online. While many banks scaled back, as well, Lucho Zelaya says Banco Industrial took a different approach, adding to its online services.
According to Zelaya, BI’s legal manager, even before the pandemic, digital enhancements were making legal and banking processes more convenient. By March 2020, when most people were quarantined for safety reasons, the bank launched a digital platform that allowed customers to peruse available apartments and homes online.
Two months later, BI rolled out a virtual banking assistant that lets customers use voice commands to perform transfers between accounts or search exchange rates. Such online tools led Global Finance Magazine to give BI the 2020 award for best bank in Guatemala.
“Our implementation of technology improves service for all our customers as we expand access to all our financial services into new markets, including small businesses,” Zelaya explains. “That means expanding our legal services.”
According to Zelaya, since 2020, BI has sought to diversify its loan origination and other digital services, expanding from industrial businesses into more retail markets. This has included adding ATMs and bank branches in rural areas.
However, before BI could offer these services, General Manager and CEO Luis Lara realized as early as the 1990s that BI needed to automate more services and processes, Zelaya says. That would require developing a legal infrastructure that could handle these improvements in areas including customer service, market and product expansion, and IT advancements, he says.
When Zelaya joined the company in 1998, his degree and most of his legal experience was in general and notary law. So, once hired, he partnered with one of Banco Industrial’s IT programming engineers to create AJUA, an automated legal assistant. Launched in 1998, it automated many legal procedural tasks, such as drafting and filing notary contracts and legal claims.
“The bank remained secure while avoiding human error,” Zelaya explains, “because this significantly decreased the time and complexity involved in carrying out legal and notary procedures for business transactions.”
Currently, AJUA is being migrated to a new customer relationship system to improve communication between IT, corporate services, personal banking, management and legal departments.
“Now, all bank employees have access to the same data, so we know what services we need to do our jobs better,” he says. “This simplifies processes for our clients, too, as we provide them new electronic tools like speech command.”
Partnering people and AI
Banco Industrial functions under the umbrella financial group Corporación BI, which operates businesses and provides financial services—credit cards, insurance, trusts, and so on—across Guatemala and the rest of Central America, including Panama.
Zelaya now leads a team of 55 lawyers and 265 people, including legal aides, through Serjursa, a legal and judicial service he started under Corporación BI to provide in-house support.
In fact, Zelaya and his team also cover trust department services called banca fiduciaria. Known as fideicomisos, the trust department is led by Zelaya and Elizabeth Andrade, an assist manager for BI. It provides Central America with automated services in management, investment, guarantee and wealth planning trusts.
“We’re a one-stop legal shop,” he says BI and its many facets. “We’ve even started providing in-house, private mediation so we can find solutions for defaulting customers, rather than sending them through the long, uncomfortable process of busy, overwhelmed Guatemalan courts.”
Zelaya’s November 2020 implementation of alternative mediation isn’t the only way he’s been trying to help others. For 25 years, he’s also been an educator.
At the Universidad Francisco Marroquin, where his wife, Mónica, is the dean of the School of Economic Sciences, and where he received his law degree and master’s, he teaches at the School of Law and the School of Economics. He’s also been increasing his knowledge, as he’s currently finishing his Ph.D. in commercial and tax law.
“Even with all the work and new knowledge, I don’t forget about what I love: my family; my wife; my singer-songwriter daughter, Stephanie, and her husband, Ricardo; and my son, Andres, who holds an MBA in finance and owns a taekwondo gym—not to mention my grandson, who’ll be arriving soon,” Zelaya says. “And photography, which helps me capture memories forever.”
View this feature in the Vanguard Fall I 2021 Edition here.
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