Ricardo Hernández – Bolsa Nacional de Valores de Costa Rica
Though his favorite novel is “Don Quixote,” Ricardo Hernández prefers not to tilt at windmills as legal director for the Costa Rica stock exchange.
Called the Bolsa Nacional de Valores de Costa Rica, the stock exchange is a nerve center of the nation’s economy where investors can contribute to economic growth while also benefitting from it.
Those investors can contribute even better when they have the ability to make quick decisions and transactions based on real-time data and information. Ensuring they can while the BNV meets regulatory obligations that protect the companies and investors who make up the stock exchange is just part of what Hernández does.
“Over the last 20 years I have been specialized in stock market and banking law,” he says. “This is a discipline that allows a great amount personal development while giving depth to knowledge and application.”
The BNV is a privately held company, founded in 1976. It lists more than 54 companies for trading, and in 2019, it traded at a volume of $56 billion in U.S. dollars.
“Our main contribution is to the development of the country, making it easier for companies to conduct their business,” Hernández explains. “We’re facilitators of economic growth.”
Facilitating that growth requires a nimble approach allowing easy access for investors while still protecting their personal information, he adds.
Although the COVID-19 outbreak has required BNV staff to work from home, progress will continue on a new platform and software designed to speed up transaction times, improve clearing services and link portfolio management systems and the back office with real-time data, Hernández says.
The digital identification products BNV plans to introduce in the second half of 2020 are the culmination of a process that began in the summer of 2019. Hernández says the BNV has been working with software developers, and he’s taken the lead in ensuring the offerings comply with financial rules and regulations.
The new platform and software facilitate investment instructions to buy or sell securities coming from brokerage houses that have a digital signature that validate the identity of the investor and the transaction, Hernández says.
The technology for digital signatures already exists, he adds. BNV wants to simplify it for the use by brokers and investors without hampering safeguards.
Visible and secure
While the BNV needs to offer its brokers and investors the fastest transaction processes practically possible, it also needs reporting transparency to regulatory agencies to show investors are not laundering money or financing illegal activities.
As BNV must report its activities to Costa Rica’s governing agencies, Hernández also needs to provide clear documentation when required.
“If this systems interaction is success, the financial companies have compliance according to the law, best standards and best market practices [embedded in the platform],” he says. “They also have processes that improve their work and resource and facilitates integration with others’ financial group companies.”
In concert with these efforts, Hernández oversees how securities are placed on the BNV for trade by preparing the contracts to list them either as primary or secondary products available for investment.
Internally, he’s the resource for advising the BNV board, CEO and internal officers on legal compliance as well as its contracts and agreements. Some of that work was set aside in March 2020 as COVID-19 altered how his country and company lives and works, he notes.
It’s been a lesson in how to run a stock exchange from home, Hernández says, and the BNV had several “circuit breaker” events to halt trading during the first weeks of pandemic—applied to three specific securities because of high variation in prices.
Hernández was part of the management team analyzing the scope of the pandemic and how BNV staff could work at home. The wisdom of the decision was not in doubt, and the fact the company had the measures in place to make it work has made a big difference.
For instance, internal security procedures were already strong enough to protect the BNV digital network no matter how it was accessed. All it took was a reminder from the IT staff on how to carry out the safety measures, he says.
“Right now, we are doing remote work and we are ready to continue doing it indefinitely,” Hernández says. Digital signatures allow contracts and documents to be circulated, approved and submitted to customers and government agencies when needed, and those agencies can also access BNV systems as required.
Still, working at home is an adjustment for Hernández, even if his children are more accustomed to it.
“Now that we’ve improved our internet connection, I work more hours than when I go to office,” he says.
Serving with knowledge
The long hours were something Hernández expected, but advocacy was his inspiration for a legal career.
“As a child, my attention was drawn to debate and to argue,” he says. “It gave me the impression that the laws were a profession where this was facilitated.”
Hernández earned his law degree from the Universidad de Costa Rica in 1991, and MBAs in finance from Universidad Interamericana in 2002 and in stock exchange and financial markets from the Instituto Europeo de Posgrado in 2016.
Early in his career, Hernández worked in government ministries, then shifted to the securities market national authority for several years before specializing in banking law and securities market law at a private firm. He joined the BNV in 2011.
Outside the office, and aside from rereading Cervantes, Hernández also enjoys listening to instrumental music and reading histories and novels.
Of course, all his time is spent outside the office these days but having an inside role in developing business in Costa Rica excites him no matter where he’s working from.
“We play such a large role in helping the country grow, and I enjoy how I can help change the way of doing things in the legal department and produce deliverables to our internal users and customers,” he says.
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