The expansion of the so-called 'banking correspondents', has become an important bet of financial institutions to reach more Mexicans. It is also a strategy that goes hand in hand with the program to boost the financial sector proposed by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO). The plan of the president of Mexico seeks that, from the age of 15, young people can open bank accounts; and has the challenge of making just over 109 million transactions a year through social programs, such as support for the elderly and the disabled.

Since 2009, the correspondents managed to take financial offers -such as payment of services, credit, withdrawals, and deposits on account- to 800 municipalities where they do not operate bank branches, and there are still 714 towns without the presence of banking institutions or correspondent banks, according to the CNBV.

A decade after its implementation, in Mexico there are more than 48 thousand modules of banking correspondents, where Oxxo is the main player with 36.6 percent of the total number of branches, followed by the retail store network Yastás de Compartamos with 10.3 percent, Walmart with 5 percent, while the remaining 49 percent is distributed among 7 Eleven, Farmacias Guadalajara, Elektra, and Chedraui, among others. Recently, the Commission recommended that the network of correspondents can take advantage of the opening of accounts, and even credits.

"It would be necessary to allow correspondents to have access to the opening of accounts, and they can be used in carrying out social programs because for some banks it is no business to go to establish a branch in a municipality in which two people require services. financial while for the correspondents it is an extra operation of their offer, "said Jorge Sánchez Tello, director of applied research at the foundation of financial studies at ITAM.

Oxxo was integrated as a banking correspondent in 2011, when it had 9,561 units, while in 2018 it ended with 17,724 stores, a growth of 85.3 percent. With this, it far surpassed BBVA Bancomer, which in 2011 operated 811 branches, and in 2018 it ended with 1,833, an increase of only 1.2 percent. Currently, four of every 5 pesos collected in Oxxo have to do with financial services, which puts pressure on its operating costs, said Eduardo Padilla, CEO of FEMSA, owner of the convenience store chain.

In the fourth quarter of 2018, Oxxo reported an increase of 22.7 percent in operating expenses, while its total revenues increased 11 percent. Currently, the commissions of banking correspondents are around 15 pesos, a level that could encourage the growth of clients.

"The services provide them with the commission, and they will have to adjust it as necessary to generate a balance point on the costs of operating it, what is important for them is the consumption of the other products and that the service is an added value", commented Francisco Javier Orozco, a business professor at Tec de Monterrey.

For his part, Jesús Arturo Velázquez Díaz, deputy director of Investor Relations at Chedraui, indicated that being correspondents does not represent an operating cost since it is a service based on technology. He added that being a provider of social programs (of AMLO) would be a complementary service to the work they already do as correspondents.

Deposits, its main operation

Between 2013 and 2018, the number of transactions carried out by correspondents grew 88 percent, from 457 thousand to 744 thousand transactions per 10 thousand adults. Last year, the transaction most used by consumers in the correspondents was deposited with 66 percent, followed by others, such as payment of checks, services, operations in dollars and balance inquiries, with 19 percent; while the payment of credits and withdrawal of cash meant 9 and 6 percent, respectively. Orozco explained that deposits lead operations because in Mexicans there is a lack of culture in the use of banking or electronic transfer.