Chile Day 2012 in London

First row (from left to right): Lucía Santa Cruz, Horst Paulmann, Patricio Walker, Alberto Etchegaray, Ignacio Álvarez, Jaime de la Barra, Guillermo Tagle, Diego Peralta, André Esteves and Fernando Meza.

Second row (from left to right): Ignacio Briones, David Gallagher, Axel Christensen, Javier Macaya, Alfredo Ergas, Felipe Larraín, Hugh Swire, Gustavo Acosta, Solange Berstein, Fernando Coloma, Raphael Bergoeing and Jorge Errázuriz.

The annual Chile Day event took place on September 11-12 in the City of London for the second consecutive year. The consensus among the more than 400 participants, of which more than half held non-Chilean passports, was that the outcome was very positive, surpassing the achievements of prior versions.

What is Chile Day all about? InBest Chile, the non-profit which is responsible for its organization with the Chilean Finance Ministry and several public and private actors, has identified two main goals for this event.

The first is to promote Chile abroad as an attractive target for the international financial community to invest in securities issued by Chilean companies.

The second is to showcase Chile as an appealing platform to develop financial services and related activities with a regional scope, further strengthening the links between Santiago and global financial centers such as New York and London (and hopefully more cities in future Chile Day events).

The two-day event traditionally begins with a highly anticipated keynote address by Chilean Finance Minister Felipe Larraín, which is usually a message aimed at developing Chile’s capital markets with a special focus on foreign investors. This year was no exception as Minister Larrain announced measures to make local fixed income investments more attractive.

The opening ceremony was once again held at the London Stock Exchange and over the next two days Chilean companies held dozens of one-on-one meetings with interested investors. There was also a panel discussion where the public was able to interact with the heads of Chile’s financial and tax regulatory agencies.

This year’s agenda, however, also included a number of changes to the format and content. The first day included a panel that discussed the recent social unrest in Chile spearheaded by the local student movement. Moderated by the Americas Editor for The Economist, Michael Reid (interviewed in the July 2012 issue of bUSiness CHILE), the panel included the distinguished Chilean historian Lucía Santa Cruz and the president of Asset Chile, David Gallagher, as well as Minister Larraín’s senior advisor, Ignacio Briones.

A great part of the discussion revolved around whether the social unrest was a sign of growing pains or of a tired economic model. Several British participants would later comment that only a country with solid macroeconomic figures and sound institutions could afford the luxury to discuss such issues in this type of setting. If anything, they said it was a clear sign of the maturity of Chilean society, which appears willing to air uncomfortable matters rather than sweeping them under the rug.

Another very interesting panel focused on Chile’s current and potential attractiveness as a regional financial hub. This included the heads of three regional financial institutions (André Esteves, CEO of Brazil’s BTG Pactual; David Bojanini, chairman of Colombia’s Grupo Sura; and Walter Bayly, CEO of Banco de Crédito de Perú) which have recently expanded into Chile through acquisitions or mergers with local players. This was a fascinating opportunity to hear their views and the main message was that if Chile would like to assume such a leadership role, it has to continue to be at the forefront of reforms to facilitate the entry of foreign investors into the region.

On September 12, Chile Day concluded with a seminar on corporate governance held at the headquarters of the UK’s Institute of Directors. The discussion was very timely considering recent events in Chile including the objections raised by minority shareholders to a capital increase proposed by Enersis, the Latin American electricity holding company controlled by Spanish firm Endesa.

In addition to a thought-provoking panel discussion about the role of directors that included both Chilean and foreign participants, the head of Chile’s Securities and Insurance Superintendency (SVS), Fernando Coloma, addressed the audience on norms to enhance corporate governance in Chile as well as the need to increase the space for self-regulation.

Following Minister Larraín’s concluding remarks on another successful Chile Day there was already discussion about the venue for next year’s event. The most likely candidates for Chile Day 2013 are the Asian financial centers Hong King or Singapore.

After 48 hours devoted to presenting Chile to the financial community established in London, the main conclusion was the importance of establishing a public-private partnership to achieve the goal of transforming Santiago into Latin America’s financial hub. However, this endeavor will require more than two days a year of discussion and promotion. In the future, Chile Day might actually be held in Chile… Stay tuned.

Axel Christensen is Managing Director of BlackRock for South America ex Brazil. He is also a board member of InBest Chile, organizer of the Chile Day events, as well as a member of the Chilean Finance Ministry’s Council on Capital Markets Reform.