Mexico ponders how to get banks to ease up on high fees

International banks in Mexico typically earn about 1/3 of local revenue from fees and commissions

Tatiana Clouthier has risen from disgruntled bank customer to powerful Mexican legislator. Photo: Leonardo Alvarez / Getty
Tatiana Clouthier has risen from disgruntled bank customer to powerful Mexican legislator. Photo: Leonardo Alvarez / Getty

When Tatiana Clouthier put the peso equivalent of about US$80 in a Banorte savings account for her 10-year-old daughter Maria, the entire amount was eaten up by bank fees in a few months.

The fees were for “I do not even know what,” said the mother.

That was a decade ago. Today, Clouthier is among the most powerful lawmakers in President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s party, and she hasn’t forgotten that incident.

In fact, as deputy chief of the lower house, she’s backing a campaign that’s spreading jitters through financial markets: to make the banks charge less.

High fees are painful for consumers, but their flip-side is less level of lending to households and businesses — the kind that finances growth.

International banks in Mexico typically earn about one-third of local revenue from fees and commissions, according to financial consumer-protection agency Condusef,

Condusef found HSBC charges Mexico’s highest commissions for mortgage appraisals, though it reportedly scrapped them altogether in the U.K.

BBVA Bancomer charges clients to print transactions at their own ATMs, where there is no such fee listed in Spain. At Banorte, where Clouthier’s savings for their daughter got eaten up, can charge customers for the accounts it markets for children when they were queried transactions that were accurately posted.

Plans for legislation triggered a market slump in November. Many analysts say doing it by decree could backfire, Bloomberg reports.

Banks could shutter branches in response and raise credit-card rates to cover losses, says Marta Bastoni at Bloomberg Intelligence.

Clouthier says she’s now leaning toward a fix via bank regulators rather than Congress.

Source: Bloomberg

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