Panama is an international banking center and this area continues to be one of the most
dynamic parts of the economy. As of December 2011, Panama's 93 banks reported total
assets of US$73 billion, a 3 percent increase over 2010. In 2011, approximately 9 percent of
the total credit portfolio represented loans to the public sector. Loans to the private sector
in Panama reached US20 billion, or 96 percent of total credit. The three largest loan sectors
were trade and commerce, mortgages, and consumer lending (79 percent of total credit to
the private sector).
Panama uses the US dollar as its legal tender, which has contributed to historically low
inflation for Latin America. Credit is widely available at relatively low rates for Panamanian
businesses and individuals purchasing such large ticket items as houses and cars.
The Government of Panama allows three classes of operations. General License banks
operate full service banks in Panama and compete for domestic deposits and loans.
International License ("Offshore") banks can only accept deposits from persons or
organizations located overseas. Representative Offices can only perform representational
activities. There are also two state-owned deposit-taking institutions. Foreign and
Panamanian banks compete on equal terms. Banks are members of the Panamanian Banking
Association (Panamanian and Foreign Banks) and are licensed and regulated by the Banking
Supervisory Authority (Superintendencia de Bancos). Panama’s banking system does not have
a deposit insurance scheme.
Sub-Sector Best Prospects
Best opportunities are in the following sectors: trade and commerce, mortgages and
Although the competition in the banking sector has increased in recent years, there is great
potential in several areas such as banking consultant services, investment banking, asset
management and banking correspondence services in the U.S.