ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT: Edith Aviles de Kostes
Edith Aviles de Kostes WG95 offers big-picture perspectives on Latin American business. She recently earned the title of head of corporate and institutional banking (CIB) for BNP Paribas in Hispanic Latin America (on top of her existing role as Mexico country head). Previously, she served the bank as a New York- and London-based managing director. We spoke with her about the business climate locally, as well as her takeaways from the global financial crises of recent years.
WHARTON MAGAZINE: What are your takeaways from the experience of banking through both the global financial meltdown and then the Eurozone crisis?
EDITH AVILES DE KOSTES: Diversification works, and having a long-term view is essential.
WM: What continues to attract you to finance?
AVILES DE KOSTES: Over the past 25 years of my banking career, I have never been bored. Finance is an ever-evolving industry, and … I have been fortunate in my career to be in a position to constantly learn new things, such as new types of transactions, different business cultures and working with colleagues from all over the world.
WM: What’s the business climate like in Mexico and across Latin America?
AVILES DE KOSTES: Many emerging markets are suffering from a slowdown in their economic growth and currency depreciation. Mexico and the rest of the Latin American countries have experienced these trends to differing degrees. Mexico’s export sector is mostly manufacturing goods for the U.S. market, and thus its growth is closely tied to the U.S. economy, which is doing well today. Generally speaking, the rest of Latin America is more dependent on exports of natural resources, particularly to China. Therefore, many Latin American economies are being hit hard by declining demand for their exports and lower commodity prices. …
However, I believe the region is still attractive for companies and investors. For example, Mexico has had economic stability for a couple of decades and is now implementing key structural reforms that should underpin growth and provide investment opportunities in many sectors.
WM: In your newest role as CIB regional head, what are your priorities?
AVILES DE KOSTES: My first priority is to create a regional strategy. In the past, each Latin American country was managed independently. While each country is different culturally and economically, there is much that can be achieved by working as a region since Latin American companies have expanded outside their home countries to become regional and global players.
WM: What’s your favorite Wharton memory?
AVILES DE KOSTES: Our class trip to Hong Kong and China in 1995. Being part of a group of young Wharton students visiting new Chinese manufacturing facilities and interacting with local authorities was an exciting experience. We learned so much! Looking back, it makes me appreciate how much a country can change in a relatively short period of time.