De la Torre, Augusto
Chief Economist for Latin America and the Caribbean Region, The World Bank
Author Name Variants
Fields of Specialization
Macroeconomics, Financial development
Chief Economist for Latin America and the Caribbean Region, The World Bank
Externally Hosted Work
Last updated January 31, 2023
Augusto de la Torre, a national of Ecuador, is the Chief Economist for Latin American and the Caribbean. Since joining the World Bank in 1997, he has held the positions of Senior Advisor in the Financial Systems Department and Senior Financial Sector Advisor, both in the Latin America and the Caribbean region. From 1993 to 1997, Mr. de la Torre was the head of the Central Bank of Ecuador, and in November 1996 was chosen by Euromoney Magazine as the year’s "Best Latin Central Banker." From 1986 to 1992 he worked at the International Monetary Fund, where, among other positions, he was the IMF’s Resident Representative in Venezuela (1991-1992). Mr. de la Torre has published extensively on a broad range of macroeconomic and financial development topics. He is a member of the Carnegie Network of Economic Reformers. He earned his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in Economics at the University of Notre Dame and holds a Bachelors degree in Philosophy from the Catholic University of Ecuador.
Publication Search Results
Now showing 1 - 10 of 19
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2008-06) de la Torre, Augusto ; Martínez Pería, María Soledad ; Schmukler, Sergio L.The "conventional wisdom" in academic and policy circles argues that, while large and foreign banks are generally not interested in serving SMEs, small and niche banks have an advantage in doing so because they can overcome SME opaqueness through relationship lending. This paper shows that there is a gap between this view and what banks actually do. Banks perceive SMEs as a core and strategic business and seem well positioned to expand their links with SMEs. The recent intensification of bank involvement with SMEs in various emerging markets documented in this paper is neither led by small or niche banks nor highly dependent on relationship lending. Rather, all types of banks are catering to SMEs and larger, multiple-service banks have in fact a comparative advantage in offering a wide range of products and services on a large scale, through the use of new technologies, business models, and risk management systems.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2007-08) de la Torre, Augusto ; Gozzi, Juan Carlos ; Schmukler, Sergio L.Interest in access to finance has increased significantly in recent years, as growing evidence suggests that lack of access to credit prevents lower-income households and small firms from financing high return investment projects, having an adverse effect on growth and poverty alleviation. This study describes some recent innovative experiences to broaden access to credit. These experiences are consistent with an emerging new view that recognizes a limited role for the public sector in financial markets, but contends that there might be room for well-designed, restricted interventions in collaboration with the private sector to foster financial development and broaden access. The authors illustrate this view with several recent experiences in Latin America and then discuss some open policy questions about the role of the public and private sectors in driving these financial innovations.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2009-10) de la Torre, Augusto ; Ize, AlainThis note questions two emerging views on ways to tackle systemic risk. As evidenced by the explosive growth of investment banks, which were regulated more lightly because they were assumed to be systemically less important, regulatory unevenness can trigger acutely destabilizing regulatory arbitrage. Hence, unless systemic footprints can be accurately measured and updated, something we think is unlikely, regulating differentially those institutions that are deemed to be the most systemically relevant looks like a perilous return to the past. Similarly, internalizing systemic liquidity risk by taxing maturity mismatches looks like a remnant of idiosyncratic thinking. Matching short liabilities with short assets can protect an individual intermediary's liquidity but at the expense of exacerbating systemic vulnerability.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2008-06) de la Torre, Augusto ; Martínez Pería, María Soledad ; Politi, María Mercedes ; Schmukler, Sergio L. ; Vanasco, VictoriaThis study describes the business and risk management practices that banks use to serve small and medium enterprises (SMEs). To do so, we use recently collected evidence from Argentina and Chile for a significant number of banks in each country, gathered through on-site meetings, a tabulated questionnaire, and a detailed data request. We find that banks are setting up separate departments to serve the segment, targeting many SMEs from all economic sectors and geographic regions. Banks use relationship managers to seek out new clients. Risk management and loan approval is separate from sales, mostly centralized, but not largely automated. Knowing the client is still crucial to minimize risks. Overall, the patterns we uncover suggest that banks are in the middle of an on-going learning process, by which they are developing the structure to deal with SMEs in a sustainable basis over the coming years.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2006-07) de la Torre, Augusto ; Gozzi, Juan Carlos ; Schmukler, Sergio L.This paper argues that the dominant policy paradigm on financial development is increasingly insufficient to address big emerging issues that are particularly relevant for financial systems in Latin America. This paradigm was shaped over the past decades by a fundamental shift in thinking toward market-based financial development and a complex process of financial crises interpretation. The result has been a richly textured policy paradigm focused on promoting financial stability and the convergence to international standards. It argues, however, that there is a growing dissonance between the current paradigm and the emerging issues, which is illustrated by discussing challenges in three areas: stock markets, small and medium enterprise loans, and defined-contribution pension funds. The paper concludes that the dominant policy paradigm is ill-suited to provide significant guidance in relation to the big emerging issues. It emphasizes the need to take a fresh look at the evidence, improve the diagnoses, revisit expectations, and revise the paradigm.
Publication(World Bank, 2012) de la Torre, Augusto ; Ize, Alain ; Schmukler, Sergio L.The financial systems of the Latin America and the Caribbean region (LAC) are at a crucial juncture. After a history of recurrent instability and crisis (a trademark of the region), they now seem well poised for rapid expansion. Since the last wave of financial crises that swept through the region in the late 1990s and early 2000s, financial systems in LAC have continued to gain in soundness, depth, and diversity. The size of banking systems has increased, albeit from a low base; local currency bond markets have greatly developed, both in volumes and in reach over the yield curve; stock markets have expanded; and derivative markets particularly currency derivatives have grown and multiplied. Institutional investors have become more important relative to banks, making the financial system more complex and diversified. Importantly, much progress has been made in financial inclusion, particularly through the expansion of payments, savings, and credit services to lower income households and microenterprises. As evidence of their new soundness and resiliency, financial systems in the region, except in some Caribbean countries, weathered the recent global financial crisis remarkably well. The progress in financial development in LAC no doubt reflects substantial improvements in the enabling environment, lower macroeconomic volatility, more independent and better-anchored currencies, increased financial liberalization, lower currency mismatches and foreign debt exposures, enhanced effectiveness of regulation and supervision, and notable improvements in the underlying market infrastructures (for example, trading, payments, custody, clearing, and settlement). This regional flagship report aims at providing such a stocktaking and forward looking assessment of the region's financial development. Rather than going into detail about sector-specific issues, the report focuses on the main architectural issues, overall perspectives, and interconnections. The value added of the report thus hinges on its holistic view of the development process, its broad coverage of the financial services industry (not just banking), its emphasis on benchmarking, its systemic perspective, and its explicit effort to incorporate the lessons from the recent global financial crisis.
Publication( 2011-01-01) de la Torre, Augusto ; Ize, AlainFinancial crises can happen for a variety of reasons: (a) nobody really understands what is going on (the collective cognition paradigm); (b) some understand better than others and take advantage of their knowledge (the asymmetric information paradigm); (c) everybody understands, but crises are a natural part of the financial landscape (the costly enforcement paradigm); or (d) everybody understands, yet no one acts because private and social interests do not coincide (the collective action paradigm). The four paradigms have different and often conflicting prudential policy implications. This paper proposes and discusses three sets of reforms that would give due weight to the insights from the collective action and collective cognition paradigms by redrawing the regulatory perimeter to internalize systemic risk without promoting dynamic regulatory arbitrage; introducing a truly systemic liquidity regulation that moves away from a purely idiosyncratic focus on maturity mismatches; and building up the supervisory function while avoiding the pitfalls of expanded official oversight.
Publication(Washington, DC: World Bank, 2008-12) de la Torre, Augusto ; Martínez Pería, María Soledad ; Schmukler, Sergio L.This paper studies the factors banks perceive as drivers and obstacles to financing small and medium enterprises (SMEs), focusing on the role of competition and the institutional framework. Using a survey of banks in Argentina and Chile, the paper shows that, despite alleged differences in the countries' environments regarding rules, regulations, and ease of doing business, SMEs have become a strategic segment for most banks in both countries. In particular, banks have begun to target SMEs due to the significant competition in the corporate and retail sectors. They perceive the SMEs market as highly profitable, large, and with good prospects. Moreover, banks are developing coping mechanisms to overcome the particular institutional obstacles present in each country and to compete for SMEs. Banks' interest in SMEs is not based on government programs, yet policy action might help reduce the cost of providing financing, especially long-term lending.
Publication( 2009-02-01) de la Torre, Augusto ; Ize, AlainThe Subprime crisis largely resulted from failures to internalize systemic risk evenly across financial intermediaries and recognize the implications of Knightian uncertainty and mood swings. A successful reform of prudential regulation will need to integrate more harmoniously the three paradigms of moral hazard, externalities, and uncertainty. This is a tall order because each paradigm leads to different and often inconsistent regulatory implications. Moreover, efforts to address the central problem under one paradigm can make the problems under the others worse. To avoid regulatory arbitrage and ensure that externalities are uniformly internalized, all prudentially regulated intermediaries should be subjected to the same capital adequacy requirements, and unregulated intermediaries should be financed only by regulated intermediaries. Reflecting the importance of uncertainty, the new regulatory architecture will also need to rely less on markets and more on "holistic" supervision, and incorporate countercyclical norms that can be adjusted in light of changing circumstances.
Publication( 2010-05-01) Birdsall, Nancy ; de la Torre, Augusto ; Caicedo, Felipe ValenciaThe authors analyze the Washington Consensus, which at its original formulation reflected views not only from Washington, but also from Latin America. Tracing the life of the Consensus from a Latin American perspective in terms of evolving economic development paradigms, they document the extensive implementation of Consensus-style reforms in the region as well as the mismatch between reformers expectations and actual outcomes, in terms of growth, poverty reduction, and inequality. They present an assessment of what went wrong with the Washington Consensus-style reform agenda, using a taxonomy of views that put the blame, alternatively, on (i) shortfalls in the implementation of reforms combined with impatience regarding their expected effects; (ii) fundamental flaws in either the design, sequencing, or basic premises of the reform agenda; and (iii) incompleteness of the agenda that left out crucial reform needs, such as volatility, technological innovation, institutional change and inequality.