One of the most incredible benefits of having graduated from Thunderbird is the extensive network of alumni from all around the world. On multiple occasions, I have searched the school database and found Thunderbirds in some of the smallest countries on earth. Here in San Pedro Sula, I found Hector, an alum who graduated just a few years ago.
As Hector and I headed to Applebees for some typical American fare, we passed several banks with lines that reached as many as one hundred cars. I asked Hector why there were so many people waiting at the bank and he remarked that it was normal for a payday.
Most workers in Honduras get paid on the 15th and 30th of every month. As a result, everyone heads to the bank to deposit checks and take out money to pay bills. Although many companies offer Direct Deposit, a relatively small percentage of employees choose it. Latin America is still very much a cash culture. Hector told me that some of the Maquilas used to pay all of their employees in cash until the buses that would take them to/from the plants began to be robbed. To combat this, the Maquilas opened corporate bank accounts that were then subdivided to include each employee. Instead of check or cash, employees received a debit card. Initially, there was a lot of push back from the employees as they thought that the company was cheating them of their hard-earned money.
As Hector and I arrived at the mall, we noticed that the payday craze was exactly the same there. Lines haphazardly snaked around the various banks as people lost hour after hour in pointless lines. For me, this reinforced the fact that the developing world is full of opportunity. Imagine what could happen if a foreign bank entered the market with many of the efficiencies that are typical in developing countries. It would quickly revolutionize the whole banking system in Honduras.