The headquarters of Peru's Interbank are hard to miss. While the building is not the tallest in the capital, Lima, it is the most entertaining on the city's otherwise drab main drag. A slight tilt has earned it the nickname the "Leaning Power of Lima," and multicolored lights ripple along the faĆ§ade as night falls, providing eye candy for commuters stuck in rush-hour traffic.
What's going on inside the building is also attracting attention, but much further afield. Interbank, like other local companies, is being pursued by Peruvian professionals working abroad who are looking for a way to come home. And their timing is good. Except during a few months this year, Peru's economy has expanded throughout the decade. The economy grew 10% last year, and Peru is one of the few countries in the region forecast to expand this year. Its banks are sound because of strong regulations and a rainy-day fund the government collected in the boom years. "There are Peruvians abroad who never thought about returning but who are now interested. There is certainly a trend that is growing more noticeable," says Diana Rake, herself a returnee, who is manager of the Peruvian branch of Downing Teal, a professional recruiting agency.
Although the country still has a long way to go to defeat poverty, Peru is experiencing the longest period of economic stability in its modern history. In one of many firsts, the country is now exporting more goods (around $27 billion worth), and it has more in foreign reserves ($32 billion at the end of July) than it owes in foreign debt.
Miguel Uccelli, head of Interbank's credit-card division, says Peru is not the country he knew when he got his degree in 1990. Inflation was 7,694%. "All businesses could do was survive. This is behind us now, and Peru has so much room to grow that there are opportunities in every sector," says Uccelli, 38, who returned with his wife and three kids mid-decade.
Uccelli's subsector of the financial system shows just how much potential exists. The nation's credit-card portfolio grew more than 30% in 2008 but still is worth only around $3 billion. In fact, all loans held by Peru's 15 banks--around $30 billion worth--amount to less than the assets of the largest bank, Santander, in neighboring country and eternal rival Chile.
The same thing is seen across the economic board, which explains in part the rapid expansion of the other components of Interbank's parent company, IFH Peru. It owns a supermarket chain, a department store and movie theaters, which anchor its shopping-mall projects. IFH operates five malls and will double that number in the coming year. It continues to build in Lima, but the real growth has come from stores built in provincial capitals. Last year the group's sales totaled $1.5 billion. Its profit this year could hit $175 million.