PERU BANKS STIR INTEREST IN LOANS

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LIMA-Two Peruvian banks are hawking easy loans in hopes of overcoming consumer mistrust.

Battling a torpid financial system and a public shell-shocked by bank closings, Banco Solventa and Banco del Trabajo aim to revive consumer confidence with simple loans that feature a premium on service-bank representatives even meet clients in their offices or homes.

With only a pay stub, a short application and a guarantor, the banks will loan amounts equivalent to several months' salary to middle-class Peruvians. Despite interest rates of up to 100%, business is expected to be brisk in a country where inflation topped 7,000% only five years ago and interest rates hit up to 160% on credit purchases.

The goal is to attract consumers suspicious of savings accounts with loans and then sell them on other services. Peruvians remember only too well the lesson of the Latin Center of Business Advisory, a savings cooperative that paid 25% interest based on a pyramid system of deposits. When the scheme collapsed in 1993, tens of thousands of Peruvians lost their life savings.

Banco Solventa and Banco del Trabajo are pushing loans without asking individuals to trust the bank with a deposit-not yet. Banco Solventa is orchestrating a high-profile image campaign, while Banco del Trabajo is hitting the streets and dispensing with the formalities to offer fast cash.

Solventa is owned by the same owners of Financiera Atlas in Chile, where banks focusing on consumer credit have a 20-year track record. A $1 million print, radio and TV image campaign developed by Publicitas Asociados emphasizes the bank's "international" ownership, a code-word for solid in Peru.

Banco del Trabajo cuts straight to the chase. "Flash-Banco del Trabajo loans you money now," read fliers and newspaper inserts. Intercom/ DDB Needham handles.

Owned by the shareholders of Chile's Financiera Condell, Banco del Trabajo set up shop in December, two months earlier than Solventa. The bank introduced the aggressive print and flier campaign immediately. Its ad budget is half that of Solventa, about $600,000.

The bank's 300 sales representatives go to the job sites, marketing their product to clerks, secretaries and blue-collar workers.

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