Luis Felipe Castellanos

CEO, Interbank

Leading a team that shares a clear vision and purpose while making a positive impact on the lives of millions of people in Perú—that is the highlight of what I do.

By Adam Sylvain

Luis Felipe Castellanos T’98 was just 40 years old when he became CEO of Interbank, one of Perú’s leading financial institutions. Since assuming the role in 2011, he has led the firm through a successful IPO in the NYSE and earned Interbank consistent recognition as one of the nation’s best places to work.

Despite the undeniable success he has achieved, Castellanos admits he initially felt overwhelmed by the responsibility the role would entail.  

“I was scared when I was first offered the position because I understood it was a big job,” says Castellanos. “But I also recognized that leadership is a choice and one that you must commit to entirely. Once I made the decision, I was able to move forward confidently knowing that I had the education and training that I needed to succeed.”

For Castellanos, that education began at Universidad del Pacífico in Lima where he earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1992. Graduating during a tumultuous period in Perú’s history—marked by 7,000 percent inflation, a sharp decline in per capita GDP, as well as increased violence and social unrest—Castellanos considered himself fortunate to land a job with the Minera Yanacocha S.A. mining company, where he served as chief treasury officer.

He had always aspired to further his education abroad and after three years with Minera Yanacocha S.A., Castellanos decided to pursue his MBA in the United States. Tuck’s rural confines were a welcome departure from the metropolitan bustle he was leaving behind in Lima. 

“I knew I didn’t want to go to a big city,” he says. “I was getting married, and my wife and I were looking for a quieter place where we would be comfortable. As I went through the interview process, I knew it had to be Tuck.”

By his count, Castellanos was just the fourth native Peruvian ever to enroll when he arrived on campus in 1996. Many have since followed in his footsteps, including his younger brother Rafael Castellanos T’09. In addition to the bucolic environment, Castellanos was also drawn by the academic rigor and broad, general management curriculum. Setting a solid foundation in his first year, he took the opportunity in year two to focus more intently on finance, beginning with a summer internship at Bank of Boston in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

He began his Wall Street career at Salomon Brothers, gaining experience in the various aspects of investment banking, from M&A to equity and fixed income. Following the firm’s merger with Citicorp, Castellanos became Director of the Latin America investment banking division at Citigroup Global Markets where he worked on deals with governments and major corporations in the region. 

The frequent deal-making was one sign of the recovery underway in Perú, which had stabilized in the 10 years since he left for Tuck. Castellanos felt a growing desire to return and contribute to that progress.

“We never intended to be away as long as we were,” he says. “I knew it was time to return and give something back to our country.”

That opportunity came shortly after he met Carlos Rodríguez-Pastor T’88 in New York City. Rodríguez-Pastor was the president of Interbank at the time and soon offered Castellanos a role managing the company’s mutual fund business. After several years with his head down in corporate finance, the position presented Castellanos with a crash course in management.

The transition was daunting, but he benefitted from leadership at Interbank which was both challenging and supportive.

“I remember receiving the message early on, ‘We believe in you and what you bring, but there’s still a lot you need to learn,” he says. “Rather than seeing me as a sponge to squeeze everything out of, they were willing to pour into me so that ultimately I could give more.”

Within two years, Castellanos was promoted to head of mortgages and real estate and one year later became vice president of retail banking, an increasingly important part of Interbank’s business. They were one of the first financial institutions in Perú to offer digital banking and today more than 70 percent of customers interact with the bank solely through digital platforms. Interbank also operates more than 150 branches and 1,500 ATMs and employs 5,000 correspondent agents throughout the country. 

Five years after joining Interbank, he was named CEO. While it was a fast rise, Castellanos credits the organization for putting him in positions where he could prove himself as a leader. In the results-driven world of business, Castellanos believes integrity and trust are paramount. 

“If you don’t possess integrity and reflect your organization’s values in both your words and actions, you won’t be able to build anything sustainable,” he says. 

Castellanos says a turning point in his leadership journey came when he realized he did not need to possess all the answers. More important was building a team of people smarter and more talented than he could ever be on his own. 

As business trends and technology constantly evolve, maintaining a keen focus on people will always be critical.

“If the pandemic taught us anything, it is that we need real human interaction,” says Castellanos. “And we need leadership that is genuine and personal.” 

On Continuous Learning
“The world changes fast. You have to always be on the lookout for what’s next. This means sharpening technical skills, but also becoming very human.”  

On Dreaming Big
“Dream big. Never let an opportunity pass. If you have the skills, the training, and the hunger to do things that change the world, go after those things.” 

On Making a Difference
“Leading a team that shares a clear vision and purpose while making a positive impact on the lives of millions of people in Perú—that is the highlight of what I do.”

This story appeared in print in the winter 2024 issue of Tuck Today magazine. 

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