Do you think that Trinidad & Tobago’s framework is open enough to attracting foreigners or is there need for reform?
We have a stable political environment; the government has invested substantial funds in the education system, which means we have a well-educated and skilled workforce; our infrastructural development is reasonably good; our telecommunications facilities are good; our road infrastructure is good. There are always things that you could do more of, but our basic infrastructure has been put in place. In addition to that, the Ministry of Trade has been doing a lot of work on double taxation agreements with different countries and that will promote a solid environment once trade starts, either for investors coming in who are looking to export, or for Trinidad and Tobago companies exporting to different parts of the world.
Focusing now on your sector, is the country’s banking industry regulated enough?
We have the Central Bank, which has responsibility for the financial institutions, and we have the Securities Exchange Commission, which regulates broker dealers, money market funds, mutual funds, etc. We have regulation that’s similar to the Canadian model – we’ve piggybacked on the best practices from different parts of the world. Our regulators interact with the entities within the financial sector regularly and we have strong relationships with them.
What is the bank’s core business?
Our retail and commercial segment touches the largest client base. We have in excess of twenty six branches in the country and more than one hundred ATMs, touching the widest possible customer base. In addition to retail, we have First Citizens Investment Services and First Citizens Brokerage and Advisory Services, which deal with investment banking and brokerage services with transactions on the stock exchange. We do a lot of capital market type transactions and have been working on the majority, if not all, of the public offering of shares which have been listed on the stock exchange for quite a few years. We have First Citizens Asset Management that has mutual fund offerings that we provide to our customers, and of course we have First Citizens Trustee Services as well, which provides trust functions for a number of customers for their pension funds and so on.
Are there any specific areas which you think you need to improve within the next few years?
Our focus on technology is the next point. We have always prided ourselves on being innovative in the technology space. Our online platforms are the most user friendly platforms that you will come across, it ranks with many of the offerings that you would see from an international bank as far as accessibility and ease of navigation. The added value of the online platform is ease of access to retail and commercial customers and to make their business operations more efficient as well: You no longer need to come into a branch during the banking hours, the online platform is available to you 24/7. Finally, like someone operating in an economically depressed environment, we focus on cost and expenses, ensuring that we make ourselves as operationally efficient as possible so that we can provide great customer service but control our expenses.
After more than 20 years’ experience, what would you say is your proudest professional achievement?
I think it would be the work that I’ve done within First Citizens in the last two years. In these two years, the bank has, within a tough economic environment, been able to grow from a bottom line perspective, in terms of products and services, and maintain an investment grade rating. I came to this institution after twenty one years with another financial institution because I saw a tremendous opportunity. The strength of First Citizens is unquestionable and our opportunity to contribute to the development of Trinidad & Tobago is something of which I’m proud.
Do you have one last message to send our readers?
Trinidad & Tobago is a stable economic environment that provides opportunities. We have a sound business proposition as a country and I would encourage any international investor to speak to First Citizens, we would be happy to talk to them about our products and services and to work with them on exploring business opportunities in Trinidad & Tobago.