BARBADOS - CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank continues to demonstrate its commitment to the region as it prepares for a future of banking in which the needs of its ever-growing and sophisticated clientele are increasingly met.
The bank has, over recent years, been concentrating on the continuous development and expansion of its Retail, Wealth and Business Banking Services through innovations and investment in its infrastructure, processes and staff.
In a wide-ranging interview recently, Mark St. Hill, the bank's Managing Director, Retail, Business and International Banking spoke about key improvements the bank was instituting as well as their benefits to the bank's customers.
Mr. St. Hill said that CIBC FirstCaribbean's business banking segment was recording encouraging growth with the increase in entrepreneurial activity around the region. He added that the bank had listened to what its business banking clients had been saying about challenges they have been experiencing with accessing capital and had analysed the types of barriers that had cropped up over the years to these customers qualifying for financing. These include the level of record keeping by some entrepreneurs and the quality of business plans presented. "Coming out of this we created a number of products and services such as the Bizline Visa Business Credit Card and the Merchant Services Overdraft and we've developed some tools and provided assistance in helping our clients present their applications for financing – in other words, we have positioned ourselves as being more of a financial advisor for our clients," Mr. St. Hill explained.
Upskilled to better advise clients
In order to achieve this, the bank's Business Banking Officers were exposed to a specially tailored business banking training module created by the Canadian Securities Institute. "We've up-skilled ourselves to (better) interpret the information received from clients when they complete the business planning guide we recently created - and by extension we are able to advise them better," the Managing Director, Retail, Business and International Banking noted.
With regard to Platinum Banking, Mr. St. Hill said that this offering, which was rebranded and re-launched, was also experiencing continued growth. "It's a Relationship Management offer for the busy professionals or executives and has been working tremendously well. In certain markets - including Barbados, The Cayman Islands and the Bahamas - it's driving over 50% of our sales. It's also growing in Antigua and other markets and we're about to launch it in Curacao, a market with a large number of professionals."
Facilitating clients' needs for credit
In the area of Retail Banking, the CIBC FirstCaribbean senior executive explained that through its regional network of Mortgage and Loan Centres, specialised staff were facilitating their clients' need for credit. "We know that the way we grow our businesses, increase our wealth, educate our families and improve our lifestyles is through access to credit. To meet this need we've developed an approach that is relationship-centred so that we're here for our clients when they need us," Mr. St. Hill explained. He added that a year after their roll out, the response to the Mortgage and Loan Centres was "very good" in key locations - especially Barbados and Antigua and in the Financial Year 2014 the bank had helped nearly 7,000 Retail Banking clients to "achieve their dreams" through access to credit to purchase land; build, buy or refurbish homes; educate themselves or their children; enjoy a family vacation; purchase a car; or grow their businesses.
With regard to the processes and technology supporting the bank's ability to facilitate its clients' credit needs, Mr. St. Hill noted that during the year a new risk management credit system was put in place. "We're starting to see improved results. One of the key benefits of this platform is that it will allow us to create more tailored solutions for our clients."
With a significant number of the bank's employees providing retail and business banking services, Mr. St. Hill noted that they are obviously key to the bank's commitment to deepen relationships with, and add value to, its clients. "We've seen good success and have surpassed year-on-year expectations in terms of convenience products – bank accounts, deposit accounts, internet banking sign ups, our e-channels, and our credit cards - because our employees are talking to our clients. Other initiatives to help that include special programmes like our new 'Talk to Me Tuesdays' where we've brought our staff from behind the counters into our lobbies and they would rub shoulders directly with our clients to talk with them and understand their needs. I applaud and thank our staff."
One of the more competitive banks
In the future, CIBC FirstCaribbean wants to see an increase in the number of staff become involved in direct sales and reach out proactively to clients. Based on its continuous improvements and expansion of Retail Banking services, the bank is confident that it will meet the evolving needs of current and potential clients. "We're one of the more competitive banks when it comes to to pricing and focusing on the major channels through which our clients' needs are met. We're emphasising the centrality of developing relationships with clients who use our key products and services," Mr. St. Hill said.
Further infrastructural expansion is taking place across the region. The bank has been looking at new locations in the region. In Jamaica a new branch model, designed to increase the number of clients, will be piloted in Santa Cruz, St. Elizabeth, this year before being rolled out to other locations. A new branch will also be commissioned in Montego Bay, also in Jamaica.
Future of banking – meeting needs of sophisticated client
Emphasizing the bank's commitment and continued investment in the region, Mr. St. Hill described the long-term vision. "The future of banking in the Caribbean is meeting the needs of an ever-more-sophisticated client through the channels by which they access our services. The majority of this new client demographic does not come into our banking halls on a regular basis, so the future involves creating an improved relationship management model through innovations such as our Business Banking and Platinum Banking services, Mortgage and Loan Centres, and call centres. At Warrens in Barbados for example, a number of our clients don't go past the ABMs into the Banking Hall – they transact all their business right there at the ABM or online, so we're designing our branches to be responsive to the needs of our clients.
Mr. St. Hill, who has over 25 years of experience with CIBC FirstCaribbean, concluded: "The continuous investment we are making is preparing us for the future of banking, so while we've invested in new infrastructure we've also de-commissioned old infrastructure because we have to take a commercial view of how we position ourselves. The vision is to have a model that is sustainable, and that will continue to please our clients and shareholders - that's where we're going."