By SASHA HARRINANAN
Scotiabank TT's new managing director (MD) Stephen Bagnarol says we're living in a global society where digital technology not only makes our daily lives easier, it helps bring us together.
Bagnarol – who officially took over from Anya Schnoor on November 1 last year – therefore intends to make the bank "best in class" globally.
"Scotiabank has made significant investments in digital banking and digital technology. In TT we have made a big investment in launching our first, TT's first digital branch – our Price Plaza, Chaguanas branch...Our customers are consistently looking for more and more flexibility, more and more ease of use in dealing with the bank and doing their day-to-day transactions...We say we're really a tech company in the banking sector."
"To make that all happen, you need to be really focused on your people. The best investment you can make is in people. I've been very impressed by the calibre, commitment, passion of the team and the people I've met so far here in TT. That's going to continue to be a big focus (under my tenure). When you put that all together and going back to this idea of being best in class, we want Scotiabank TT to be best in class globally."
Bagnarol sees the potential for this on a national scale too.
"I don't just want best in class for Scotiabank TT. I want that for all of TT. (Such as) working with our customers, who are best in class globally. Working with different parts of the economy that are looking to be best in class globally. I think this is something that really should be aspired to. It's not about trying to compare within the region. We're living in a global society and digital is bringing everybody closer. Think best in class globally."
Bagnarol was speaking with reporters yesterday at the bank's head office on Park and Richmond Streets, Port of Spain, in his first interview since becoming senior vice-president and head of Scotiabank's Caribbean South and East operations.
Asked how technology has changed the bank's operations, the MD argued that it's more that Scotiabank's customers have embraced digital. As such and as part of its values of respect, integrity, passion and accountability, the bank has made significant investments in digital.
"The idea of a digital branch is actually about (improving) our interaction with customers, not about taking people away from the branch. We want to do is be able to sit down with you and talk with you, understand your needs, so we can help you become better off. You can't do that if don't have dialogue and discussion, and that's what the new digital branch does – it creates an environment, a platform, where it's more about sitting down and talking to you, and advice."
Business Day asked about the cost of transforming the Price Plaza branch. While Bagnarol declined to provide a specific sum, he did say "it's a significant investment". One that is in keeping with Scotiabank's commitment to becoming the number one digital bank in the world.
"We are investing very heavily in digital. For example, at the global level, Scotiabank has opened five digital factories – in Canada, Colombia, Mexico, Peru and Chile. These digital factories are really incubators – we partner up with fintechs (financial technology companies)."
The Price Plaza, Chaguanas branch was chosen, he said, because of its good growth market and because it has a very diverse customer base – from corporate to commercial, mid-market to small business and retail customers.
How soon the bank opens other digital branches in TT depends on the response of customers to this one in central Trinidad.
"It's a very big investment, so we want to see how this one progresses, but the idea is to (open more) digital branches because the future of banking is more about moving away from day-to-day transactions in the branch to using the different digital channels...and having the branches be more about discussions and advice."
Asked for his assessment of the local economy and what the future might hold, Bagnarol said having attended the TT Energy Chamber's 2018 Energy Conference at Hyatt Regency, Port of Spain last week, he has a positive take on things.
"I was actually very pleasantly surprised by the optimism. Discussions about investments and the different companies looking to invest in TT. (There) was such a positive outlook for the country from the business community. Another thing I got out of the energy conference is that TT has the opportunity to really be best in class, globally, with the oil and gas industry. (So) I'm actually very optimistic about where things are heading for TT."
Asked to expand on what makes him optimistic, Bagnarol replied, "You're seeing positive trends now in commodity prices and that has definitely impacted some of the major exploration and producers of oil and gas."
"Not only that, even just in general (conversation) at the conference, people told me that last year and the year before, the mood was very different. I think everybody who I met at the conference was very positive on TT and the oil and gas industry here."