Trinidadians are now at the helm of two major Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) entities in the region. Gretchen Camacho-Mohammed is managing director of RBC Royal Bank of TT (RBC Royal Bank) and Darryl White is chief executive officer of RBC Financial (Caribbean) Ltd (RBC Financial).
Having served as RBC Royal Bank's regional operating officer from 2016-2018 – before being appointed MD effective June 29 – Camacho-Mohammed is no stranger to many of the bank's clients.
Similarly, White served as MD from October 2013 until his CEO appointment – which became effective on July 1 – so he would be familiar to many of RBC's Caribbean clients.
RBC did however host a leadership introduction event at Hyatt Regency, Port of Spain last Thursday evening, where the two were formally introduced to a few dozen of the banks’ customers, complete with a chat hosted by Rob Johnston, RBC's head of Caribbean Banking.
Five other recently appointed RBC regional executives: Chris Ronald, regional vice president for high net worth clients and the newest member of the executive team; Roger Cogle, regional vice president for retail operations; Glenn Dormody, regional vice president, specialised sales force; and Scott Estabrooks, regional vice president, private banking.
As MD, Camacho-Mohammed has overall responsibility for sales performance and teams across TT and RBC’s client advice centres Caribbean-wide while White's new role includes the post of regional vice president, responsible for corporate and investment banking.
Being in charge of RBC Financial's operations in 17 territories means White now spends a lot of time travelling intra-regionally.
Smiling, he told Business Day, "People ask me, 'Where's your office?' and I often say it's on a plane or in the airport but thanks to technology, I'm happy to say that really and truly, work is borderless. You can serve people from anywhere. RBC Financial is the holding company that owns all the RBC subsidiaries across the Caribbean, including TT. It's a TT-domiciled entity, so yes, I am still present in TT, I still live in TT."
Dominica and St Maarten/St Martin were among the islands devastated by hurricanes in 2017 – Dominica by Hurricane Maria and St Maarten/St Martin by Hurricane Irma. Citing the saying, never let a good crisis go to waste, White said he's observed some regional opportunities in his travels over the past three months.
"Look at the devastation left behind by hurricanes last September. Dominica, for example, needs to rebuild infrastructure, buildings and the like. The reality is Caribbean infrastructure sometimes has to be rebuilt, particularly after a strong hurricane passes through.
"As a region, we therefore have to consider how do we put things in place so that islands likely to be impacted can minimise their risk. What are the solutions that we can get ahead of the game with? ...RBC Financial can play many roles in this.
"First of all, we are a repository of capital, there's a comfort that comes from that and it's in (times of crisis) that you have to rely on your bank to pull you through. The other thing is that we've always been responsible in terms of our fiduciary responsibility, our credit policies, making sure that clients are not over-extended when these times occur."
White shared an example of this, telling Business Day RBC gave moratoriums to a number of its business and personal clients in Dominica and St Maarten/St Martin after last year's hurricanes. During the moratorium, those clients were advised to use the money they would have spent on servicing their debts to instead begin their rebuilding efforts.
"Another role RBC Financial can play and has played, is in supporting governments with advice when they're going through the rebuilding effort – to make arrangements for capital financing. Look at places like the British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, St Maarten, all of which have, from time to time, been pledged support from larger countries.
"Sometimes you could bridge that support for them. So there are a number of things we could do and it's important for us to be there throughout that process. One hundred and ten years in the Caribbean says that we've been through a lot of hurricanes," White said.
Business Day spoke too with Camacho-Mohammed at the introduction event, where the new MD reiterated her commitment to winning back clients who've left RBC Royal Bank in recent years.
She had earlier declared during a casual interview in which she and White answered questions posed to them by Johnston, "It's no secret, we've been going through a lot of change and this level of transformational change, it's difficult for our clients, and for our employees too. What we've found is that some clients have maintained an account with us but they've explored other banking relationships, whereas in the past (they would have stayed) but that's a sign of the times and the change that's rapidly happening across all industries.
"Community banking – which was the RBC way before – I think people are gripped by that and I feel that we can get some of that back (while) encouraging our clients to conduct simple banking transactions online. We're here for you when you need advice, someone to help you find financial solutions for your needs. It's about helping our clients along the journey."
Camacho-Mohammed's love of her job was quite apparent during the interview, something which she reinforced while sharing a story about how excited she often is on first reaching the office each morning.
"I love coming to work. When I get up on a morning, it's about what difference am I going to make today? When I get into the office, staff sometimes look at me and they say, 'Gretchen, do you drink five cups of coffee before you come in here?!'"
Laughing as she recalled being teased about being so energetic, Camacho-Mohammed then told Business Day, "I love what I do, I'm passionate about people, clients and I want that to be everybody – I want all our employees to understand that and live it too."
The MD credited her ability to excel at work while juggling the role of mother to two boys to the support of her family and husband Khalid Mohammed – chef and owner of Chaud restaurant in St Ann's, Port of Spain.
"Khalid is an amazing husband, amazing chef. I cannot do this without his support, without my family's support because I have a three-year-old and a seven-year-old, both boys. So my life is hectic and the balance and the sanity I find is because of that amazing support of my husband and family,"