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Tuesday 22 October 2019
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RBC, on the digital road

RBC on Park Street, Port of Spain.
RBC on Park Street, Port of Spain.

SHIRVAN WILLIAMS

ROYAL Bank of Canada (RBC) TT conducted another downsizing effort last month and offered voluntary separation programme (VSEP) packages to eligible employees of their service delivery team. The move came as RBC continues its push towards digital banking.

The main focus of digital banking is to move all traditional banking facilities such as deposits, withdrawals, and transfers from a physical space to online. It also includes the online management of both checking and savings accounts.

A RBC graphic shows the features of banking from a smart phone.

Since 2015, RBC has been trying to move toward this type of banking. In Canada at least 40 branches have already been closed and it is estimated that over the next five years about 400 to 500 more employees could be affected by the changes.

The premise of digital banking is that it offers a much more convenient way to do banking. There are no long lines to contend with and time is not wasted getting to the bank to conduct transactions.


In this June 27, 2018 file photo, retired judge Anthony Lucky looks on during a demonstration of digital banking on a touch screen by RBC's Andromida Massiah-Boochoon during the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the Marabella branch.

However, even in the US, digital banking doesn’t appear to have made too many new converts. According to a recent study from Cornerstone Advisers with about 2,500 US citizens, just about three per cent of millennials have digital banking accounts, while 1.5 per cent of generation Xers and just 0.8 per cent of baby boomers are currently using digital banking accounts. The vast majority said they preferred traditional banking spaces.

Several banks in this country now offer online services and are trying to move towards some form of digital banking but RBC seems committed to offering a fully digitised bank account.

According to Gretchen Camacho-Mohammed, managing director of RBC TT, the aim is to remain competitive while ensuring that clients remain happy with 24-hour service.

Gretchen Camacho-Mohammed, RBC TT managing director.

“Our industry, like others, is changing rapidly. Our clients are managing their banking needs differently and their needs and expectations continue to evolve. At the same time, the competitive landscape is changing and the traditional banking services are being challenged and changed by technological innovations and digitisation,” she said.

Camacho Mohammed believes that banking habits around the world are changing and that RBC is also trying to be innovators in the digital space. This shift in banking, she said, comes with many advantages for the customer and RBC wants to extend that to its customers as well.

“The reality is our clients’ banking habits are changing. Thanks to new technologies more services are available digitally, online, and at our ATMs. Many of the transactions clients perform in-branch are available 24/7 with our digital platform and our mobile apps and quite often those transactions can be performed without paying the service charges clients would pay in the branches.”

In this July 1, 2017 file photo, RBC Siparia branch manager, Chrysse Bhagwandin (second from left) presents a token to customer Harrilal Bickaroo, 79, as retail banking associate, Anita Bajnath, shares the special moment for seniors day. RBC is moving away from direct banking, to digital platforms, which in the long run will lead to fewer branches.

She said that clients now have access to both digital and mobile platforms which should translate into them spending less time waiting in lines at branches and “more time doing the things they love.”

To accomplish all the advantages of digital banking, there will continue to be changes at the bank.

“RBC seeks innovation both internally and externally to evaluate and realign our resources and the skills and experience of our team members, to be the leader in the financial services digital ecosystem of the future. Change will impact our business, employees, solutions and services as we focus on new ways of meeting the needs and expectations of our clients.”

She adds, though, that not all services can be offered digitally and for more complex transactions a physical bank is needed, but this may change in the near future as RBC is trying to make banking even more accessible.

“When clients have more complex financial needs, like buying a home or purchasing a car, they can visit their branch or they can call our Advice Centre to get in touch with an RBC representative who will meet with them at a time and place that suits their needs whether it’s at the realtor’s office, at the auto dealership, or at the kitchen table. We’re investing more into these areas so we can focus on bringing the bank to our clients, rather than the other way around.”


In this June 27, 2018 file photo, RBC Marabella manager Shameen Mohammed, (left to right) San Fernando Mayor Junia Regrello and Pointe-a-Pierre MP David Lee share a joke during the opening of the branch, featuring touch-screen digital banking.

While she understands that there might always be a need for physical branches, she believes that more clients are changing the way they go about banking. She highlighted that the competitive landscape is changing and traditional banking services are now being challenged which inevitably will bring about changes through technological innovations and digitisation.

She said as the bank continues the journey to transformation and innovation in the Caribbean and around the world, it will continue to find the best banking solutions for clients, which will result in an evolution of the physical network.

“At the heart of all of this transformation, we are proud of the fact that our client relationships are still personal and robust. Clients can choose where and how to work with us at the ATM, with an app, online, with an Advice Centre associate, a mobile adviser or a relationship manager. Access is no longer limited by physical location or branch availability.”

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