The last movie she saw was Spider-Man: Far from Home. She is a Game of Thrones fan and her favourite character is Khaleesi. And though she may not control dragons or a large army, Gretchen Camacho-Mohammed is still formidable as the managing director of RBC Royal Bank TT and director of the Caribbean client advice centres. June marked a year since she was appointed and since then, her main focus continues to be the customers and the employees of the bank.
“In this role, I get a lot of suggestions and complaints and I use those conversations as opportunities to get better at what we do. When there are gaps, we look at where we fall down. We ask how do we close those gaps in our processes. And you then build a relationship with that person and that person is now your best advocate, turning from someone reaching out to me to complain, to reaching out to me and asking for my advice on our products, and what’s best for them.”
Camacho-Mohammed firmly believes that listening to her customers and employees will guide her and her team to continuously evolve the bank’s products and services. In her second role, she manages three contact centres, one in Chaguanas, the second in Aruba and the third in the Bahamas. “We have 127 associates or agents across the three locations, who basically handle all calls. This is all part of our digital strategy. Regardless of what they want to know or need to do, we are here to help to each caller and put them onto the right people, whether it be within the branch or our specialised teams, who are mobile, to provide the necessary support.”
With RBC championing the movement to digital banking, Camacho-Mohammed says people are constantly calling the advice centres rather than going into the branches, which is exactly what the bank wants. Even the nature of the calls have changed, because banking has changed. “Up until a year ago, people would call to check the balance on their account, or to see if their credit payment was deducted or how much is owed on a card. Now the conversations have changed to customers telling us that they are on the website trying to add a new payee for a bill and need some help. We walk them through the steps.”
Camacho-Mohammed’s multi-tasking skills also come to life at home. With two sons, ages eight and four, there’s football, swimming, chess and karate. But, she admits, it is impossible for her to do it alone. A few months shy of her 50th birthday, Camacho-Mohammed said this role came five years before she had planned but with the support of her husband, executive chef Khalid Mohammed, and her own belief in herself, she faced the opportunity head on. “When I told Khalid about the opportunity, he immediately told me to go for it. He said that I could do anything I put my mind to.”
That confidence and foundation is what keeps her sane in her personal life. “I have a great support system in Khalid and his parents. They are my lifeblood and they love to do it."
Of course, she says, Khalid works on a Saturday at the restaurant, so Sunday is the family day. “He has brunch at Chaud Cafe and he will pop in quickly and then Sundays we do family stuff because that’s the only day. We do simple things. Movies. Go for drives.” Camacho-Mohammed understands the value of time in her own life and then translates into how she looks at the customer’s experience with the bank and the overall ease of banking RBC provides.
For Camacho-Mohammed, RBC has become her second family and when it comes to major changes such as brand consolidation, she is hands on. She recently went over to Tobago as the Crown Point branch was being consolidated with Scarborough. “I really wanted to talk with each one and hear their thoughts. Each person has their own situation, their own family and it’s about having that conversation and maintaining respect and understanding that we have to work with you.”
She is also still very hands on when it comes to the clients and she still attends client meetings when she can. Because she has worked in most aspects of the bank’s eco-system, she can plug and play into anything that is thrown at her.
“When a client sits in front of you and they say they need $1 million because they want to put up a factory, you need to know what that means and how to do ratios. I was area VP for our branches and then out of that space went back to business banking and then to risk management. That’s where we send all our credits for adjudication, so I actually spent a year there understanding both sides. So, on one hand, I’ve been at the front, understanding sales and our clients, but then at the back, understanding the risk aspect of it, how things affect our ratios, assessing when a loan goes bad, and how do we provision for it while protecting our profits using our risk techniques.”
Camacho-Mohammed then became RBC’s regional operating officer which helped her understand the Central Bank's role and the regulatory landscape and compliance framework for the industry. She is also the treasurer of the Bankers’ Association (BATT). “So now, having a full understanding of banking, (I’m) sitting down in Central Bank meetings with the governor, sitting down in BATT meetings and contributing to making decisions, representing at all those forums such as meetings with the European Union. You just have to be ready for anything.”
So, with all her years of experience in banking, what does Camacho-Mohammed see for the future of banking in TT? “Customers can look forward to advances in the digital and technology space as we continue to evolve our platforms. As an example, we are going to be starting with our Roytrin investments, which is online. You are going to be able to start to get your full statements online, which we’ve made simpler, so that you don’t need to call or come into a branch." This, she said, can save customers time and money.
Going paperless is also the plan.
"For a paperless society, we have some way to go with that and we have to do it jointly with all the other banks. But it’s coming. RBC Royal Bank Aruba has no cheques. And our customers there were prepared for years in advance for it. Now they do their banking online.”
To get it done will require the public to buy in. “And it means working with the entire eco-system. The banks, Central Bank, and the insurance companies because it is going to benefit everybody.”
For Camacho-Mohammed, it is all about being innovative and in tune with the customers and employees. Sharing ideas is something the bank encourages. “ I conduct employee round tables where we get employees from across TT from any function, any branch, in finance, audit, legal or wherever they’re from. It is usually an hour and a half and it is very intimate with usually eight to ten people. Staff feel more comfortable to talk in a small group than in a huge town hall with 300 people. We ask them what are their ideas. What do we need to do differently as a bank? What are our customers saying they want?”
Often, these ideas are transformative. “Many of our employees are on the front line and they are live, hearing our customers. Let me give you an example. They would come to me and say that while digital mobile customers are saying that they like our app, there is, for example, a hairdresser who owns her own business, but she does not have a bank card for her business account. So, we then offered (a card) for small business … so they can put cheques into their account or withdraw cash without joining the line in the bank.”
With such a senior role at the local arm of an international bank, was there anything that kept Camacho-Mohammed up at night? “The part that scares me and that I never take my eye off of, is being on the cusp of fraud and protecting our clients. This is a business for these fraudsters. While we go above and beyond, as every bank should, in terms of cyber fraud, it is still scary.
Toronto teams help deal with the problem but awareness is also key to reducing the risk of fraud.
"For instance, with our employees, we do tests. We send them an email every now and again to see if they can identify if someone is phishing (a popular fraud where scammers try to get personal account information). If they click on the link, they fail and then they get an email saying that. If you get an email saying you’ve won £3 million in a Lotto draw, are you going to click on that? Are you going to send them your bank details? But the reality is there are clients who still do it. So that is one thing that we are on top of but we must be consistently cutting edge and two steps ahead.”
Camacho-Mohammed says if she wasn’t in this business, she would probably be working with her husband, helping to manage his restaurants (high-end restaurant Chaud, and its satellite, Chaud Café.) But, she admits, she truly loves banking, as challenging an industry as it may be.
“It’s discipline and it’s also a confidence thing. Failure is going to be in there but if you don’t step off that curb you may not ever get the opportunity.”