Top-tier global banks like Scotiabank have a presence in multiple markets, and as large employers, they can also write their own ticket when it comes to site selection. Scotiabank chose Trinidad & Tobago as the location for their Caribbean regional operations and processing center. As a major employer with hundreds of banking professionals on premises, Scotiabank needed to select a site that could provide both the quantity and quality of human talent to ensure that their center would be a success.
On top of the human factor, the business climate and government willingness to provide a stable, friendly operating environment are prerequisites. Finance TnT’s Loren Moss caught up with Scotiabank’s Managing Director in Trinidad & Tobago, to discuss the contributing factors to Scotiabank’s success in setting up an operation servicing the entire English-speaking Caribbean in Chaguanas, Trinidad. Trinidad & Tobago is an important consumer and business market for Scotiabank, but there were additional factors, Schnoor tells us, that led the bank to choose the country over many other candidates.
Finance TnT: Scotiabank has been operating in Trinidad & Tobago for a long time, but also in other Caribbean & Latin American locations. What drove the decision for Scotiabank to select Trinidad & Tobago for its Caribbean regional operations and processing center?
Anya Schnoor: Scotiabank operates the largest financial services company in the Caribbean with operations in over 22 countries and 5,500 employees regionally. With advances made in technology and the need to consolidate some of our core processing functions to create centers of capabilities to manage operational risk, the decision was made to find a location to consolidate like functions. Trinidad and Tobago also featured competitively in the areas of stable political environment, young and educated workforce, and robust and reliable telecommunication infrastructure. The country is also located outside of the hurricane belt compared to other Caribbean countries.
Finance TnT: What characteristics of Trinidad & Tobago’s labor pool make the country a desirable venue for financial operations and processing, such as for banks like Scotiabank?
Anya Schnoor: Trinidad and Tobago has a wide cadre of graduates from a number of tertiary level institutions which allows us to have access to a pool of candidates for the various services provided. We have also signed an agreement with The Trinidad & Tobago International Financial Centre Management Company Limited where graduates are recommended to the Center and so afforded the opportunity to gain experience in mid and back office support services for financial institutions.
Finance TnT: What processes and functions take place in your operations center in Trinidad?
Anya Schnoor: We provide financial reconciliation, payment services, collections, adjudication and operational control services, customer support, compliance, procurement services and facilities management at the centralized support unit.
Finance TnT: Your operations center is pretty significant. Do you find that Trinidad & Tobago has a sufficient output of professionals graduating from the higher education system, and that the supply of talent is enough to meet your needs?
Anya Schnoor: So far we have been able to meet our staff needs. In addition to the agreement as stated above we also have arrangements with business schools and other such establishments in sourcing applications and candidates when required.
Finance TnT: What is the business climate in Trinidad & Tobago? As a bank, you are uniquely positioned to see the rate of businesses being established, the amount of investment coming into the country, the kinds of activities taking place with the bank’s business customers. Do you perceive a business-friendly environment in Trinidad & Tobago, looking not just at government policy but in the general economic environment?
Anya Schnoor: The performance of the economy has been spoken about a lot over the last year and the impact of the declining energy prices on both the energy and non-energy sector cannot be ignored. Trinidad and Tobago needs to focus carefully on the key enablers that would make businesses choose this market and this includes basic services like registering entities to tax simplification. We are operating in a global environment where companies have choices in where they do business and as such we need to focus on areas which make it easier for us to compete.
Finance TnT: Was the government proactive and inviting when it came to Scotiabank choosing Trinidad & Tobago for its operations center?
Anya Schnoor: We worked very closely with the TTIFC in establishing the framework which would be required for us to successfully set up a company which provides services to multiple external markets. The Trinidad & Tobago Freezone Company Limited also played a significant role in ensuring the Center qualified for Freezone status by assisting with the necessary approvals.
Finance TnT: What role did TTIFC play? How was the experience working with them?
Anya Schnoor: The TTIFC played a pivotal role along with the Ministry of Finance in ensuring the success of this venture. The TTIFC coordinated with various ministries and agencies all the required approvals which were needed and supported our efforts.
Above photo: Scotiabank’s Anya Schnoor (second from left) leads a tour through Scotiabank’s Chaguanas operations facility. (Courtesy Scotiabank)