Business

Making a Difference

tci-bank-outsideThe “Nation’s Bank” makes its debut.

By John H.R. Benjamin, Managing Director, TCI Bank Limited

Photos By Steve Passmore, Provo Pictures

The establishment of a Turks & Caicos home-grown bank has long been a dream of many Belongers. Now a reality, TCI Bank Limited (TCIB) is primed for success, based on three solid pillars: the bank’s affiliation with the indigenous banks of the Eastern Caribbean, its obsession with continuously making the best service better, and the loyal following of delighted customers and other stakeholders who broadcast the benefits of doing business with TCIB.

Background

TCI Bank Limited (TCIB), the first indigenous bank established in the Turks & Caicos Islands, blossomed out of an idea germinated by Madeline (Pat) Potter and nurtured into existence by ABI Bank Limited of Antigua, its main promoter. It was Mrs. Potter, a native of Grand Turk, who in 2004 persuaded ABI Bank to underwrite the cost of setting up the bank.

Contrary to the mistaken belief that TCIB is government-owned, the TCI Government has no ownership interest in the bank, nor does the government have any representatives on the Board of Directors. Only 10% of the bank’s shares are held by the TCI National Insurance Board, the body responsible for managing the national pension fund of the Turks & Caicos Islands. The largest shareholder group, TCI Belongers and companies majority-owned by TCI Belongers, holds 50% of the bank’s shares. A mixed group of TCI Belongers and non-TCI Permanent Residents owns 10%. And, the following Eastern Caribbean banks own the remaining 30% of the bank’s share capital: ABI Bank Limited and its subsidiary, Antigua Overseas Bank Limited; Bank of Nevis Limited; Caribbean Commercial Bank (Anguilla) Limited; Grenada Cooperative Bank Limited; National Bank of Anguilla Limited; National Bank of Dominica Limited and St. Kitts Nevis Anguilla National Bank Limited.

Eager to spread the gospel of uncompromising excellent customer service to the Turks & Caicos Islands, ABI Bank Limited, a member of Antigua & Barbuda’s single largest financial conglomerate, responded to the TCI Government’s wish that TCIB should be at least 60% owned by TCI Belongers and their majority-owned companies.

Given TCIB’s homegrown roots and the high level of direct foreign investment that pours into the Turks & Caicos Islands, the bank strikes a balance between its dual goals of:

– Giving Turks & Caicos Islanders and non-Belonger residents opportunities to realize their dreams of becoming significant players in the economic activity of the Islands, and

– Financing and providing a wide range of services to the inward investment community, given the very important role that this group plays in the economic development of the Islands.

Satisfying the needs of these two anchor groups inspired the selection of the bank’s motto, “Your Bank, Our Bank, The Nation’s Bank.” (The motto was composed by Jessica Joseph, a student at the Enid Capron Primary School, who won for her school a computer and printer from TCIB.)

TCIB occupies 11,634 square feet of ground floor space at Butterfield Square. The bank comprises a spectacular array of exquisitely appointed suites and lobby spaces designed around the concept of one-on-one customer interface, with complete confidentiality, privacy and comfort.

Leadership team

TCIB’s executive management team is made up of:

– Mr. John H.R. Benjamin, BSc MBA TEP, Managing Director;

– Mrs. Madeline Wynns-Potter, dip. Sec Science, Company Secretary and HRM Manager;

– Mrs. Claire Robinson, AA, Financial Services, Manager Credit & Business Development;

– Mr. Alix Bleus, BA MA, Manager Operations;

– Mr. James Malcolm, dip. Planning & Development, Manager Finance & Planning and

– Mr. Nigel Guy, BSc ACIB, Internal Auditor & Chief Compliance Officer.

The bank’s Board of Directors are:

– Mr. Washington Misick, Chairman, savvy investor, visionary, and former TCI Chief Minister;

– Mr. Carl Simmons, Vice Chairman, proprietor of the TCI Tropical Shipping agency;

– Mrs. Madeline Wynns-Potter, Director and Company Secretary, retired bank-HRM officer;

– Mr. Delton Jones, TCI Government Chief Economist;

– Mr. Trevor M. Cooke, successful entrepreneur and Director, TCI National Insurance Board;

– Mr. Andrew Newlands, prominent TCI property developer, lawyer and accountant;

– Mr. Albray Butterfield, prominent, iconic, successful TCI businessman and church leader;

– Mr. McAlister Abbott, entrepreneur, financial group founder and Managing Director ABI Group of Companies;

– Mrs. Carolyn Philip, Senior Manager, Corporate Affairs, ABI Financial Group and

– Mr. John H.R. Benjamin, Managing Director, former bank financial group general manager and financial consultant.

Filling the gaps

Perhaps the most astonishing and distinctive feature of TCIB is the bank’s success in eliminating queuing for services. Long accustomed to taking novels to their bank to help pass excruciatingly long waiting times in teller lines, the banking public expresses loud sighs of relief upon entering TCIB. No queues! All front office tellers and personal bankers operating within service suites are equipped with personal ATM machines that dispense cash instantly, without errors, for customers wishing to cash cheques or make withdrawals from their deposit accounts.

By hiring and providing continuous training to a team of personal, private and business-development bankers with the right combination of skills and attributes, TCIB assists customers in attaining their life goals and making banking an enjoyable experience. The bank achieves this by adding to its service recipe the following ingredients:

– An experienced, full time bank ambassador who determines which personal banker can best meet each customer’s needs;

– Ability to open accounts without an appointment;

– Saturday banking from 9:00 AM to 12 noon, (the only bank open for business on Saturdays);

– Consolidated loan packages: if you have loans with other banks, TCIB is prepared to consider consolidating all of your loans into a single loan with one lower monthly payment;

– Comprehensive loan packages: vehicle loan applicants can obtain credit life and vehicle insurance for the term of the loan at the best loan interest rate in a single package.

– Convenient home ownership packages: prospective homeowners can obtain a loan package covering construction of their home, purchase of a motor vehicle, furniture and appliances and procurement of credit life and property insurance cover;

– A manager of operations who speaks six languages;

– Prospectively, a full service branch in Grand Turk before the end of August 2006, with branch operations in North Caicos by September 2006 and South Caicos by March 2007;

– Bond underwriting services to fund large infrastructure projects like road construction;

– Interest paid on corporate checking accounts;

– Supremely appointed service suites: business customers and personal banking clients do their banking in the comfort and privacy of self-contained service suites where they get the undivided attention of personal and private bankers.

Alliances bring strength

Most successful high growth companies owe their success partially to the alliances they join. To protect TCIB against credit risk and expand the reach of the bank into other countries, TCIB has entered into commercial agreements with banks in the Eastern Caribbean through ECIC Holdings Limited to co-finance large projects.

ECIC Holdings Limited is an Eastern Caribbean integration company owned by a group of indigenous banks in the Leeward and Windward Islands and Turks & Caicos Islands. ECIC coordinates the consortium lending activities of this unique group of banks whose combined assets exceed US$2 billion. So if TCIB is approached to finance a large project with good prospects, TCIB can call on the group of banks to share in funding. This reduces TCIB’s risk considerably and gives TCIB the ability to compete head-to-head with its competitors. TCIB’s approach to lending is also safer because several very experienced banks, using modern analytical and evaluation techniques, pronounce judgment on consortium loans for large projects.

By working in close collaboration with the ECIC Group banks, TCIB also benefits from referral business from group members and their clients. The arrangements with ECIC allows TCIB to accommodate large borrowers as well as more borrowers than would have been the case were TCIB operating as a stand-alone bank.

All of the ECIC Group banks are moving to adopt uniform best practices and best-of-breed systems in their operations. They all pay close attention to risk management and corporate governance.

The combination of unparalleled best service and best practice is TCIB’s guarantee of success, gaining the respect of its competitors. TCI Bank wins business through the referent power of its growing base of delighted customers.

TCI Bank is here to stay

When we trace the history of indigenous banks in the Eastern Caribbean, two remarkable attributes stand out: their ages and competitive positions. Most of them are over 25 years old and as a group, they control over 60% of banking business in the sub-region. In the larger CARICOM territories of Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago and Guyana, regional indigenous banks as a group enjoy more than a 70% share of banking business.

St. Kitts Nevis Anguilla National Bank, with total assets in excess of US$600 million, made a 2005 pre-tax profit of circa US$15 million. This 36-year-old indigenous bank is the Eastern Caribbean’s financial services technology leader, as well as the most profitable bank in the sub-region.

In Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, St. Kitts/Nevis, Dominica, Grenada and St. Lucia, the largest indigenous bank in each of these islands is bigger than the First Caribbean International Bank branches in each named territory.

In Antigua & Barbuda, the ABI Financial Group, with assets in excess of US$500 million, is the single largest financial services conglomerate in that territory. ABI Bank (16 years old) and its 50-year-old brother, Antigua Commercial Bank, together have over 40% of Antigua & Barbuda’s banking business, notwithstanding competition from international banks like First Caribbean International Bank, Scotia Bank and Royal Bank of Canada.

In Anguilla, Caribbean Commercial Bank (Anguilla) Limited and National Bank of Anguilla Limited trump both First Caribbean International Bank and Scotia Bank in terms of market share of banking business. Both banks have consistently posted high levels of profitability.

National Bank of Dominica has approximately 50% of total market deposits of Dominica and Bank of St. Lucia’s parent company, Eastern Caribbean Financial Holdings Limited, is St. Lucia’s single largest financial conglomerate with assets approximating US$500 million.

These indigenous banks have learned how to compete with international giants as well as regional titans and TCI Bank is benefiting from their shared experience. Absent the able sponsorship of ABI Bank Limited and the compelling performance record of the Eastern Caribbean indigenous banks, the TCI public might have been skeptical about the prospects of their first home-grown bank. But as Louis H. Lockhart, founder of the Antigua Commercial Bank, said, “Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come!”

An outstanding score card

TCI Bank opened its doors for business on December 5, 2005 and within six months of its opening produced the following results:

As of the end of May 2006, TCIB’s total assets stood at US$47 million, total deposits passed the US$38 million mark and paid-up share capital tipped the scales at just over US$10 million. Through a series of private offerings and culminating with a public share offering, it plans to grow share capital to US$20 million by the end of 2007.

On the basis of the present growth trajectory, and without factoring in the effects of the bank’s Grand Turk and North Caicos operations and its soon to be introduced Internet banking and international debit card services, TCI Bank expects to exceed US$100 million in assets before the end of 2006.

What is remarkable about the results is that the bank attained this outstanding score card without having any extensive or deeply penetrative media campaign. Instead, the bank attributes the high rate of progress to positive feedback on service by delighted customers who share their experience with business partners and associates.

As at the end of March 2006, the consolidated Turks & Caicos national banking statistics indicated total deposits of US$904 million and total loans of US$443 million, which means that banks operating in the Turks & Caicos Islands are lending 50 cents for each dollar that they hold in deposits. As TCI Bank grows in size, management forecasts that a greater proportion of each dollar raised locally will go into loans and advances.

By competing as market differentiators, TCI Bank projects that it will gain the largest share of banking business in the Turks & Caicos Islands by June 2011. Both market size and scope are favourable to achieving this goal. TCIB also has its sights set on the Bahamas, where it hopes to establish its first overseas branch operation by the end of fiscal 2009.

tci-bank-lobbySatisfied employees; satisfied customers

Most companies put a lot of effort into keeping customers because they recognise that effective customer retention strategies reduce marketing and sales costs. Some researchers estimate that for every customer lost due to bad service, companies can lose perhaps a further five to seven customers, as dissatisfied customers tend to broadcast their feelings among friends and close associates.

A central tenet of TCIB’s customer retention philosophy is that dissatisfied employees are the root cause of poor customer service and by extension, customer defections. TCI Bank believes that there is an inextricable link between human resources management and customer retention. In fact, as the bank’s managing director, I espouse the philosophy, “Treat employees well; look after their needs; take a keen interest in their welfare; and they will take care of the needs and welfare of your customers. Ignore the needs of your employees and they will spend quality time thinking through solutions to solve their personal problems at the expense of the customer.”

With this in mind, TCIB focuses on hiring the best individuals to look after its customers, then sets about looking into the needs of each employee, including: remuneration packages, job conditions, interpersonal relations, career-parting and goal seeking. By taking a keen interest in employee wellness, employee motivation takes over and begins to permeate service quality.

This indirect approach to customer retention and service quality is similar to that revealed in the Harvard Business Review article, “The Contrarian Entrepreneur.” Satisfied employees are more likely to dispense superb service and pay close attention to customer needs when they are self-actualized. They tend to observe the bank’s rules regarding compliance, confidentiality and honesty. Provided with the right tools and properly trained in all products and services, they will delight customers. And, as I believe, “Delighted customers are our best form of advertisement. They represent the most formidable weapons in our sales and marketing arsenal.”

Staff exchanges

Three of the seven ABI Bank seconded staff who journeyed to the TCI to assist TCIB during its formative months will return to Antigua at the end of their assignment at the end of June 2006. Six TCIB Belonger employees received on-the-job experience in Antigua with ABI Bank in 2005. One who has qualifications in IT networking is due to travel to Straight Through Processing Inc. in Antigua, a technology-based company that provides core banking software, Internet banking and other IT-related services to indigenous banks in the Eastern Caribbean, to undergo training to better use TCIB’s IT facilities. TCIB employees are able to work in banks in the Eastern Caribbean on secondment, through arrangements between TCIB and the ECIC Group. This learning experience will enrich the TCIB customer service experience and the knowledge curve of the bank’s employees.

Why TCIB will succeed

Why can TCI Bank Limited expect to take a leadership position in terms of share of banking business? I offer the following reasons:

– How TCIB packages services and its service environment;

– TCIB’s human resource management policies;

– The support mechanisms due to its relationships with successful, experienced indigenous banks in the Eastern Caribbean;

– TCIB’s ability to fill service gaps and maintain hallmark personalized service;

– Overwhelming response of its customers, shareholders and other stakeholders to TCIB’s high quality of service;

– Pride taken by Belongers in owning their own bank and witnessing its commendable performance in the face of competition from large international banks;

– TCIB’s determination to continuously innovate and keep ahead of the competition;

– A seasoned management team that encourages employees to be the best at what they do and

– A board of directors that brings business to the bank and makes objective business decisions.

In summary, TCI Bank has, indeed, come to take its rightful place in the sun!

John H.R. Benjamin, BSc, MBA, TEP, is TCI Bank Limited’s Managing Director. He can be contacted on (649) 941-7502 or via email at john.benjamin@tcibankltd.com.



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