By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
JAMAICA - CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank plans to expand its retail footprint in the Bahamas its top regional executive yesterday describing this nation as “incredibly important” to its banking operations.
In an interview with Tribune Business at the bank’s third annual Infrastructure Conference, Rik Parkhill said the bank was also looking to expand its wealth management business in the Bahamas as some of its competitors pulled back from this segment.
And while fellow Canadian bank, Scotiabank, announced in March that four of its branches would be consolidated into other locations, along with the closure of two Family Island and three Nassau branches, Mr Parkhill said FirstCaribbean was looking to expand its retail footprint to areas where it may be underrepresented.
“The Bahamas operating company, which is part of FirstCaribbean, is the largest contributor from revenue and a net income perspective to the total company,” he explained.
“The Bahamas is incredibly important to this bank. Two years ago, when the Bahamian economy was struggling and all of the banks ended up with a large non-performing residential mortgage issue, the bank suffered along with the Bahamian economy. We see things recovering. We have already made incremental investments in the Bahamas.”
Mr Parkhill added: “We have opened our first private wealth management office, which is an expansion of our wealth activities, and where we see an opportunity because of some of the pull back of our competitors in that area.
“We have our CIBC Bank and Trust operation, which is expanding, and we are looking at our retail branch footprint, particularly in terms of establishing or expanding our footprint in areas of the Bahamas where we may be underrepresented but are turning into higher growth areas.
“We have one of the largest corporate sales pipelines in the history of the bank, and the Bahamas is fairly well represented within the context of that pipeline.”
Mr Parkhill said CIBC FirstCaribbean needs to “ramp up” its loan business, as it has the deposit base to make more loans. “What we are looking for in our retail banking business is a better balance in our deposits,” he added.
“Among the commercial banks we would be one of the favourites of depositors. Where we need to ramp up is on the loan side because we certainly have the deposit base to make more loans.
“We are doing things like significantly improving our turnaround time in terms of loan approvals. with the goal of - at least in terms of the less complex financing transactions - that we can turn those around from start to finish in about 48 hours.”
Mr Parkhill added: “Obviously technology is becoming a bigger factor in terms of how people can bank, and we are seeing our mobile banking usage skyrocket, which I think is a good thing and it’s a convenient tool for people.
“Our ATM network will undergo an expansion in the Bahamas and regionally. We are probably looking at adding about 100 ATMS regionally over the next 12-16 months. I’m not sure how many will go in the Bahamas but there will be a considerable number.”