By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
More lay-offs occurred at Royal Bank of Canada’s (RBC) Nassau branches last week, as the impact of its branch closures and business model changes starts to take effect.
Tribune Business contacts familiar with developments, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that five persons at RBC’s Carmichael branch were released, along with two-three staff members at its Old Fort Bay location.
Some of those laid-off were said to have been employed in middle management positions, with the move said to stem from a combination of RBC’s branch consolidations and efforts to drive customers to electronic banking channels.
Nicole Duke-Westfield, RBC’s senior Caribbean spokesman, did not deny the lay-offs or specific numbers involved in an e-mailed reply to Tribune Business’s questions.
Her statement, sent from Trinidad, said “the impact” of RBC’s business model restructuring was now taking effect, with the changes set to be implemented over the coming months.
“In March, we announced efforts to re-imagine our banking model to better serve our clients through physical and digital channels,” the RBC statement said.
“Our efforts have been made to bring us closer to our clients in the Bahamas by giving them the ability to bank with us more easily through both physical and digital channel options.
“Our market leading Mobile App (4.3/5 Google Play rating), expanded Merchant services like EZ Pay, Saturday Banking in select locations and ongoing investment in the ATM network have significantly changed how clients interact with the bank.”
The RBC statement continued: “We are also striving to make it simpler, faster and better for our clients to bank with us in the Bahamas by streamlining processes and leveraging scale and expertise within our business.
“Among the changes envisaged as part of this transformation were the merger of some of our branches and the centralisation of centres of excellence, both of which were announced back in March. We expect the impact of these announcements to take place over the next few months.
“We are committed to treating our employees with dignity and respect through the changes, ensuring that we regularly communicate with them and, where possible, find them other employment opportunities within the organisation.”
RBC, which acts as the Government’s banker, last month unveiled plans to close four branches, including Bimini and Spanish Wells, with the other two being its locations at Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA) in Nassau and Treasure Cay.
RBC told Tribune Business that all four branches will be consolidated with remaining locations, starting with the Treasure Cay branch, which was merged with Marsh Harbour on April 7, 2017.
That will be followed by the LPIA branch’s consolidation with RBC’s Cable Beach operation on May 19, with the Bimini and Spanish Wells locations to be merged with Freeport and Harbour Island, respectively, on May 26 and June 23.
The announcement triggered an ‘uproar’ in the Bimini and Spanish Wells communities, given that it left both islands without a physical bank branch. Many residents and businesses feared that their ability to access the formal financial services system, and conduct daily commercial transactions, would be seriously impeded.
Commonwealth Bank last week brought some relief to Spanish Wells after its Board of Directors approved opening a branch on the island.
“I am very pleased to say that, as we have been sending our project management team to the island, Commonwealth Bank has been widely and warmly welcomed by the Spanish Wells community,” said the bank’s president, Ian Jennings.
“This move to Spanish Wells increases our presence to four islands, and we look forward to serving the Spanish Wells community as we do so. We will announce more details as our planning and contractual arrangements crystallise.”
The Spanish Wells branch will be Commonwealth Bank’s first new location since it opened its Prince Charles Drive branch in September 2009. The bank has branches in New Providence, Grand Bahama and Abaco, and some 6,000 shareholders and 500 staff members.