By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
CIBC's Caribbean corporate and investment banking chief is eyeing "a lot of opportunities" for growth in the Bahamas, having helped place over $100 million in financing over the past year.
Pim Van Der Burg told Tribune Business in a recent interview that the Bahamas was "a very important business" for CIBC FirstCaribbean, ranking alongside Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago as its top three regional markets.
He added that the institution, which has already been "very active" in financing key industries in the Bahamas, aimed to become the top bank in this nation for corporate clients.
"The Bahamas, given the size of the group, is a very important business for us," Mr Van Der Burg said. "We certainly have high expectations of the business.
"What I can tell you is that the Bahamas is in the top three countries in the region. It's a very substantial part, and very important market for us at CIBC for sure.
"My experience from visiting the last week is that there's a lot of opportunity, a lot of development, I think, if we as a bank can deliver good service. We are working hard to make sure we're the best bank in the Bahamas for corporate clients."
CIBC FirstCaribbean has become noticeably more active in the Bahamian capital markets, and in structuring and funding major debt transactions. Desmond Bannister, minister of works, recently confirmed it was working with another investment bank to raise $135 million for cash-strapped utility, Bahamas Power & Light (BPL).
While declining to name specific transactions, Mr Van Der Burg told Tribune Business that the financing raised by CIBC FirstCaribbean's corporate and investment banking team in the Bahamas over the past year would be "above $100 million for sure".
"We have been very active in the Bahamas in the utility space, in the oil and gas sector, and the airline industry," he said. "Without mentioning names, there are several large clients we've been involved with within the last 12 months.
"We have had substantial growth, and also have a line of transactions we're working on. We have a substantial pipeline of transactions we are working on."
CIBC FirstCaribbean's corporate and investment banking clients number 10,000, serviced across the region by a 200-strong team - of whom around 30 are based in the Bahamas.
Mr Van Der Burg praised the local team, headed by managing director, Marie Rodland-Allen, and Raymond Donaldson, and emphasised that the bank was focused on client satisfaction as opposed to specific growth targets.
Explaining that the growth would come if CIBC FirstCaribbean met client needs and expectations, he added: "We are strongly convinced that the growth rate will be determined by client satisfaction.
"Instead of focusing on growth rates, we're really focusing on our clients and making sure we take care of them. That's where we put our energies; making sure we get it right for our customers and, based on that, we believe we will get the growth the clients will allow us to have."
Mr Van Der Burg said corporate banking was typically focused on medium-sized Caribbean businesses, dealing with issues such as investment planning, succession management and financing. Investment banking is targeted at larger clients, with capital markets, initial public offering (IPO) and structured debt transactions among the products offered. Internet and electronic banking services cross both spectrums.
The CIBC corporate and investment banking chief added that while the bank was Caribbean-focused, it is also able to draw on the strength of its Toronto-based parent. All this has helped it to generate $1 billion in financings across the region over the past 12 months.
"Next to Jamaica and Trinidad, the Bahamas is the largest market," Mr Van Der Burg told Tribune Business. "We believe there's substantial opportunities on corporate banking as well as the retail banking side.
"We are really working hard to grow that business. We are investing in premises, IT, information technology and mobile banking."