* Former RoyalFidelity eyes Jamaica, T&C 'over next year'
* Cayman licence completes uniform name, product platform
* Territory's US$ offering boost for pan-Caribbean ambitions
By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
A Bahamian investment bank is targeting up to 40 percent growth for its assets under management by the mid-2020s as it eyes expansion into territories such as Jamaica "over the next year".
Michael Anderson, the former RoyalFidelity Merchant Bank & Trust's president, told Tribune Business it is poised to act on its ambitions to become a pan-Caribbean player after it was approved for a banking and securities licence in the Cayman Islands last week.
The institution, which has now been renamed RF Bank & Trust more than a year after it completed its management-led buyout from Fidelity Bank (Bahamas) and Royal Bank of Canada, believes the Cayman regulatory approvals represent the final piece in the platform that will provide the springboard for further regional growth.
Mr Anderson, in a recent interview, said it now has the ability to "fully market" the RF Bank & Trust name in The Bahamas, Barbados and Cayman Islands - the three markets it currently serves - backed by a consistent product portfolio that offers the exact same menu in all three territories.
Sensing opportunities to offer staff pension management and administration services to Caribbean companies with a presence in multiple territories, he added that Cayman's open currency system - in contrast to the closed structures in The Bahamas and Barbados - will give RF Bank & Trust the platform to offer US dollar services across multiple jurisdictions.
Disclosing that the Bahamian-headquartered institution's plan was to grow its asset base "by more than 10 percent per annum across the three countries", Mr Anderson acknowledged that achieving such expansion will depend heavily on the pace at which this nation's economy and those of the region recovery from COVID-19.
While the pandemic has deterred many would-be investors, the RF Bank & Trust chief said it has also created "opportunities that come with change, and it's how you take advantage of it".
He added that the merchant bank's new name had been "rolled out fairly quietly" from late August/early September 2020 as it waited to obtain all the necessary regulatory approvals in The Bahamas, Barbados and Cayman so that it could finally achieve a uniform brand and product portfolio.
"We finally got this approved late last week," Mr Anderson told Tribune Business of the Cayman banking and securities investment licence. "We are now able to get the website upgraded with one brand for all three countries and have common services in all three. We now have the same products and services available in all three markets.
"Up to last week we were unable to offer banking and securities services in Cayman. The full range of products that RoyalFidelity has been offering in Barbados and The Bahamas for the last 20 years is now going to be available in Cayman. It's another big step for us getting into a new market.
"Through our presence in Cayman we can offer banking services and pension services to the eastern Caribbean and other Caribbean islands we have not really focused on yet. As we go into Cayman and become more of a regional player, we want to expand our services into other Caribbean islands," he continued.
"It's also more of a US dollar base, whereas in The Bahamas and Barbados we have a closed currency market, so Cayman will be more of an open currency market."
Mr Anderson explained that the Cayman banking and securities licence represented the final step in a two-year process to create RF Bank & Trust, which began in late 2018 when it agreed terms to buy-out RBC's 50 percent stake in the then-RoyalFidelity. The deal to purchase the remaining 50 percent equity interest from its BISX-listed affiliate soon followed.
The RF Bank & Trust chief said the 10,000-strong pension client base, which it had acquired from Fidelity Bank's Cayman affiliate, will provide a "good base of business" for it to cross-sell banking, securities and investments products to.
"We have a consistent brand so we can start marketing across the entire region, which is what we've been waiting for," Mr Anderson said. "Having got Cayman we are able to push the brand out across the region. Our Barbados and Bahamas markets are going to start rebranding to a greater extent.
"We've managed to get approval for a name change, approval for three licences at three levels, so we've effectively finished putting the infrastructure in place for regional operations and to become a better known regional brand.
"We'd like to see our services expand into the eastern Caribbean, Turks & Caicos and Jamaica over the next year as we're able to get into these spaces with the US dollar currency capability of Cayman. We see an opportunity where the services we offer in The Bahamas and Barbados will be just as marketable in other countries with a US dollar product."
While the COVID-19 pandemic's fall-out had created significant uncertainty for Caribbean economies and capital markets, particularly around the timing and strength of any recovery, Mr Anderson said RF Bank & Trust aimed to use its multi-jurisdiction presence to offer itself as a sole pension provider for companies with a pan-regional offering.
"We've very close to $1bn in assets under management at the moment, and over $2bn in assets under administration," he told Tribune Business. "What we're looking to do is grow assets under management over the next three to four years to $1.3bn-$1.4bn... The target is to grow by more than 10 percent per annum between the three countries based on asset base."
While achieving such growth targets will be heavily influenced by COVID-19 related factors, Mr Anderson said RF Bank & Trust will have enhanced its software capacity to enable it to become a regional player by 2021.
"It's an exciting time in a way as much as it's daunting with all these other things taking place," he added. "It's the opportunity that comes with change, and it's how you take advantage of it."