Under its new managing director, Anya Schnoor, who takes over from Richard Young exactly one week from today (on November 1, 2012), Scotiabank will be expanding its insurance business, and taking competitors Guardian Holdings and Sagicor head on. Scotiabank is today the third largest insurance company in Trinidad and Tobago, behind the former and the latter, in that order.
“What we intend to do over the next few years, under my leadership, is really to expand the areas that maybe we haven’t focused on as much, or we haven’t grown out as much,” Schnoor said in an interview with the Business Guardian on Friday.
“Definitely, we have big plans for the insurance business. We’re now the third largest insurance company in Trinidad and Tobago,” she said. The incoming MD said: “We have a great insurance company and we want to grow that. We’re going to offer additional insurance products in the market, and we’re working to put in new systems that would allow us to do that.”
She said: “We want to get more into sort of the traditional life products, some of the critical illnesses, some of the assistance type products, funeral insurance, some of the other types of products that we haven’t been offering on a stand alone basis. I think we certainly have the platform. The fact that we’ve become the third largest insurance company in just 12 years, demonstrates that we have the capability to grow the insurance portfolio quite considerably.”
She said that when people are looking for insurance, “what they’re really looking for is long-term stability and when you look at the type of company that Scotiabank is - we’re rated the 12th best bank in the world - you can’t get any better than that. So if you’re looking for where you want to put your long term investment or you retirement income, you really want to be with a bank that’s going to be around 10, 20, 30 years from now, when you’re ready to retire.”
Competiting with established companies
Asked about competing with Guardian and Sagicor, she said: “We always compete. We have a unique product set but certainly we feel that we offer products that really meet the needs of our clients and we’ll be looking to see what other products suit our particular model.”
She said the competition tends to offer more high end type, universal life, high-coverage products, “while we have tended to focus more on the savings and wealth type insurance products. That doesn’t mean that that will always be the case.”
Questioned on car insurance, without giving a direct response, she said: “Certainly we’re examining our insurance strategy and looking for ways that we can expand our product line.” She said that during her tenure she also plans to expand the bank’s wealth management business. “On our wealth management side, we have a tremendous wealth management operation internationally, and we want to bring that here, and then continue to grow. That’s something that the global bank is working on, and that would mean additional products and services to our clients here.”
Still on wealth management, she said: “We’re going to be launching new mutual funds in the market and that’s something that we’re working towards. We’re putting together a suite of products that our clients are looking for especially in a low interest rate environment. Our clients are looking to diversify and they’re looking for advice in what do you invest in in a low-interest rate environment.”
She said the bank also sees its “strength being in small business,” especially as T&T attempts to diversify its economy away from oil and gas. “I think the foundation of any economy is small business and that’s something we’ll be launching shortly: Small Business Week.” She said this will take place “in another couple weeks.”
Schnoor was giving her first interview to the T&T media as incoming head of the Scotiabank at its Richmond Street, Port-of-Spain head office. Asked how well the transition is progressing, she said: “I’ve known Richard for quite a while, obviously working in Scotiabank for the last six and a half years. So we got to know each other throughout the region. The English Caribbean is sort of managed together. So I think the transition has been going very well. Richard is somebody who is a consummate professional. He has just gone out of his way to really introduce me to the staff, to the business community, government officials and so forth. I couldn’t have asked for a better person to act as a guide to me over the past couple months, so I am very grateful to him for all that he has done.”
She said that one of the things Scotiabank prides itself on is preparing leaders, so part of her “development rotation” was not only here in Trinidad and Tobago but also in Jamaica where she spent six years, and in Toronto where she spent a year “getting a good understanding of the global operations, what they expect of country heads.” She said she took part in “a leadership programme that they put prospective country heads through, where you do a rotation through all the major functional areas of the bank: finance, risk management, audit, operations and service - the full gamut.”
She said, “That sort of gives you a foundation, and then here, I spent a lot of time with the various business units, understanding their various issues, what is particular to Trinidad, what’s different, and you’ll appreciate most of the operations in the Caribbean are pretty similar.”
Where she comes from in Jamaica, Scotiabank is a publicly listed company also. She was the CEO of one of Scotia’s subsidiaries “which is publicly listed itself,” so, she said, she is very familiar with boards, and dealing with shareholders. “It’s been a good overview and transition for the last year and a half,” she said.
Asked why was she sent to Trinidad and Tobago, she said: “Well I think when Scotiabank looks at leaders throughout the organisation, one of their key strengths, again, is that they look for people who have been in this sort of role. So have you had the experience in running an organization? Have you dealt with a particular market? Do you understand the products and the needs of the market and I think, in terms of my personal experience, the first time I was in a leadership role was probably almost 18 years ago, so I have the sort of leadership and general management experience that they were looking for.
“I have been the CEO of a publicly listed company, and one of the largest individual companies in Jamaica, so I think that coupled with my sort of individual, personal leadership style; they were obviously looking for somebody that could fit into a Caribbean culture; could understand the needs of the organization and could quickly fit into the role here; so I think, as they looked across their landscape of people who were available, I was somebody that they thought, at this point in time, could fit the needs of the organization here, and I think I have a track record in Jamaica of running organizations of various sizes and complexities.”
Scotiabank Jamaica has about 2500 employees. It has 35 branches, and Schnoor was the CEO of Scotia Investments which is the bank’s wealth management subsidiary. It is the second largest wealth management company in Jamaica with a staff complement of about 200. She was also the head of Scotia’s insurance company in Jamaica and combined, the two companies contributed about US$50 million in bottom line to Scotiabank Jamaica’s operation.
Scotiabank Jamaica is larger, she said. Jamaica has about close to 800,000 customers. In T&T, the bank has close to 250,000 customers. Scotiabank Jamaica has also been in the region for about 122 years. “Scotiabank had a first branch in Jamaica before it had a branch in Toronto,” she said. “It’s the first operation in the region.”
Questioned whether she had experience in an economy heavily weighted in oil and gas, she said that in Jamaica, though not on the scale of Trinidad and Tobago, but “one of our largest companies in Jamaica is the local refinery, and we do a lot of business with them, but certainly I’m looking forward to getting to know the industry here in Trinidad.” She said that for Scotiabank internationally that’s one of the trends: the focus on oil and gas, “and being a Canadian bank and being a commodity-based country, one of the strengths of Scotiabank is its energy desk.”
She said: “Obviously Scotiabank T&T has done a number of transactions in the oil and gas industry in the past, and has built a core competency in that area, and Scotiabank T&T will continue to build it as we move forward.”