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New Scotiabank head outlines vision for the future
Stephen Bagnarol gets very excited when he speaks about Scotiabank.
Beyond the broad smile, subtle Henry Cavill/Superman resemblance, and Scotiabank-red tie that immediately captures your attention, Bagnarol (pronounced Ban-yo-rol, with a “rolled R”) gesticulates and moves around in his chair in a manner consistent with only someone who seems to genuinely love what they do as he describes all things Scotiabank.
In T&T since November, and inserted in the role once held by media favourite Anya Schnoor, Bagnarol holds the view that T&T’s future prospects remain bright, while adding that Scotiabank is only beginning to scratch the surface of its potential in a world increasingly dominated by digital technology.
Sitting in the boardroom of Scotiabank’s Richmond and Park Street head office, Bagnarol speaks freely about his time in T&T so far.
“I’m very excited about this opportunity to be part of an amazing team here in T&T. I attended the Energy Conference recently and I was pleasantly surprised by the optimism about companies still wanting to invest and do business in T&T,” Bagnarol said.
Having last served as senior vice president, wholesale banking in Peru, Bagnarol’s new portfolio sees him operating in the role of managing director for Scotiabank T&T, as well as senior vice president and head of the Caribbean south and east.
Commenting on the talent pool in the region under his purview, an urbane Bagnarol noted his satisfaction.
“I am very impressed with the level of talent, passion and commitment of the team I’ve met in the Caribbean. I’m very comfortable with the teams we have in place in the region that are out there working to ensure that our customers’ needs are being met and they are made better off.”
It is no secret that T&T has experienced its fair share of economic turmoil in recent years. Questioned about his views on the current situation and the bank’s ability to weather the economic headwinds, Bagnarol credited Scotia’s success to its fundamental approach to banking.
“Scotiabank has a long history in the Caribbean. 128 years in the Caribbean overall and 64 here in Trinidad. So we’ve seen a lot of these cycles, but we’ve also been able to navigate through those cycles. We’ve always made it through these cycles by keeping a clear focus on our customers while at the same time maintaining a prudent risk appetite. At the bank we remain very optimistic about where things will go for T&T.”
Given his role as managing direcor, Bagnarol is tasked with ensuring that the Canadian-owned bank remains competitive and attractive to customers locally and regionally.
Probed about his goals for the bank, Bagnarol—who is fluent in Spanish and Italian—said the adoption of digital technologies to improve efficiencies and make customers lives better is where his head is at.
“Without a doubt we’re focused on digital. Scotiabank has made significant investments in digital banking and digital technology. In T&T here we have made a big investment in launching T&T’s first digital branch, the Price Plaza branch. This is something that we’re going to continue and leverage off of our global focus on digital. We view ourselves as really a tech company in the financial services sector. In fact, the bank is committed to becoming the number one digital bank in the world.”
Touching on his goal to ensure digital adoption enhances customer satisfaction for Scotiabank clients Bagnarol added: “We maintain a strong focus on customers. We’re always looking for ways to take our customer service and customer experience to the next level. Our customers are consistently looking for more and more flexibility and ease of use in dealing with the bank in order to do their day to day transactions.”
Pushing the standard of banking forward is something that Bagnarol says drives him. During the course of the interview, he repeatedly uses the term “best in class” almost a mantra for where believes Scotiabank T&T should be headed.
“What we want is for Scotiabank T&T to be ‘best in class’ globally. Not the best in T&T, not the best in the region, but to be best in class globally. We’re looking at international benchmarks on what the top banks in the world are doing and sharing that with our people which constantly pushes us to be better.”
Questioned about the massive disruption taking place in the financial sector through the activities of Fintech start-ups and cryptocurrencies, and the likely impact on traditional banking, Bagnarol—who carries the chartered financial analyst (CFA) designation—stated that he believed that more opportunities for synergies than competition exist.
“We view the Fintechs as partners. Certainly they are disruptors but disruptors in a good way. They are always pushing and looking for leading edge ideas and so we’ve partnered with and done a lot of interesting things with Fintechs and they’re helping us with our journey through the digital eco-system. We definitely view it as more partnership than competition.”
A corollary of moving deeper into the digital/electronic space involves managing the attendant risk for customers that arise. Cyber security, and threats that emerge such as identity theft and phishing (an attempt to access customers’ private information such as credit card details, passwords etc by disguising as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication) have all been issues that members of the banking community have had to grapple with.
Quizzed about Scotiabank’s efforts in the area of maintaining the digital safety of its customers Bagnarol said:
“Firstly, we ensure that every one of these cases are reported to the police investigations unit. At the level of the bank, we’ve been recognised as having the best online banking system globally, which is a testament to the bank’s investment in its systems to ensure that customer feel safe and comfortable operating on our digital channels.
“However, even with the best systems in the world, if people are giving out their pins or passwords, it won’t matter. If I had one message to share with people out there it is do not share your pins or passwords with anyone. Banks will never ask for your pin or password.”
On the issue of regulation and legislation in the financial industry at the global level, Bagnarol stated that it was important that all efforts be made to shore-up T&T’s position as a compliant jurisdiction for banking services.
“All stakeholders and parties need to come together to get T&T off of any non-compliant lists as quickly as possible to make the lives of citizens doing banking transactions easier.
“If we want international banks to sustain corresponding banking relationships with banks here it’s important that work through these issues in a way that’s beneficial for everyone.”
Depputy Head of News-Business
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