IAN KEVIN RAMDHANIE
Caribbean Institute for Security
and Public Safety
RBC Royal Bank T&T Ltd intends to regain the market share of commercial loans that it had up to December 2011, by the middle of 2015, Jesus Pazos, the bank’s market head for business banking said during a July 3 interview at RBC’s head office in St Clair.
He said that if the economy is projected to grow by almost 3.0 per cent in 2014, “we expect the total loan book to grow by 3.0 per cent.” Up to December 2011, the bank had 24.9 per cent of the market share of commercial loans, and Pazos’ target is to raise it to 25-26 per cent by 2015.
He said he expects the oil and gas industry to play a big role in the comeback. As an oil and gas economy, he said banks need to ensure there is more local content in financing. “A lot of the financing that is being done now is being done outside T&T,” he said. “Given our core competencies in oil and gas and mining in Canada, we can leverage off of that experience and expertise through structured packages for the local market.”
All of the major oil and gas companies in T&T are international companies and therefore they get financing out of the US. “If we could do some of that in T&T, then it benefits us. The money stays here. It’s here to circulate, to drive our economy. Great for my numbers because those are normally big numbers,” he said.
He said that regardless, the bank will strengthen its services to the companies that support the big oil and gas exploration projects. For the large multi-national companies, he said, “We can provide them with working capital lines here: their payrolls, day-to-day expenses.”
He added, “When it comes to exploration, those are normally hundreds of millions of dollars. No local bank here can do that on its own, but if I can book piece of that in T&T, it helps me.” He said this is one of the advantages of being part of a large international bank with assets throughout the Americas and Europe. RBC is the largest bank in Canada and 10th in the world. Locally, alone the bank can only lend up to US$50 million.
He said the team at RBC is “looking to grow the bank very aggressively in the coming years,” and “wants to recoup bank’s large market,” with a target of 26 per cent by 2016. Pazos said the country is gearing up for elections, adding that “elections is always a time when governments increase spending.” He said some are in wait and see mode but most are seeing growth.
Asked how is RBC competing in the low interest rate environment, he said:
“For us, innovation is coming with the best solution for our customers, not just trying to fit everyone into a box. Looking at the transactions, looking at the clients’ needs, we come up with whatever will fit their needs the best, and do the best for them.” He said the bank is working to ensure that customers are getting the best of RBC and as they grow the bank is growing with them, not just in T&T but across the region.
“The market is extremely tight. It is impacting a lot of our clients. I think the Central Bank governor has taken a good step to review the regime that was put in place. It is clear that the demand at this stage is outstripping the supply. Hence the long queues across all the banks. From what I’ve seen—data wise—the issue is not that there isn’t enough US in the marketplace.
“I think the challenge we are having is a lot of people have held that US in accounts, so it;s not being traded, and part of that issue can take you back to your interest rate environment. Where there is a US interest rate environment that is on par, or better than the local interest rate environment, what is the benefit of holding TT dollars when I could hold US dollars and get the same kind of rates. It’s an actual hedge. So I think that is part of the issue we are having as well, and as the economy starts to heat up a little bit, we’re going to find greater demand.”
However, Pazos does not see T&T having a forex issue long term “because we are an oil and gas economy and therefore we have a natural hedge against US dollar movements. I think the issue has been how do we ensure that the supply coming into the market place remains stable and constant; very stable and accessible to our clients.
That becomes the biggest challenge because demand is extremely high, and it’s going to get higher and we approach Christmas where you have to import all your Christmas goods and so on. You’re going to have further demand for US dollars.”
But he said the Central Bank has committed to injecting funds to do whatever is required to keep the confidence in the market, he said. “I, personally, see no reason why that won’t happen.”
Asked if there is a de facto forex black market, he said he thinks one was starting to develop but with the Central Bank interventions recently, there is no need for that any longer. The price of the US$ has come down to below $6.40 to US$1, he said. Pazos added that if there was a black market developing it would make no sense now.