When I was a teenager RBC opened a savings account for me as part of their Young Leaders programme.
The home branch for that account was Park Street, Port-of-Spain.
That branch, however, is no longer around.
On January 10, last year the Park Street branch was officially closed.
In an interview then, RBC’s director of sales effectiveness, strategic and corporate communications of Caribbean banking, Jacqueline Taggart said the decision to close the Park Street branch was made “after an extensive review of client banking habits, branch traffic, and other RBC banking options in close proximity.”
All operations were consolidated with the Independence Square, Port-of-Spain branch.
The Park Street branch is not the only RBC location that has closed its doors in recent times.
Since 2013 RBC has closed more than a dozen branches in all.
One of the latest closure was the RBC San Juan branch which shut its doors on May 28.
RBC advised its San Juan clients that they too will be accommodated at the Independence Square branch.
RBC, however, is not the only commercial bank operating locally that has chosen to permanently close the doors of its branches.
On November 30, the COVID-19 pandemic caused state-owned First Citizens to permanently close its Bureau De Change at the Piarco International Airport.
The bureau was originally closed temporarily on March 21 in response the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic on T&T’s shores.
First Citizens advised customers that those wanting to conduct foreign exchange transactions could instead utilise their Tunapuna, Arima or any other convenient branch location.
This week Scotiabank T&T announced that by April next year it expects to close two of its branches and one of its sales centres.
The pandemic, however, is not the reason for their closures.
Instead Scotiabank says it has seen a trend with customers using branches less frequently.
“Our digital transformation, driven by our customers’ changing preferences, has been key in our ability to grow our business and improve efficiencies. Thanks to our investments in technology, we have more viable digital alternatives for conducting banking business. Customers are using our branches differently today – less frequently, as they complete more transactions online, and more for complex needs,” Scotiabank told the Business Guardian.
Scotiabank said as a result of these factors, and after a review of its branch and service delivery network in Trinidad, the following decisions were made:
Effective Friday, March 18, 2022, the Cipero and Rushworth Streets Branch to close its doors to the public and its operations will be consolidated into the nearby High Street, San Fernando Branch.
Effective Thursday April 14, 2022, the Park and Pembroke Streets Branch will close its doors to the public and its operations will be consolidated into the nearby Independence Square, Port of Spain Branch.
Effective Friday, March 25, 2022, the Cunupia Sales Centre will close its doors and its operations will be consolidated into the Cunupia Branch.
“Customers are in the process of being contacted and informed of these changes. To help ensure a seamless transition, they are being advised three to four months in advance of the closures so that we can work with them to address any concerns they may have. Their accounts will be transferred automatically, and no action is required from them at this time. Post consolidations, we will maintain the ATMs at Cipero and Rushworth Streets and Park and Pembroke Streets to ensure we continue to serve the areas,” Scotiabank stated.
“We are working to ensure that there is minimal impact to our employees at these locations. Any affected employees will be treated fairly and with respect,” it stated.
Scotiabank said the decisions were not made easily and were completed only after careful consideration of several factors.
“We sincerely appreciate the loyalty of our customers and look forward to continuing to serve them in branch and through our award winning mobile and online channels,” it stated.
“Scotiabank remains committed to T&T and the wider Caribbean. We continue to invest heavily in our operations here, as seen in the full roll out of our next generation ATMs, mobile app upgrades and introduction of new products and services, all providing our customers with greater accessibility and convenience,” it stated.
A study provocatively titled “The Death of Banks,” has reinforced the view that traditional banks are on the decline, citing advancements in technology and internet access for the continuing trend.
Among the key insights noted by the study were that bank branch numbers in the United States have fallen by 6.5 per cent since 2012.
“Based on current trends the number of physical banks could fall to fewer than 16,000 by 2030, a number not seen since 1965. Current trends suggest that all bank branches could be closed by 2034,” the study stated.
In the Republic Financial Holdings Ltd’s annual report for 2021 president Nigel Baptiste said the group will continue to improve its digital strategy.
“The group also continues to work on improving its digital strategy that was brought to the forefront during the pandemic, to increase our ability to continue adding value to our customers and staff.
“The group rolled out its new internet/mobile banking platform in a number of territories throughout the year starting with Guyana. The rollout in T&T was plagued with various challenges which resulted in a high level of dissatisfaction from a number of clients,” he stated.
“We are truly sorry for that experience and the Group has bolstered its structure and revised its processes to ensure no repeat in other jurisdictions and improved rollout of future technology advances in all countries in the months to come,” he stated.
During an interview with ANSA Bank’s managing director Robert Le Hunte when the bank officially opened its doors in April said internationally the market cap of Paypal, which is a fintech-type company, was now worth more than long-standing financial institutions JP Morgan and Bank of America.
“So to put that into context it tells you that banking as you know it is changing internationally. In North America 60 per cent of all the instalment loans, consumer loans, are really done by fintech- type organisations not necessarily commercial banks,” Le Hunte said then.
Le Hunte promised that Ansa Bank will put its money where its mouth is and invest in technology and become a digital bank.
“We have to change our operating system, we have to invest in certain things upfront and therefore we will not be attempting to be a traditional bank with all the branches and so forth we will be looking at using technology to get to the customers, so we see this (a cellphone) as our branch,” he said.
The goal, Le Hunte said, is to eventually have customers doing 90 to 95 per cent of their business online.