Enter the disruptors.
At 9 am on Tuesday, after the country celebrated the Easter long weekend, ANSA Bank opened its doors for the first time making it the newest entrant to this country’s financial sector.
But ANSA Bank is not afraid of being in that position.
In fact, they are relishing it.
“One of the things about coming last, or coming behind, or entering the commercial banking space late is that it gives you an opportunity,” ANSA Bank’s managing director Robert Le Hunte told Guardian Media.
“Coming late into the system would mean we need to do things differently which is in keeping with what is happening internationally,” he said.
Le Hunte said internationally the market cap of Paypal, which is a fintech-type company, is 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.
“A big part of the payment business is not done by commercial banks any more, so the commercial banking business is being disrupted and as you know banking is an old tradition that has been around for a number of years and it is probably one of the last to be disrupted but the disruption has started,” he said.
Le Hunte said ANSA Bank is now entering the banking sector with that level of disruption taking place internationally and therefore cannot operate as though it is business as usual.
And they do not intend to.
“Therefore we need to then look at how could we be the disruptor in the banking sector business within this space in Trinidad and Tobago and the wider Caribbean,” he said.
Le Hunte said ANSA Bank is seeking help the unbankable.
“So the models that we are looking at is a number of other models around the world, Discovery Bank and a number of other banks that are leveraging technology, leveraging some of the work that is being done in the fintech space, leveraging things such as artificial intelligence and looking at seeing how we could use that to provide a different type of service to the existing banking customers and also there is still a level of unbanked in T&T and I think we could then deepen our relationship into getting a share into that side of the business, allowing them to have access to banking services,” Le Hunte said.
On December 11, 2019, ANSA Merchant Bank Ltd signed a sales agreement with Bank of Baroda (Trinidad and Tobago) Ltd.
The sale was officially approved by the Central Bank on November 20 last year.
And for a month the Bank of Baroda (T&T) continued operating before it was officially re-branded as ANSA Bank.
“Bank of Baroda or the predecessor bank was a very small bank and that is the bank that we purchased,” Le Hunte said.
In all Bank of Baroda had three branches in Port-of-Spain, Chaguanas and San Fernando.
Or as le Hunte prefers to call them “touch points.”
But while the bank itself may be small it is part of the larger ANSA McAL regional powerhouse.
Le Hunte said the bank is hoping to leverage that strength within the confines of the financial regulations.
Currently, ANSA McAL has around 6,000 employees.
“I see a number of ways in which we could work together to provide better service to our members of the group and the wider population. So yes, we intend to within the boundaries that are provided by the regulator to leverage that position as best a possible,” he said.
Because of its role as the new kid on the banking block, Le Hunte said ANSA Bank will not have some of the legacy issues that cripples movement in other banks.
“The pandemic has really hastened the banks, normally banks are not a group of people that are very responsive, traditionally they take long to respond and I think the pandemic has hastened a number of banks to move toward providing solutions to interact with customers via digital communications mechanisms and I think that has happened,” Le Hunte said.
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“But I hasten to add that there is a difference between a commercial bank with digital channels and a digital bank. So a lot of banks, because of their legacy systems, they are providing customers with a digital channel but straight-through processing and boarding of customers and the way how digital banks operate, they have not fully done that,” he said.
Le Hunte promised 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 cell phone) 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.
“And by virtue of being able to use technology we will hope to be able to pass some of the benefits that we derive from the use of technology by having more competitive rates and allowing the customers to have more competitive services and so forth,” he said.
“We have bought a bank. The reality is we are a small bank with existing systems and therefore a lot of the digitisation that we talk about is what we need to invest in to get us there and a lot of what you are seeing will happen in the market over the next 12 to 15 months, fairly quickly, but right now as it is we do offer all of the traditional banking services and lot of what needs to happen, you do need to come into the banking hall,” he said.
Le Hunte reassured the bank’s current customers that there will be no changes at this point to the bank’s processes.
All of the security features which protect their funds and banking transactions will remain safely in place, he said.
As such loans, mortgages, and any other relationships with the Bank will be maintained as before.
Le Hunte said ANSA McAL’s decision to buy a bank at this time showed its commitment to T&T and the wider Caribbean region.
“One can consider it challenging to enter into banking in a present economy which is very uncertain. If you tell me what pandemic will do? What the economy will look like tomorrow or the next three to four years? It is very difficult to plan,” he said.
“You have to have a long-term vision and you have to have confidence in the people of T&T and you have to have a commitment to T&T to take the plunge because banking is not about making money today, banking is about a long term perspective and therefore I am indeed proud to be part of the group,” he said.
“To be able to be part of this adventure into banking at this time especially when different international organisations are looking to exit, Baroda exited, we hear about other international institutions trying to reduce their footprint, we hear some of them wanting to sell, Scotia is selling their operations in Guyana, Royal Bank is selling some of the operations in the Caribbean. A lot of the international banks are looking to exit the region, so I think that is one good thing, that speaks volumes in the group investing in the long term future of T&T,” Le Hunte said.
Le Hunte and ANSA Bank’s chairman David Dulal-Whiteway have over 30 years of local, regional and international banking experience at the most senior levels between themselves.
The board has a “good combination of youth and experience” and is in tune with the digital prospects, he said.
To further strengthen the bank, Le Hunte said ANSA Bank is also hoping to get former Finance Minister Larry Howai to also eventually join the board.
ANSA BANK Board in BOX.
David Dulal-Whiteway - Chairman
Robert Le Hunte - Managing Director
Gregory N. Hill
Jon Paul Mouttet
Frances Bain Cumberbatch