Nation e-Edition

Republic banking on Barbados

DERWIN HOWELL, outgoing managing director and chief executive officer of Republic Bank’s local operations, is returning to Trinidad and Tobago year-end as second  in command of group operations.

By Geralyn Edward, Business Editor | Mon, October 15, 2012 - 10:00 AM

DESPITE a significant drop in profits between 2010 and last year, former state-owned Republic Bank (Barbados) Ltd remains the second-largest business unit within the Republic Bank group.

This was revealed by Derwin Howell, managing director and chief executive officer of the local operations.

Howell, who will return to Trinidad and Tobago in two months as second in command of group operations, told BARBADOS BUSINESS AUTHORITY in an exclusive interview that the former BNB remained an important player for the regional banking giant.

In 2010 Republic Bank (Barbados) recorded $36.03 million in after-tax profits; however, that fell to $15.12 million last year as the island continued to struggle with weak loan demand and anaemic economic activity.

Despite this, Howell said, the island’s banking operations were regarded as “an important part of the group’s profitability and success”.

According to the career banker and engineer, “We think that there is potential here and we would certainly continue to place some reliance on Barbados’ moving forward.

“We see the challenges that the economy faces. We understand because we track these things. We

operate here, [in] Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and Grenada, and we know the environments.”

The senior banker said the group’s operations in Grenada were also facing challenges in a significantly slowed economy.

Last financial year, Republic Bank’s return on average assets fell to 0.66 per cent from 1.54 per cent in 2010, highlighting the challenges in the local banking environment.

Howell noted that the bank was able to improve some of its key numbers in the 2012 financial year to September but due to the current blackout period, he could not reveal details before the financials were released to shareholders.

“At the end of the day, we will get what we put into it and we will continue to invest in our people and their training,” he said.

And almost two months after its rebranding from Barbados National Bank to Republic Bank of Barbados, he disclosed, “We are beginning to see a lot of our customers in Trinidad and Tobago who operate in Barbados coming over and we [benefit from] that extension of business across the region.”

Regarding the impact of the current conditions on the bank’s staffing levels, which hover around 500, Howell said every effort was being made to retain jobs in the institution.

The message, he said, had gone out to employees of the need to improve productivity rather than achieve better profit margins by reducing employee numbers.

“I don’t want to reduce staff but I want to increase revenue and grow the bank,” he told BARBADOS BUSINESS AUTHORITY.

“That message has gone out and I have seen a pickup. Any reduction in staff has come from attrition; we have not gone out and cut staff.

“That is the approach we prefer to take. We are not unmindful of what is going on in the economy. Everybody knows that when you put someone on the breadline, it is another person out there and that is not an approach we want to take.

“We would like to grow our business to allow us to keep all our staff,” he pointed out.

Howell noted that staff numbers could contract by about six per cent annually through resignations and retirements, and assessments are made on whether the company needed to hire replacements.

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Posted by sherrie Thorpe 1 year, 11 months ago
As i read this article it burns my heart to see Trini's so proud of they achievements in Barbados. It is like fire in a city and we are in it. Though your house may not be in center of the fire your house will still be affected by pollution with smoke, ashes, heat etc. Like wise a recession will generally affect the country and eventually affect indiviuals directly or indirectly, economy will slow down money circulation will affect to the tune of jobless. Shut down indirectly affects all the business in the country as it is all inter related in one way or another. As a customer of Barbados National Bank now Republic Bank Barbados it painful to see how government would allow Trinidadians to come and destroy our heritage.
The action of a few greedy bankers and banks, will be the down full of the entire country. Is this not a greater evil than droughts or tsunamis that have already destroyed countries? However as usual money has turned us all into evil monsters, who only care about our profit and turnover. Government needs to find a solution to banks foreclosing on people's properties without even giving them a chance to redeem themselves. When you hear the cries of the people talking about the treatment, fees and disrespect for the unemployed from Republic Bank Barbados it is sad. Nobody knows what tomorrow holds and they must remember that God is the author and finisher of everything.

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