PRESS RELEASE – St. Lucia, Wednesday November 25, 2015: The resilience and direction of the Caribbean banking sector was the focus of attention at the recent 42nd Conference of Caribbean Association of Banks Inc. (CAB), held in St Kitts and Nevis.
At the end of the Conference, the burning question put to all was “Are we still at crossroads or on a merry go round trying to figure out how to get off?”
The Conference, held under the theme – “The Financial Services Industry at Crossroads: Where to from Here?” provided a stimulating platform for the many industry professionals and bankers who provided a plethora of information on the issues facing the industry and the various economies in the region.
Ms Joanna Charles, Chairperson of the CAB, in her Welcome Remarks set the scene for the days to come by highlighting the major issues with which the sector was grappling: governance and risk management; high delinquency ratios resulting in huge loan loss provisioning; eroding margins; increased capital adequacy requirements; and increased cyber-attacks.
According to Ms Charles, on top of all these issues rest the huge costs of compliance and the great volcano that has erupted this year i.e. the loss of correspondent banking relationships. Recognising that the industry is at crossroads, Ms Charles called upon the sector to demonstrate innovation, enterprise and resilience. This is a time to engage team members and customers; leverage strengths, and work together to continue to build the region’s banking and broader financial sectors.
The Feature speaker, Mr Charles Wilkin CMG, QC expanded the theme to the wider perspective of the development of the region and proposed that Caribbean countries work harder to: rank higher in the World Bank Doing Business Guide, re-orient their education systems to support the service-based economies that now exist and put appropriate legislation and regulation in place to combat corruption.
Key Note speaker Dr Everson Hull, Business Economist and Permanent Representative for St Kitts and Nevis to the Organisation of American States (OAS), outlined the economic position of Caribbean countries and how they compared with Central and Latin America. He highlighted Mexico, Central and South America as the New Southern Frontier and encouraged the region to explore the opportunities that exist in these markets.
The Conference used the two days to examine the current state of the Financial Services Industry and identified the essential next steps. The key areas highlighted for action were:
- Reform the legislative and regulatory framework inter alia the harmonisation of secrecy laws, credit bureau information, obtaining/realising collateral and the overall financial services infrastructure; to create greater efficiency and ease of doing business.
- Be more proactive and form greater collaboration with key strategic stakeholders and partners to ensure that the region is involved in international legislative and regulatory decisions that affect it.
- Invest in innovative technology with analytical capabilities to create operational efficiencies and deliver relevant products and services to customers, at the right price.
- Recognise that the risks which financial service institutions now face have changed. The threat is no longer just perpetrators with guns; they also face increasing cyber-attacks, ATM attacks, scheming devices and sophisticated account hacking. Cyber security is now a key survival factor. Institutions need to invest in appropriate mechanisms to combat these risks.
- Invest in people to build a strong performance culture, governance and enterprise risk management framework within organisations.
- Amalgamate key functions and organisations, within the industry, to realise economies of scale and scope.
The conference received the support of national, regional and international sponsors who provide technological and professional services to the industry.
The CAB continues to support its members through advocacy, up to date training, growing member/partner networks and engagement at all levels in order to build a solid and dynamic financial services sector.
The world-class CAB Conference and AGM will be held in Curacao in November 2016.