Despite challenges Scotiabank expects continued growth for 2016

BY JOSIMAR SCOTT Observer writer

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

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WITH another financial year having been completed on October 31, 2015, Scotiabank's President and CEO Jacqueline Sharp believes that despite the challenges presented by the restructuring of the financial industry, the group will continue to grow in the upcoming year.


"It's been a very, very challenging year, but also a very good year in terms of achievements against our strategic priorities," Sharp said, speaking at this week's Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange, held at the newspaper's headquarters at Beechwood Avenue in Kingston.


Among the challenges, the Scotia Group CEO highlighted that with new regulations, such as amendments to the Banking Services Act, the financial group will now have to face increased asset tax, new capital requirements, changes to the insurance tax regime, as well as the US-backed Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA).


"We have had, for example, FATCA that was introduced; that cost us a huge amount of money, a significant investment in our systems to be able to prepare for FATCA reporting," Sharp outlined, while steering clear of the actual dollar value, but indicating that upgrades range in tens of millions. She also pointed out that in order to facilitate changes to accommodate FATCA, Canadian banks, including Scotiabank, had spent $700 million.


Under FATCA, US residents and citizens living overseas are required to declare their status when opening accounts with financial institutions for tax purposes.


"I would say there are a number of internal and external factors, and it all boils down to ultimately increasing overall operating costs in a significant way," Sharp stated, responding to the question of how the changes have affected day-to-day business.


Sharp admits though that, in spite of the many challenges, the Scotia conglomerate has seen growth in both in its client base and business lines.


"So a lot of external factors are impacting our business and we have had to centre around how do we make it easier for our customers to do business with us, and how do we put our entire suite of products to our customers ..." Sharp explained.


"We have seen growth in our client base because customer acquisition -- new client acquisition -- is also a key focus for us. So we have grown in terms a number of clients all across the spectrum: retail, small business, commercial, investment and insurance, " the CEO continued


Craig Mair, senior vice-president of commercial, concurred with Sharp about the growth in customer acquisition, including from competitors. He pointed out that the bank had also experienced growth in its loan portfolio as a result of investments in distribution (wholesale and retail), hospitality, commercial and residential construction, among other industries.


"We anticipate that, with the continued cautious confidence in the growth of the economy, we're going to see and enjoy the same in 2016," Mair stated, adding that growth in asset portfolio is estimated to be between two and three per cent


Expounding on the bank's strategic goals, Sharp explained that the bank has and continues to evaluate processes which may be inefficient and do not add value to the banking experience. As such, she pointed out that the bank has focused on "transaction migration" to provide clients with access to alternate channels for doing business without going to branches, including ATMs, online banking and mobile banking. This also has the effect of reducing operational cost, she elaborated further.


"So that has been our focus: To leverage customer base with our product suite to be presenting greater solutions and options for our clients," Sharp stated, while also announcing that come 2016 clients can look out for new products and projects "to meet their financial goals".



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