One of the Scotia branchesis shown here.
Scotia Group CEO opens up about the future of the bank

With a recent communique on a restructuring plan leaving staff feeling uneasy, president and CEO of Scotia Group Limited (SGJ) Audrey Tugwell Henry has reassured her team of the group's commitment to its staff as they undergo a new shift to streamline its operations.

SGJ has been on a significant rationalisation process over the last three years as it closed its Old Harbour and Black River branches along with the conversion of six branches to digital-only models. In the new financial year (FY) which starts tomorrow, Bank of Nova Scotia (Jamaica) Limited (BNS), its banking subsidiary, will be closing its Cross Roads, St Andrew branch and converting Hagley Park, St Andrew; Sam Sharpe and its Linstead, St Catherine branches to digital branches. This will result in BNS having only 28 branches in the island with 15 being full service, 11 digital, and two sales centres.

As a result of the branch closure and overall restructuring, SGJ will be reducing its staff count by four per cent or 68 positions of its total staff count of 1,702. This is coming from 2,021 members of staff at the end of the 2016 FY.

“We thank our staff for their unwavering commitment, dedication and hard work in meeting the needs of our customers, particularly during an ongoing pandemic. In these circumstances, we treat our staff with respect. We take any change seriously and have a very robust programme for change management in handling situations like these. When we did our review and decided that we would make further changes in line of the digital transformation efforts of the bank, we did it with due consideration for our employees and certainly with our customers in mind,” stated Tugwell Henry in an exclusive interview with Sunday Finance. Tugwell Henry was appointed to her role at the start of this year and is dubbed the 'Change Maker' in SGJ.

According to senior vice-president for retail banking Perrin Gayle, less than five per cent the total transaction mix is in-branch transactions, far from the 23 per cent in 2016. Its parent company in Canada currently has seen digital adoption rise to 58 per cent of its customer base with self-serve transactions at 93 per cent. The Pacific Alliance of Mexico, Peru, Chile and Columbia have similar levels of digital adoption and self-serve transactions.

With the closure of the branch, the operations will be moved to the Knutsford Boulevard branch to meet the increased traffic flow of customers. BNS's website states that a digital branch has no cash or cheque transaction being facilitated inside with the sales centre being mainly to apply for new products or services.

“We still have those branches operating in the community and all of those locations [digital] are doing very well. Those branches are experiencing higher customer experience scores than pre-conversion as we've focused on using our digital and electronic banking channels to meet the needs of our customers in an organised way. Our business customers can still come and make their deposits using our night depository service. The only thing is that there's no over the counter cash because we invite our customers do those transactions at the ABM,” noted Tugwell Henry.

When queried about the needs for a larger ABM fleet across the island, Tugwell Henry stated that they are currently looking at more locations to add more offsite ABM's and will be installing more intelligent ABM's to facilitate the deposits of clients. There are an estimated 275 ABM's in the country. She also explained that the additional features for retail clients will be rolled out soon to protect them from fraud and allow them to freeze their debit cards. However, she explains that they are almost at the end of the disbursement of new chip and pin debit cards.

Though she couldn't go into detail about the group's vaccination numbers, the CEO noted that they are continuing to educate members of staff about vaccines. There is a current focus on a return to work program which will be executed barring any extraordinary events to prevent that option. 80 per cent of the staff at the company's headquarters are working from home. The location is still undergoing some level of construction, but the space appears more like a Google environment based on what has been seen so far.

In closing, Tugwell Henry continued to emphasise that staff should remain calm as they embark on this digitisation journey. She also spoke to the insurance staff's role and there being no need to worry for changes to their operations. The CEO meet with the staff union on Friday to begin deliberations.

“Our staff are a very important part of our operation. Our customers rely on our staff for guidance, support and understanding the products and services we sell. Whilst we're pursuing a digital path, our staff members are also a part of that journey, not just computers and tablets. We understand that banking is built on trust, relationships and our focus is on building very strong relationships based on trust with our customers,” said Tugwell Henry.

Scotia Group CEO AudreyTugwell Henry.
BY DAVID ROSE Observer business writer

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