SAGICOR Financial Company Limited (SFC) will be launching a fully digital commercial bank come this June/July through an entity called Sagicor Bank (Barbados) Limited (SBB).
SBB was incorporated in April 2021 and became a wholly owned subsidiary of SFC in November 2021. It will be headquartered in Barbados and forms part of SFC's goal to create an integrated financial services company in the Caribbean. SFC also has a wholly owned subsidiary called Sagicor Special Opportunity Funds which was formed in 2020 but is not yet operational. The financial conglomerate has a 49.11 per cent controlling interest in Sagicor Group Jamaica Limited (SJ), along with its wholly owned subsidiaries of Sagicor Life USA and Sagicor Life in Barbados (SLB).
“Sagicor has operated in the Caribbean for over one hundred and eighty years. We have prospered by listening to our customers. They have spoken clearly: 'Banking has to change.' We plan to launch a bank that allows people to bank the way they want rather than be encumbered by the excessive process, delays and cost that characterise the current banking system,” said SFC Group President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Dodridge Miller in the release.
When the Jamaica Observer reached out to executive vice-president of investor relations at SFC, Samantha Cheung for additional details, she explained that the queries would be sent to the relevant persons. With SBB being a fully digital bank, it could be classified as a neobank. Neobanks are financial institutions that give customers a cheaper alternative to traditional banks. They can be thought of as digital banks, thus having no physical branches, and offering services that traditional banks don't.
This query comes as the release stated that the development of the bank took two years to meet the needs of the Caribbean consumers and businesses, with a focus on employing the latest mobile, digital technology to provide low-cost and innovative products. There are currently six licensed commercial banks in Barbados, with Scotiabank and First Caribbean International Bank Limited (FCIB) reducing their physical footprint across the Caribbean.
The move by SFC to launch SBB comes as WiPay Caribbean launches its neobank, called Colour Bank, next Thursday out of Miami. WiPay is a fintech company focused on payment processing in the region and which has been launching various products to meet gaps in the speed and processing of payments in the region.
As part of its development to lead a digital bank, SFC has recruited FCIB's Deputy Chief Information Officer George Thomas to lead SBB as its CEO. Apart from his 30 years in technology and 20 years as an executive, Thomas is currently an advisor to the Barbados Ministry of Innovation and Smart Technology and is the co-chair of the Technology Working Group National Digital ID. He has also done work in the Middle East, Africa and United States through the implementation of enabling technologies and enterprising systems.
“The bank is the first to be built completely from a customer's perspective. We will use technology to systematically re-imagine the banking experience and deliver superior value to our customers,” Thomas said in the release.
SJ's wholly owned subsidiary, Sagicor Bank Jamaica Limited (SBJ) is the only commercial banking subsidiary in the SFC group. SBJ's 2021 revenue increased by 18 per cent to $15.52 billion, and it generated its highest net profit of $3.27 billion, a 33 per cent year on year increase. It is yet to be seen if any synergies will be formed between SBJ and SBB, especially with SBJ launching a new branch at Up Park Camp and having its bank on the wheel's initiative. Additional details on SBB are expected to be made available prior to its launch.
“Technology and infrastructure remains a top priority for Sagicor, and we are always exploring ways of improving and leveraging technology to support our strategic initiatives which are directly correlated to our client experience. It is an ongoing activity as we build out our base to provide more efficient and convenient products and services to our clients,” said SBJ CEO Chorvelle Johnson Cunningham recently.