Despite a sluggish economic recovery, there is a possibility CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank could still expand its footprint in Barbados.
Speaking to reporters shortly after the official opening of the Warrens flagship $10 million branch last week, Rik Parkhill, chief executive officer, said the financial institution remained committed to the Barbados market and was cautiously optimistic things would improve over time.
“There may be one or two other areas in Barbados where we are certainly looking at the possibility of opening up new branches. The time frame to do that is uncertain,” said Parkhill.
He did not give details, but said a part of that plan depended on how well the Warrens facility performed.
“So we will continue to pour money into our branch network in Barbados in terms of renovating the existing branch network. We may even consolidate some branches, but there will be no employment lost. Just because in some areas we think there may be a need for a bigger facility rather than a couple of small facilities,” he explained.
Parkhill said there were also plans to set up a network of private wealth management centres in some Caribbean islands, one of those hubs to be in Barbados.
The banker said he expected this year to be better than the last.
“The big question mark is the magnitude of that recovery and its sustainability.”
In fact, Parkhill said, there were already signs of “modest recovery” throughout the region with improvements in the non-performing loans portfolio.
“I would say if I look at the first quarter of this year so far, versus the first quarter of last year that business is a little bit better,” he added. “Our lending books are starting to grow again after we have had a difficult time over the last couple of years. So we are still focused on corporate lending and investment banking. Certainly, retail banking; we think that there is a big opportunity in terms of servicing small business customers . . . . We think they are underserved by the banking system,” said Parkhill.