Barbados-headquartered CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank has eliminated just over 450 positions across its regional operations in a restructuring exercise to be completed by October this year.
Briefing the media today, CEO Rik Parkhill said only a small fraction of the 900-strong Barbados workforce had their positions eliminated. He issued this clarification while addressing a wide range of issues of interest to the bank.
“We are about 70 per cent of the way through with the restructuring exercise,” he said. “Many of those people in redundant positions have found positions in other areas of the bank. We have bent over to ensure that people who were in redundant positions actually got some preference in terms of finding employment in other open positions.”
Parkhill added: “We were one of the first banks to embark on a restructuring programme, but I think it was important for the future of the bank as well as all of our stakeholders that we could remain profitable in a low growth environment.”
Parkhill’s comments came at a time when many Canadian-headquartered banks are looking critically at their operations in the Caribbean. CIBC FirstCaribbean is a subsidiary of CIBC Canada.
The top banker told media personnel that management was determined to grow the bank, stressing he was not “a great believer that businesses can shrink themselves to greatness”.
Parkhill gave Caribbean governments the assurance that CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank was committed to the region.
Addressing the issue of out-sourcing, Parkhill saw it as a misnomer when a more in-depth analysis was done on the bank’s practices. “What we were trying to do was to centralize some of our operations with an agreement between the Jamaican subsidiary and that in Barbados,” he explained.
He added: “All financial institutions that operate regionally tend to centralize their operations in one or two places. That is really what we were doing. I think we have had a dialogue with regulators and we provided more explicit information in terms of what we were doing. I think everyone seems to be reasonably satisfied.”
Commenting on access to funding for the small business sector, Parkill acknowledged there probably was not enough interaction in the past but it was beginning to improve. “It certainly is an area we have expanded our presence in over the last year with the new small business offering. We would like to grow our ‘loan book’ as well as the level of business we do with small businesses,” he said.
However, the senior banker pointed out that most commercial banks traditionally have had a higher rate of default on small business loans than in other customer segments. While acknowledging that the small business sector could be the engine of growth in the region, he explained that the higher rate of default factored into high price loans particularly to “early age companies”.