With billions of dollars in “old money” said to be floating around in the pockets of Barbadians, one Trinidad and Tobago-based commercial bank has ramped up its effort to capture more of that wealth.
Republic Bank (Barbados) Limited announced on Thursday evening, the expansion of its premium banking, which initially offered personalized investment, credit and general banking services to the wealthy.
During the semi-lavish cocktail party at the Fusion Rooftop Restaurant at the swanky Limegrove lifestyle centre, banking officials told the modest audience, which included several local business magnates, that the reintroduction of the premium banking service was in the making for “some time”.
Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Republic Bank Anthony Clerk acknowledged that the more than century-old financial institution was competing for the same market share in the face of continued economic hardship.
“We at Republic Bank understand that our customers have options and during these times of economic uncertainty, we are cognizant that you need to ensure you get the best value for your money,” said Clerk.
The improved premium banking service provides customers with a range of benefits through a number of partners in areas of retail, automotive, travel, food and beverage, and concierge services.
In an effort to capture more segments of the market, the bank announced four types of premium banking services – premium bespoke, premium banking executive, premium banking professional and premium banking family.
“There are a fair number of people with money in Barbados and there is some old money, as we say. And old money doesn’t run out in a difficult period because it is kind of like deep pockets. So we want to capture some of that market and play in that segment a little bit more,” Clerk told journalists.
The 2017 Financial Stability Report estimated that the local financial system grew by an estimated 2.8 per cent that year, to reach $25.6 billion. Commercial banks continued to hold the bulk of the assets in the system, representing 53 per cent ($13.6 billion), followed by the insurance industry, 15 per cent or (3.9 billion) and credit unions, $2.2 billion.
While optimistic that economic activity would pick up in Barbados once several projects came on stream, Clerk said for now, Barbadians were being careful in their borrowing given the sustained tough economic circumstances here.
“It is a reasonably tough going. The economy is going through this structural adjustment period and it is going to take a little while. So the demand is fairly subdued, both on the retail and commercial sides. In terms of the economy, the important thing for us now is that we get some of those projects that will stimulate the economy going. I have heard a lot about them we know there are projects wanting to come on in Barbados. So it is important to get them going. So that could generate some commercial activity and spin-off retail activity as well,” he added.
The banking official said: “Barbadians are fairly careful in borrowing I would say generally”, explaining that while the bank had maintained a large clientele of public sector workers and government institutions from its Barbados National Bank days, it wanted to now capture “more premium banking-type customers, which would bring into Republic another revenue stream.
“So that is what this relaunch is about and bringing some value to the existing premium banking product,” added Clerk.
Introducing the different segments of the premium banking product, General Manager of Retail Banking of Republic Bank Limited (Barbados) Sharon Zephrin said the enhanced service is more comprehensive and personalized to better meet the needs of customers.
She said it now offered “more services, more benefits, more privileges and more choices”, catering now to the young professional, families, young executives and those who wanted more personalized services.
“I would say the product was to my mind, one directional, in terms of catering to one segment of the market. However, this is not solely for the rich,” said Zephrin.
“We are cognisant and we do listen to the voices of our customers and that in turn translated into the expansion of the product,” she added.
The premium banking service is available from the Republic Bank’s One Barbados Place in Warrens. St Michael, and at the Limegrove Lifestyle Centre location in Holetown, St James. (MM)