When companies that do business in Trinidad and Tobago decide to reinvest it’s ultimately an endorsement of the business climate.
Scotiabank Trinidad and Tobago is the local subsidiary of Canada’s third-largest bank by assets, the Bank of Nova Scotia, which has operations in 47 countries including most Caribbean countries.
The bank opened for business in 1954 and today has more than 1,300 employees in 24 branches and five retail sales centres across the country. It offers a suite of retail, commercial and cash management products and services.
Scotiabank Trinidad and Tobago:
- 1,300+ employees
- 24 branches
- 5 retail service centres
- Over 80 automated teller machines (ATMs)
Scotiabank has a reputation for being the most ‘international’ of all local banks. With its regional business thriving, management needed to consolidate back-office operations across the region. Streamlining operations would allow the bank to better serve its customers and increase profits.
The information processing facility they’d need meant a sizeable headcount. The bank would need to find and recruit hundreds of qualified people. Additionally, to stay competitive, Scotiabank had to be able to do cross-border transactions profitably and lessen or avoid a heavy tax burden altogether.
Anya Schnoor, nine months in as new managing director, was also keen to avoid government bureaucracy as she set the bank on course to grow its regional business.
Scotiabank found a proactive team in place to support them. While invesTT is the national investment promotion agency with overarching responsibility for foreign direct investment, the government went a step further: creating a special-purpose company, the Trinidad and Tobago International Financial Center (TTIFC), as the lead support agency for financial services firms.
The government offered the bank several fiscal incentives via its free zone programme. These incentives included total exemption from corporate and withholding taxes (the bank only pays tax on services rendered locally), exemption from duties, value-added tax (VAT) and other remittances.
To qualify, the TTIFC worked closely with Scotia executives to help them achieve “single-enterprise” free zone status, a certification from the Trinidad and Tobago Free Zone Company based on the size and economic impact of their shared-services hub. The bank had little difficulty staffing the facility thanks to a regular supply of graduands who benefit from free tertiary education thanks to state subsidies.
Unlike traditional government-designated special economic zones where multiple companies work in state-provided facilities, Trinidad and Tobago’s free zone programme allowed Scotiabank, as a private business, to get free zone status for its hub based on the number of quality jobs they created and the overall investment impact.
To top it off, Minister of Trade, Industry and Investment Vasant Bharath and Finance Minister Larry Howai took a hands-on approach to make the deal happen, working together to push through amendments to the existing Fiscal Incentives Act and to ensure exemption from VAT for financial services companies.
Located in the bustling central borough of Chaguanas and trading under the name Operations and Shared Services Company Limited, Scotiabank’s shared-services hub occupies 68,000 sq ft and is already thriving thanks to its mostly tax-exempt free zone status. It provides back-office processing for 11 Eastern Caribbean countries including Trinidad.
“Scotiabank has operations in almost every Caribbean country,” said Mahadeo Sebarath, vice president of international operations, “Services span from operational controls, processing activities, and accounting controls to credit fulfilment, customer support activities and collections.”
Sebarath said the company hired close to 400 staff over time and expansion plans will increase the headcount by another 20-25 percent. Scotiabank will also increase the number of countries the hub services in the short to medium term.
Operations and Shared Services Company Limited:
- Close to 400 employees
- Headcount to increase to 500 in two years
- New purpose-built facility on 68,000 sq ft
- Currently servicing 11 Eastern Caribbean countries including Trinidad and Tobago