“When we build, let us think that we build forever. Let it not be for present delight nor for present use alone. Let it be such work as our descendants will thank us for; and let us think, as we lay stone on stone, that a time is to come when those stones will be held sacred because our hands have touched them, and that men will say, as they look upon the labour and wrought substance of them, ‘See! This our fathers did for us.”
This was the quote from John Ruskin’s The Seven Lamps of Architecture that managing director of ANSA Bank Robert Le Hunte recited to the Business Guardian as he outlined the financial institution’s goal of building for the future.
And that future, Le Hunte said is to become the region’s “first technologically driven digital commercial bank.”
March 1, 2022 marked the one year since the ANSA McAL conglomerate purchased the Bank of Baroda in T&T which was eventually re-branded to ANSA Bank.
According to ANSA Bank’s financial statements for the nine months ended December 31, 2021 it recorded a net loss of $15.7 million.
But Le Hunte is not daunted by that.
“One of the things that is important and key in any transition process is to have a long-term vision and not be daunted by short-term actions. And you have to have shareholders that have a long term vision for what it is that they want to achieve and have confidence in that vision,” Le Hunte stated.
Le Hunte added the ANSA McAL conglomerate is known for its long-term vision.
“They have demonstrated that long-term vision to T&T by the length of time that they have been in the country and they have been here during good times and during bad times,” he said.
And this was no different for its outlook for ANSA Bank.
And they are on course for where they want to be.
“We had some strategic long- term objectives of transitioning the bank from an existing small commercial bank with three branches to a digital first technologically driven digital first commercial bank and we set our time frame for that of 18 months and we also set a goal of trying to look at the existing old banking system and set about doing some improving to the service of that institution as best as we can, as much as we transition it then to where we would like to go,” he said.
Le Hunte said even in the face of all the challenges, ANSA Bank stated it was able to increase its loan portfolio by almost 240-250 per cent, making it one of the fastest growing commercial banks in T&T.
“We have tripled the number of customers that we actually are dealing with in the bank. We have reduced our non-performing loan portfolio again by almost 300 per cent something from 17 per cent that we inherited from Bank of Baroda somewhere to about five per cent,” he said.
“We have done a tremendous job in stabilising this present institution and we have done that with a lot of local staff,” Le Hunte said.
Le Hunte said the goal is “no frills banking.”
“Because our present core banking system doesn’t require us to do anything fancy but utilising no frills banking, removing some of the fees that customers are charged for certain transactions like ATMs and doing things a little bit innovatively, we have been able to be very successful,” he said.
Le Hunte said the digital banking is expected to be operational by June.
“And we recognise and that this is a journey. Constantly improving ourselves and constantly providing new ways of banking, as a digital bank, this is not a pit stop come August.
“This is a continuous journey, so we are incorporating an innovative lab into our structure and into our new operating model where we will have individuals that will be constantly looking at how we could improve the way we that we provide you with the service that you want as a bank,” Le Hunte said.
Le Hunte said he is excited about the future.
“I assure you, when our branches which we will be calling touchpoints are launched or relaunched in areas, the look and feel of these institutions are going to be different from a commercial bank and therefore we will be able to be very attractive, our products or services, our ability to be able to help you to save and to be able to help you to track your savings mechanisms,” he said.
Le Hunte said the bank will also work with helping small businesses which is a salute to Dr Anthony Norman Sabga.
“Being able as a bank to help small businesses to transition themselves from small business to big business is again something that we intend to focus on and it’s part of our sustainable development goals,” he said.
“As we look at our institution right in helping the society, not only for today but as we build up a bank for the future,” Le Hunte said.
And with the move to digital, Le Hunte said things are being put in place to protect the bank.
“And therefore we are mindful of that in this group and we are building this bank with all these safeguards to ensure that we protect ourselves because of what’s happening with Russia and cyber security.
“We have beefed up that and we have brought on board the best of the best in every single consultant to come on board to help us every step of the way because at the end of the day our bank must be safe, sound and secure,” he said.
“We are investing for the long term, we are investing for the future and we have every confidence that this year 2022, as we build out the bank in 2022 and we get up and running in 2023, we expect to make all of our targets in 2022 as it relates to loan growth and asset growth and then when our bank is up and running fully by 2022-2023,” he said.