Branching Beyond Home Markets

Apr 29, 2004

Caribbean banks are looking for scale as they assume more aggressive pan-regional strategies. Trinidadian players are leading the pack.

Trinidad & Tobago is the Caribbean's financial anchor, with the region's strongest and most adventurous banks. They have prospered from the country's economic expansion over the past few years - driven mainly by energy-related activities. But opportunities at home are limited, so Trinidadian banks are expanding across the Caribbean.

The country's two largest, Republic Bank and Royal Bank of Trinidad & Tobago (RBTT), hold 60% of bank assets. Bank penetration is high, with 1.5 million deposit accounts in a country of 1.3 million people. "If we want to grow, we have to grow outside of our geographical space," Ronald Harford, president of Republic, says. "We are not likely to get much larger market shares in the territories where we operate, nor is it particularly desirable in terms of risk." Republic, the larger of the two banks with assets of $2.41 billion, waded into the Dominican Republic at the height...

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