Trinidad & Tobago is a small yet rich country where three relatively large banks compete fiercely for leadership. Yet from the depths of bankruptcy and restructuring almost a decade ago, state-owned First Citizens Bank, Trinidad's fourth-largest bank, has begun to drive a wedge between its bigger competitors. Focusing on customer service and a high-end client base, First Citizens has enjoyed a five-year growth streak. Larry Howai, chief executive officer of First Citizens, says, "We have experienced considerable growth in our business since, as our competitors become larger and larger, they cannot provide the level of customer service and personalization that we can." The bank's return on assets has increased steadily over the years to 2.1% in fiscal 2002 from 1.47% in 2001 and 1.34% in 2000.
The Trinidadian government formed First Citizens in 1993 out of the remains of three failed banks and today the bank has 22...
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