First Cit­i­zens Bank is op­ti­mistic about the out­look for the T&T econ­o­my ac­cord­ing to its CEO Karen Dar­basie. How­ev­er, the group is still mind­ful of risks.

In the com­pa­ny’s 2019 An­nu­al Re­port, Dar­basie said: “Our out­look re­mains cau­tious­ly op­ti­mistic as the lo­cal econ­o­my is ex­pect­ed to show GDP growth of 0.4% in 2020.”

She con­tin­ued: “The re­gion­al com­mu­ni­ties con­tin­ue to ex­pe­ri­ence chal­lenges re­sult­ing in slug­gish growth. Our ef­forts to stay on course cen­tres on man­ag­ing our ex­pens­es and ad­her­ing to ro­bust risk man­age­ment prac­tices.”

For the fi­nan­cial year end­ed Sep­tem­ber 30, 2019, First’s prof­it be­fore tax in­creased to $1.06 bil­lion while prof­it af­ter tax amount­ed to $751.7 mil­lion.

The Group’s to­tal as­sets amount­ed to $43.4 bil­lion as at year end, a 3.2% in­crease. The gross loan port­fo­lio in­creased by 16.3% from $16.0 bil­lion to $18.6 bil­lion and the in­vest­ments port­fo­lio in­creased by 4.9% to $15.9 bil­lion from $15.1 bil­lion.

Dar­basie in­di­cat­ed that First Cit­i­zens con­tin­ues to lever­age tech­nol­o­gy to sat­is­fy the grow­ing needs of its cus­tomers, to en­hance its prod­ucts and to achieve strate­gic ob­jec­tives.

Ac­cord­ing to Dar­basie, the com­pa­ny’s elec­tron­ic and dig­i­tal bank­ing plat­form are po­si­tioned to fa­cil­i­tate ever-evolv­ing so­lu­tions for every sit­u­a­tion.

She ex­plained: “Our of­fer­ings this past year in­clud­ed the in­tro­duc­tion of con­tact­less card tech­nol­o­gy, the EMV Deb­it Card (Eu­ro­pay, Mas­ter­card, Visa), re­al­time email no­ti­fi­ca­tions for cred­it card trans­ac­tions, ex­pand­ed con­tact cen­tre ser­vices, a self-ser­vice Visa loy­al­ty mo­bile app and deb­it card dis­pute on­line ser­vice.”

With re­gard to the in­creas­ing pres­ence of cy­berthreats, Dar­basie not­ed that the group has deep­ened its re­silience strate­gies to in­clude ad­di­tion­al lay­ers of se­cu­ri­ty and pro­tec­tion against deep in­sert skim­ming.

First Cit­i­zens’ tech­no­log­i­cal thrust has al­so al­lowed it to adopt dif­fer­ent part­ner­ships that pro­vide more ef­fec­tive and quick­er ser­vice flow for all cit­i­zens. This in­clud­ed a part­ner­ship with Massy Tech­nol­o­gy for a self-check­out ser­vice at the Massy su­per­mar­ket chain. The com­pa­ny was al­so able to fa­cil­i­tate a ful­ly au­to­mat­ed pay­to- park ser­vice at the car park kiosks at the Pi­ar­co In­ter­na­tion­al Air­port.

The Wealth Man­age­ment sec­tor of the com­pa­ny, de­fined as high net worth in­di­vid­u­als and small in­sti­tu­tions, al­so crossed TTD 1 bil­lion in funds un­der man­age­ment.

Dar­basie ex­pressed: “These funds rep­re­sent in­vest­ments in the se­cu­ri­ties mar­ket and demon­strate our abil­i­ty as a Group to of­fer a full range of fi­nan­cial ser­vices and prod­ucts to our clients.”

She es­tab­lished that the group “worked as lo­cal syn­di­cate part­ner for fi­nanc­ing for new­ly es­tab­lished Trinidad Pe­tro­le­um Hold­ings Lim­it­ed (TPHL) as well as for fund­ing to deal with re­pay­ment of Bonds for Petrotrin due in Au­gust 2019.”

Ac­cord­ing to Dar­basie, this was a sig­nif­i­cant trans­ac­tion for TPHL and “we were pleased to play our role in the fi­nanc­ing.”

Dar­basie said that the com­pa­ny’s Bar­ba­dos op­er­a­tion re­mained fo­cused on com­pli­ance and con­tin­ued sup­port to clients with­in a dif­fi­cult lo­cal econ­o­my. She al­so in­di­cat­ed that Bar­ba­dos had an ex­ten­sive EMV up­grade via the ATMs and Point of Sale ma­chines, as well as util­i­sa­tion of con­tact­less card tech­nol­o­gy.