Wed | Jun 20, 2018

Job losses as NCB suits up for digital disruptors

Published:Sunday | January 7, 2018 | 12:00 AMNeville Graham
Dennis Cohen, Chief Financial Officier and Deputy CEO of NCB Financial Group.

Job separation is a natural outcome of the constant drive to improve business processes, according to Dennis Cohen, the second in command at NCB Financial Group.

He confirmed that jobs were eliminated at the banking group at year end, which Gleaner Business sources have said were in the order of 50-60.

"I can't confirm the number, but while this may create a bit of a wave and some noise for the time being, the fact is that it is always happening because we are constantly making changes, and there may be a number today but a bit of a trickle tomorrow," said Cohen, the deputy CEO and chief financial officer of NCB Financial, the parent company for National Commercial Bank Jamaica Limited.

It comes after NCB reported record profit of $19 billion for 2017 and as the banking group invests more in technology to build out its digital operation for faster service delivery.

"One of the challenges that we have is that the organisation has done fairly well. Within that context, there is almost the feeling that we should not constantly be looking to improve our business model," Cohen said, adding that work does not stop at big profits.

He argues that the financial sector is being constantly disrupted, with customers always wanting more at less cost, while asking for a better banking experience.

He said that his own recent experience, backed up by research in the financial sector, convinced him that banks like NCB would have to contend with rivalry emanating from beyond their own shores and so must change or die.

"I got a chance to visit Google and Apple, and these guys are entering the financial world. There are no borders to them doing this, and we believe that it is incumbent on us to constantly look at and improve our business model," he said.

 

NEW TYPE OF TALENT POOL

 

Jamaica's number-one bank recently embarked on a digital-transformation programme. This has seen the promotion of online banking, digital transactions/mobile money, and Internet banking kiosks, among other upgrades.

The upshot is that online or electronic platforms are increasingly the focus of service delivery over the traditional brick-and-mortar.

Cohen says that the strategy has led NCB Financial to both new opportunities as well as the need to develop a new type of talent pool.

"We've embarked on a digital agenda, where we are looking at providing a more digital experience for our customers. so within that context, roles will become redundant, and, indeed, at the same time, new roles are being created," the banker said.

"There is a demand for programmers, data specialists, programme managers in implementing our agile programme, and we have a need for agile coaches, scrum masters, data interface designers."

Regarding the recent job separations, Cohen said that their exit came after the bank first sought to redeploy staff.

He said that, typically, there is post-separation counselling and that redundant workers are allowed to maintain their group life and healthcare coverage for a period of six months.

"At NCB, we say that if the pace of change on the outside is faster than the pace of change on the inside, then the end is near. We have to be constantly moving, and we can't be lulled into a sense of complacency when people are saying that we are doing well," said Cohen, before waxing philosophical.

"As Aristotle said: Excellence is not an event. It is a habit."

neville.graham@gleanerjm.com