Sun | Aug 25, 2019

Scotia Group aiming for more loans

Published:Friday | March 9, 2018 | 12:00 AM
President & CEO of Scotia Group Jamaica, David Noel.

David Noel, who faced shareholders as president and CEO of Scotia Group Jamaica for the first time at their annual meeting on Thursday, pledged to grow the bank's loan book and invest in technology as part of his vision for the No. 2 bank.

Scotia Group released its first-quarter results ahead of the meeting, which reported earnings per share of $1.10 for the period ending January, up from 70 cents per share.

The bank posted improved results even after discounting the $753-million gain it received from divesting its microfinancing arm to Lasco Financial last December.

The group reported total operating revenue of $11.6 billion during the quarter, up from $9.6 billion a year earlier. Net profit after tax rose to $3.4 billion from $2.2 billion.

However, its loan portfolio slipped in the same period, from $168.2 billion last year to $167.5 billion.

Still, Noel, who became CEO last November, attempted to telegraph that he was bullish about the bank's prospects.

"We are optimistic on the future and I believe that no financial institution can deliver better results over the long term than Scotiabank," he told shareholders.

His comments come within the context of double-digit growth for No. 1 rival NCB Financial Group's loan book. Noel declined to comment on his targets for loan growth going forward, but told the Financial Gleaner the bank believes there are opportunities out there and was prepared to seek them out.

"We will look to grow our loan book ... and it is our expectation for an improved performance next year," Noel said.

Scotia Group Chairman Jeffrey Hall added that growth in the economy, along with consumer and business confidence, augurs well for new loan growth.

The bank, in the meantime, is seeking to transition more business to online platforms in order to avoid building out branches.

"We will continue to make investments in technology. In coming months, there will be investments in branch networks. We will be making investments, but also making sure we are efficient," said Noel. He added that for first time, in 2017, online transactions surpassed in-branch transactions.

The banking group will pay interim dividends of 40 cents per share, based on the January results, amounting to $1.24 billion.

Scotia Group revealed at the meeting, in response to a question from minority shareholder Orrette Staple, that more than $900 million of dividends declared over time remain unclaimed.

steven.jackson@gleanerjm.com