FAYE Jacobs, executive director of the New Kingston-based Caribbean Integrated Financial Services (CIFS), has underscored the need for indigenous banks to implement a programme of ongoing training for their workforce to ensure their survival in an increasingly competitive market.
"In preparing our region to provide first world services we have no choice but to acknowledge that our human resources, despite the increased use of technology, continues to be our most valuable asset," she said.
Addressing participants at the annual general meeting and conference of the Caribbean Association of Indigenous Banks (CAIB) at the Jack Tar Village, St. Kitts, recently, Mrs. Jacobs said the training of the workforce up to First World standards was critical to the survival of the banking sector.
"Most of us, as leaders, consider training as an expense," she said. However, she questioned whether bankers should not see it as an investment rather than an item of expenditure.
Mrs. Jacobs suggested that invisible but tangible losses could arise from the lack of a highly-trained and motivated workforce. Questioning whether banks could continue to cope with changes with which they must grapple daily without constant training, she said that "as leaders we must be aware that change is not fixed. Change itself is constantly changing and so the only way we can stay ahead is to provide our most valuable asset, our human resources, with the training that will equip them to serve the organisation well."
She also referred to a number of challenges faced by regional banks, of which she said the CAIB should take account and provide the leadership "to take us beyond. ... It is a duty that cannot be shunned."
According to Mrs. Jacobs, "As bankers, we have a duty that extends way beyond the granting of loans and the taking of market share. We have a duty to contribute to the sustainability of the region, to guide governments in the direction that will lead to the survival and growth of our customers and hence to our own survival and growth."
She also enumerated a few core factors that she believed contributed to the meltdown of the Jamaican financial sector in the mid to late 1990s, noting that CIFS has recognised there was a pressing need to train banks' board of directors and was now developing a course "as we feel boards must be knowledgeable if they are to successfully guide the future of our banks."
CIFS was established following the collapse of Jamaica's financial sector. According to Mrs. Jacobs, it was the extent of the losses sustained by some of the banks that pushed them to develop the company to provide service and training to banking personnel, as well as those in other financial institutions.
In underscoring the importance of preparing the Caribbean region to meet First World standards, the theme under which she spoke, Mrs. Jacobs said, "We must embrace change as a challenge and use it to vault ourselves to be the best, to become First World in our thinking and our culture, to value our region as a region that is amongst the safest in the world, and continue to influence and lead the changes that are necessary not just to sustain our region, but to become a region that has the potential and resources to be one of the wealthiest in the world."