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RBTT brand to disappear from Jamaica after a decade

Published:Friday | June 10, 2011 | 12:00 AM
Suresh Sookoo, CEO of RBC Caribbean, also ran RBTT Financial Group up to its 2008 acquisition by Royal Bank of Canada. - File
Minna Israel, head of country operations of RBTT Bank Jamaica. - File

McPherse Thompson, Assistant Editor - Business

Three years after acquisition by Royal Bank of Canada, RBTT branches in Jamaica will be rebranded in early July, under a phased regional schedule announced Monday in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad.

The RBC Royal Bank name and logo will replace that of RBTT.

The move is part of a wider plan to integrate the businesses onto a common platform to take advantage of RBC global and regional strengths, as it seeks to become the undisputed financial services leader in Caribbean markets in which it has a presence.

Royal Bank of Canada acquired the operations of RBTT Financial Group in 2008 for US$2.2 billion in one of the largest deals to be recorded in the Caribbean. The regional holdings are now managed out of Port-of-Spain under RBC's Caribbean division headed by Suresh Sookoo, a carry-over from RBTT.

The rebranding is the final phase of the three-year long integration of more than one million regional clients into the Canadian banking group's global network.

Last year, RBTT Bank Jamaica's financial yearend was adjusted from March to October to accord with that of its Canadian parent as part of the process.

Sookoo, the chief executive officer of Caribbean Banking at RBC, said in Port-of-Spain at the launch of the rebranding programme Monday, that the bank also expects to attract customers and "make it uneasy" for competitors such as Scotiabank Jamaica to which many were attracted as a safe alternative during the financial-sector meltdown of the 1990s.

"With one brand, single leadership and a totally unified operation in the Caribbean, our vision, values and behaviours reflect our commitment to work together to effectively meet our clients' needs better than our competitors," said Sookoo.

RBTT entered the Jamaican market on the heels of the meltdown when it acquired Union Bank, the combined operations of four failed institutions - Island Victoria, Eagle Commercial, Citizens Bank and Workers Bank - in 2001.

The Jamaican operation is headed by Minna Israel, who at the time of her recruitment was a rising star inside Scotiabank and was widely expected to inherit the top spot in that banking group.

Royal Bank of Canada is among the 20 largest banks globally, and top in its home country, with market capitalisation of US$86 billion as at May 26, 2011.

The cash and shares deal to acquire RBTT in June 2008 was, in a way, the closing of a circle.

RBTT started out as a spin-off of the Trinidad and Tobago subsidiary of Royal Bank of Canada when the Canadian organisation jettisoned its operations in Jamaica and a number of other Caribbean markets during the 1980s.

RBC Caribbean, with combined assets of TT$74 billion at financial year ended October 2010, now has a presence in 19 countries in the region, with 125 branches and close to 7,000 employees serving more than 1.6 million clients.

Sookoo said rebranding was not just about the golden RBC lion replacing the RBTT logo. The new brand, he said, signified all the perceptions and experiences that people associate with the bank, "communicates to the people of the Caribbean who we are, what we believe in, and what we stand for as an organisation."

In addition, he said, it expresses a promise - "we will put our strength to work for you" - that all clients can expect the bank to deliver.

"What we are doing is creating one bank in the Caribbean, under the banner of one brand, which is RBC. It's a culmination of all that we have been doing in the last three years," said Sookoo.

For the first three years after its acquisition, the RBTT brand remained unchanged, but behind the scenes the process to integrate the operations of the two banks was moving ahead.

In particular, RBTT's technological infrastructure, systems and processes had to be "married" with those of RBC, a mammoth undertaking since it spanned locations across the Caribbean Basin and linking back to Toronto, a process that is still ongoing.

Sookoo said the rebranding include, among other things, changing signage, letterheads, ATMs and information provided on the Internet to reflect the new name and new brand, but he declined to reveal the overall costs, only saying that "we see it as an investment" and "it's costly".

Transition of signage in Trinidad and Tobago is expected to be completed by the end of June. By 2012, RBTT operations across the Caribbean, from Jamaica to the Eastern Caribbean, to Curaçao and Suriname will all adopt the new RBC brand. Existing RBC operations in The Bahamas, Cayman Islands, Turks and Caiços, Eastern Caribbean and Barbados will also be upgraded to create one RBC in the region.

As part of the launch event, RBC's journey in the Caribbean was mirrored in ceremonial drumming including Canadian Inuit drums, tassa, steelpan and snare, culminating in a dramatic unveiling of the RBC shield with its signature lion and globe symbol.

"The rebranding signals our confidence in the future and demonstrates the strength, heritage and stability of RBC to all our stakeholders," Sookoo said.

RBTT Bank is Jamaica's number three commercial bank with assets of J$60 billion in a sector valued at J$590 billion.