Sagicor keeping a close eye on banking industry

With Canadian banks restructuring their Caribbean operations, Sagicor Financial Corporation is keeping a close eye on the banking industry to identify possible opportunities for acquisitions, its top official said.

Sagicor Group Jamaica, a subsidiary, recently acquired from Royal Bank of Canada its RBC Jamaica operation comprising RBC Royal Bank (Jamaica) Limited and RBTT Securities Jamaica Limited. The purchasing price was over US$80 million.

Speaking recently to journalists from Barbados and Trinidad to announce Sagicor’s performance during the 2014 financial year, Group President and Chief Executive Officer, Dodridge Miller, said while there were no offers or plans on the table for acquisitions in other countries, Sagicor was “always on the lookout”.

Sagicor Group President and Chief Executive Officer Dodridge Miller
Sagicor Group President and Chief Executive Officer Dodridge Miller

“We will continue to look and monitor what is happening across the region in terms of consolidation in the banking space (and), as it has happened in the insurance space, we will consider it at that point,” Miller said, adding he believed consolidation would take place “in all the islands just like the insurance industry”.

“What I can say is that we have positioned ourselves to be a strategic player in the financial services industry and if those opportunities come about, we will certainly have to look at them,” he added.

Asked if Sagicor would have the financial power to acquire a Canadian bank operation in the region if it were to put up for sale, Miller said that was not something they were currently considering. “I will not say we have pockets of money sitting down and waiting on that but if the opportunity is significant and makes sense . . . I am sure the funds will become available,” he said.

The Barbados Mutual Life Assurance Society, Sagicor’s predecessor, once had a banking venture in Barbados called Mutual Bank. It was subsequently sold to Butterfield Bank of Bermuda which sold the business a few years ago to First Citizens Bank of Trinidad and Tobago.

As policymakers in Barbados continue to struggle to find a solution for the scores of policyholders who have lost millions as a result of the collapse of CLICO International Life Insurance Limited, Miller said Sagicor could not say it has an interest in those assets at this time due to a lack of clarity.

“We have no clarity on what is happening with CLICO in Barbados,” he said, “so we can’t even say we have an interest. There is a little bit more clarity on what is happening in Trinidad and we will take a look if and when that becomes available.”

“All I can tell you is that CLICO is under judicial manager and there is no clarity as to where the assets will end up. So I am not putting that in the pockets of policymakers in Barbados. I just see that as an action that is going forward and there is no clarity to persons who lost some investment,” explained Miller.

With Sagicor seeing “very strong” returns on investments in the hotel sector through its real estate fund in Jamaica, Miller said he was not sure the same opportunities existed in Barbados and Tobago to justify establishing a similar fund for hotel investments.

He said the Jamaica decision was “a strategic one”.

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