THIS 2021 - Title Sponsor Remarks by Derwin Howell (Executive Director - Republic Bank Limited)

Good morning ladies and gentlemen.

Welcome to the second edition of the Tech Hub Islands Summit Conference.  It is indeed a great honour for Republic Bank to once again be a part of this two-day networking, educational and tech conference. Thank you for joining us and being here.

At the 2019 edition of THIS, I spoke of a Trinidad and Tobago in 2030 positively disrupted by technology and riding a wave of digital transformation success.  I come to you now in 2021, in a Trinidad and Tobago, socially and economically disrupted by a virus that has plagued the entire world for the last nearly eighteen months.

COVID-19 has been a human tragedy, and I sympathise with those families here at home, in the region and globally, who have lost loved ones to the virus.  I also emphatise with those who have been affected by the virus in other ways.  These are certainly not normal times and like all of you, I can’t wait for it to end.

But even as we yearn for the end of the pandemic, we should be looking to the lessons learnt; the things that will remain part of our lives; the changes we should be making.

If we weren’t convinced before that digital transformation was the way forward for us; the cycles of lockdowns; the misnomer social distancing; the transition to work from home and the challenges of carrying out life’s routine transactions with reduced human contact, should leave no doubt in our mind about its benefits and even necessity.

In its 2021 Budget, the Government of Trinidad and Tobago extended the remit of the Ministry of Public Administration to include responsibility for Digital Transformation.  In February 2021, the Ministry of Public Administration and Digital Transformation announced the formation of a Cabinet-appointed Digital Transformation Advisory Committee with a mandate which states - “Provide an external review of GoRTT’s proposed ICT investments and provide feedback on the impact of active investment on the quality of life and standard of living of citizens.”  

The Committee has established workstreams that will look at Policy and Law, Change Management, IT Infrastructure and Services and Communities Outreach and Uptake.  These announcements are indeed laudable, and we look forward to experiencing the impact of the Committee’s work.

While a critical step to digital transformation at the national level is Government’s involvement and more so leadership; other areas of society need to experience their own eureka moments on this matter and drive their own agenda if we are to continue to move the needle and take our rightful place at the digital table.

But having bandied about the phrase “digital transformation” some six (6) times so far in this address I thought that it would be useful to settle on a definition. 

Salesforce, a global technology company defines digital transformation as “the process of using digital technologies to create new — or modify existing — business processes, culture, and customer experiences to meet changing business and market requirements.

What I like about this definition is that it can apply equally to businesses and governments, and it touches on some of the key elements that are critical to any attempt at moving an entity up the digital ladder.

These elements are:  Change, Customer Experience, Processes; and Technology.  You will note that I put technology at the end of the list, and while no doubt all digital transformation is dependent on some element of technology, too much of a focus on this can detract from the real keys to success.

I mentioned “change” and more explicitly, “change management” at the top of the list, because if this aspect if not properly handled most transformation efforts will fail or not live up to their full potential.

Acknowledging, understanding, and addressing the concerns and issues of all effected stakeholders is critical to creating buy-in, wide-scale adoption and ultimately success. 

Timely and targeted communication are also a critical aspect of successful change management and any transformation effort.  And feedback loops to allow for the understanding of the impact on constituent parties and adjustments as required are also essential components.

Equally important is the customer/user experience.  I use the term customer/user, because not only is it critical to focus on the ultimate customer but also on the employees that use any systems or processes.  Those transformation efforts which start by examining, unpacking and repacking the customer/user journey stand the greatest chances of creating fundamental shifts in their industries, markets or societies.  Ultimately, a positive impact on the customer experience is the key measure of any transformation effort’s success.

For instance, HSBC, one of the leading financial institutions in the world, with over 38 million retail banking and wealth management customers globally, recently made the strategic decision to utilize Pega across the entirety of its customer base. By implementing a global framework, the brand has maximized reuse and deployed to a number of markets across multiple sales and service channels. The results include significant improvements in customer and colleague experience, as well as revenue uplift.

In order to reimagine processes, business and government processes must operate outside of organization silos and must be done end-to-end, using multiple avenues to find and connect to customers’ needs.

Consider this, retail customers in Australia and New Zealand expect a world-class experience, and the Kmart Group has been delivering a better customer experience through future-ready employees and infrastructure using cloud technology.

By partnering with Amazon Web Services, to build out its capability in several areas, including data and analytics. It led to some great successes, including being able to live stream point of sale (POS) data, and the use of machine learning to predict consumer buying habits for improved demand forecasting. It also allowed Kmart to change the colors, sizes and store locations of millions of pieces of clothing through this process, resulting in improved sales growth.

With so many options to improving process, you should know that there is also a fine art for determining when incremental process improvement is sufficient and when radical process reengineering is necessary.  A future based mindset is critical to deriving long term benefit to these changes.

As efforts like these ripple through our government and our businesses, collectively they will enhance national productivity and economic competitiveness. 

However, we must be aware of the various inequities that exist in our societies and ensure that these changes are inclusive and benefit a broad cross-section of society as possible. The Cabinet-appointed Digital Transformation Advisory Committee, through its subcommittee work-stream on Communities Outreach and Uptake, has recognized this need.

In September 2020, Republic Financial Holdings Limited, signed on to the United Nations’ Principles of Responsible Banking, committing to this global initiative in support of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  One of the areas that we specifically adopted in Trinidad and Tobago is Goal # 9 - Build resilient infrastructure, promote sustainable industrialization and foster innovation. 

The UN SDG document states: “Inclusive and sustainable industrialization, together with innovation and infrastructure, can unleash dynamic and competitive economic forces that generate employment and income. They play a key role in introducing and promoting new technologies, facilitating international trade and enabling the efficient use of resources.”

Our actions at Republic Bank, in support of this goal will see us launch programs and products that will support and drive innovation, promote sustainable industrialization and help build a resilient infrastructure.  

To this end, we have launched several sustainable and environmentally friendly products and services including:

  • EndCash, a digital wallet in the form of an app on your phone.
  • EPay, a partnership between businesses, big and small, and Fygaro, that enables you to accept payments online for goods and services.
  • Zero Rated Access through a partnership with Bmobile and Digicel that gives free data access for persons using Republic Bank’s Internet Banking, EndCash, and Mobile Banking making online banking cheaper, easier, and more convenient.
  • InterBank Transfers
  • RepublicAlerts anytime your card is used or if there was an online transaction.
  • Visa Debit OneCard
  • And Cardless Cash, which I don’t know if any of you saw a recent vlog done by a local blogger, Jadee, who showed how easy this can be done.

While Estonia and Singapore are good ‘poster-boys' for discussing digital transformation, it would be a missed opportunity if we merely pass these references around at social gatherings and never apply what we've learned.

I believe that the Covid-19 pandemic can and should serve as a catalyst, providing the impetus we need to stop procrastinating and push ourselves to be proactive and creative. Its impact can already be seen in aspects of how the government, industries, and small businesses have developed new ways to operate and serve the country – but this is just the tip of the iceberg, and there is much more to be done.

As Senator the Honourable Allyson West, Minister of Public Administration and Digital Transformation, stated in her Keynote Address at the Trinidad and Tobago Internet Governance Forum in January 2021, “…Government has placed the development of a Digital Trinidad and Tobago at the forefront of its Development Agenda and stated that a fully digital Trinidad and Tobago is central to the growth and diversification of our economy.”

A lofty ambition indeed and bold words…and it’s up to all of us to MAKE IT HAPPEN!

I thank you.

THIS 2021 - Welcome Remarks by Nirad Tewarie (CEO - AMCHAM T&T)