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Ian Chinapoo, executive director, T&T Unit Trust Corporation
1. The UTC has experienced solid growth in both revenue and profits in recent years with revenue growth of 29.5 per cent between 2015 and 2016, and 50.4 per cent growth in net income during the same period. To what do you attribute this success?
We can attribute our success to a variety of factors, but what sums it up best is the solid relationship we have built with our unitholders and team members throughout the years.
A critical element of any relationship is trust; business relationships are no different. We have built trust with our unitholders over the years by providing excellent customer service and tailored investment solutions for wealth creation; providing guidance on building wealth and offering investment options, especially in economically uncertain conditions and maintaining a conservative risk profile to offer capital preservation with competitive returns for the risks we undertake.
We also benefitted from stronger than expected results in financial markets of the United States and other international markets.
These results we believe will bolster the trust our unitholders with continue to place in our brand.
2. The organisation is now 35 years old. The financial services industry globally is moving at a rapid pace. How is the UTC adapting to these changes?
In 2016, the corporation conducted the most recent update to its five-year rolling strategic plan. This plan, referred to as UTC’s “SP2020”, demands strategic re-alignment focusing on four strategic pillars:
• focus on customer and brand
• product and service innovation
• regulatory management
• cost efficiency
We have also reinforced our focus on the customer by reconstructing the entire organisational structure to place the customer at the very head of our business structure.
The word “innovative” appears in both our new mission statement and mandate. We readily acknowledges the binary nature of modern organisational competitiveness: innovate or die. In this regard, we have created an innovation unit or idea incubator, in which new and exciting products, services and processes are built and executed as “pilot projects” prior to full-scale roll-out to the public. The ideas come from our team members, providing a voice for all in the corporation and increasing the critical element of employee engagement.
Going forward, we intend to utilise these and other tools to continue exploring new business and investment opportunities.
3. Tightness in the forex market has become a feature of the local economy. How has this affected the UTC?
The issue of limited foreign exchange continues to challenge business locally. The UTC has similarly experienced challenges in this regard.
A fact not generally known is that, unlike many local commercial banks, the UTC is not a primary dealer in forex. As such, the corporation is not a direct recipient of an allocation from the Central Bank of T&T when foreign exchange is periodically sold into the financial system.
Our supply of US dollars depends largely on what is purchased from customers through our Bureau de Change operation, as well as open market purchases of foreign currency from other local financial institutions, who are primary foreign exchange dealers.
Given these challenges, the corporation has introduced lower daily and monthly limits on the international usage of its TT$ Income Fund Visa electron card, effective October 2, 2017, which we will continue to review closely in the future based on the availability of foreign exchange.
4. There are a number of financial firms in T&T that offer mutual funds. Do you believe the mutual fund industry is saturated and why should someone choose to invest with the UTC?
The local financial services sector is undoubtedly one of the most sophisticated by regional standards, comprising commercial banks, non-banking financial institutions, insurance companies and credit unions, among others. It is a major contributor to national growth contributing approximately 17 per cent of GDP in 2016.
Within this financial space, the local mutual fund sector is indeed very competitive with over 14 separate mutual fund providers. In fact, as at August 2017 the mutual fund sector grew to $43.28 billion, comprising 84 per cent ($36.33 billion) income funds of which UTC holds 41.4 per cent ($14.94 billion) and 16 per cent ($6.9 billion) equity and balanced funds, with UTC representing 74.3 per cent ($5.46 billion) of these funds under management.
This illustrates a very competitive environment, but not a saturated one. The market for saving and investing financial capital is always evolving. We have always understood this reality and we’re committed to being innovative to source new ways to bring more value to our unitholders.
We have been and continue to be the leader in mutual funds in the local financial services sector, enjoying approximately 47.13 per cent of the mutual fund industry which represents $20.40 billion of the $43.28 billion, which not only validates our dominance in the local mutual fund market, but more importantly, displays the great level of trust reposed in us by our over 600,000 individual unitholders.
We continue to distinguish ourselves by being committed to providing best-in-class customer service, offering competitive returns and remaining true to the foundation concept of preservation of our unitholder’s investments.
5. The UTC is a part of the social fabric of T&T. How does the company view its corporate social responsibility?
We take our CSR responsibility seriously. Just as we have transformed the financial landscape, so too is our responsibility to building and maintaining sustainable engagement in our communities.
For us, it is about finding innovative ways to bring value to our country’s social fabric; it is about having a shared interest that can fuel change.
Firstly, we endeavour to inculcate a culture of saving and investing across the region, and being an agent of change through education has reaped benefits to recipients through our flagship initiatives, such as the SEA scholarship programme and Schools’ Investment Game (SIG).
The success of these initiatives gives us the motivation to strengthen our CSR efforts and, as such, we will be launching the UTC Foundation, which will be a dedicated conduit for our CSR initiatives before the end of the year.
We’ve decided the pillars of the UTC Foundation should be education, financial well-being and environtmental citizenship.
Under these pillars, we intend to utilise our resources to build core competencies necessary to promote sustainable change in the communities in which we work.
Deputy head of News-Business