Aside from having the second largest banking sector in the Eastern Caribbean region, Antigua and Barbuda also houses the “grandfather” of international financial services – the Global Bank of Commerce (GBC) – which is continuously leading the way in innovation alongside its vision to make Antigua an international financial hub. We had the pleasure of an exclusive interview with GBC CEO Mr. Brian Stuart-Young. Here he discusses the bank’s leadership in the region, his short- and long-term plans for the success of GBC, and the bank’s commitment to providing clientele satisfaction and giving back to the community.
Mr. Stuart-Young, thank you very much for meeting with us today. Would you share with us how a CEO of a prestigious bank begins a busy day?
A typical day for me usually starts early with quiet contemplation and prayer. I try to fit in some sort of physical activity, whether it is an hour-long brisk walk along a nearby beach or an hour of gardening. Every morning I have breakfast with my wife, read online Caribbean newspapers, and start checking my emails for the day before heading to the office.
You are a man of many accolades, would you tell us about your professional journey? What influenced you to be a banker?
My professional journey started out quite differently. I began in the film-making industry and earned a Fulbright scholarship that led me to attend the AFI Centre for Advanced Film Studies in LA and worked in Hollywood for a couple of years. However, I returned to the Caribbean, married, and my wife and I decided to settle to start our family in Antigua in 1978. I started an advertising company first and then entered domestic banking services as a business development manager. I worked my way up to become the CEO of a bank that was formed in Antigua since 1983 and that was fondly referred to as the “grandfather” of international financial services. Since then, I’ve applied creative thinking to the financial industry and encouraged innovative products and services in the region.
You have extensive experience in international banking and Caribbean business. What is your observation on the latest trends and innovations in the banking industry of the region?
Banking is no longer about just offering your financial services. It must be all about providing the services the clients need and expect to carry them forward to achieve their financial goals. We must listen to the voice of our clients and understand how they want our financial services to work for them. Digital technologies are reshaping the means and convenience of preserving wealth and managing businesses, and our Bank is focussed on delivering appropriate solutions to its institutional and retail clients.
You actively promote Antigua as a financial centre. Amidst the strong competition in the Caribbean region, which is a highly regarded destination for foreign investors, what is the advantage of Antigua and Barbuda over its neighbouring nations?
Antigua and Barbuda is demonstrating the strongest economic growth rate in the region, and the government is committed to providing world-class infrastructure at its airport and seaport, which are enablers for the development of both the land-based hospitality sector and cruise tourism. Local entrepreneurship, foreign direct investment and public-private partnerships are embraced and encouraged to support the national economy. The advantages include an attractive business development environment, having the lowest crime rate in the region, and a proactive government to make decisions, which all serves as compelling competitive advantages for investors.
Our banking sector has also remained well respected due to its strong regulatory framework and compliance with the ever-evolving international banking requirements, including compliance with the OECD, FATCA and the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) regulations to prevent money laundering and the financing of terrorism. Within this compliant environment, we offer a premium banking experience, with services that are tailor-made to suit our clients’ goals and aspirations for their businesses and families.
The global banking industry is facing multiple disruptions and challenges as a result of the advancement of technology and globalisation. Yet, the Global Bank of Commerce stays as strong and resilient as the day it started in 1983. How does GBC retain a safe and sound banking system? Would you share with us how your team approaches the challenges that come your way?
Our GBC team has many prayer warriors and is well seasoned in meeting and overcoming challenges. The world of banking is constantly evolving in its thrust to provide greater convenience to clients. These trends have been greatly influenced by innovative fintechs and have forced banks to adapt and follow with initiating digital banking services. Our banking group includes affiliates that are fintechs and they help to provide support to enable us to provide the services that match the lifestyles of our clients. It is our Bank’s role to provide service convenience, respond to any obstacles, increase security, and ensure our clients achieve the banking relationship they deserve.
The age-old maxim says, “Customer is king”. As it is important to satisfy your increasing target market, how do you deal with their changing demands and behaviours? What is your focus when it comes to ensuring the satisfaction of your clients?
Banking is no longer about just offering your financial services, it must be all about providing the services the clients need and expect to carry them forward to achieve their financial goals. Our goal is to provide this partnership along their path in life, generation after generation.
As our clients cross the stepping stones of life, we evolve with them step by step, providing dedicated service to meet their changing financial needs. We actively partner with our clients, introducing solutions to support client investments, cash management, savings and security needs which work to ensure their financial plans are met. We are located in Antigua, but our services are accessible world-wide, available with your fingertips.
As a 36-year old institution, we understand the demands of more wealthy individuals (MWIs) and the importance of succession planning. Indeed, we are already serving second generation banking clients and planning for the third generation. We understand the busy lives of our clients and work to provide the convenience they deserve to manage their financial affairs. We are here for them and their families.
The Global Bank of Commerce is the first bank to be licensed in Antigua and Barbuda to offer international financial services, which earned the bank the “grandfather” nickname. How do you see GBC in five to ten years time? What are your short-term and long-term plans for the bank?
Our services constantly adapt to client demands but our core services are to offer international banking services and domestic wholesale banking services. We are very involved in working with both private and public sector developments that contribute to the growth of Antigua and Barbuda’s national economy, and will innovate new investment structures for real estate development. In the longer term we are identifying financial niche services that will offer specialised payment, custodial and portfolio management services to promote social and economic dynamism.
The Global Bank of Commerce offers wide ranging financial services, and you are also involved with SugaPay, an alternative payment solution using apps to facilitate electronic financial transactions. What are the competitive edges of your products and services?
The Bank has positioned itself to better adopt the technologies for digital services and improve the channels offered to clients. Our services include the provision of priority banking for MWIs, as well as wholesale and commercial services, wealth and portfolio management, and technology-driven financial services. Clients also benefit from the Bank’s affiliate, Global Processing Centre, an internationally-certified card processing centre and payment platform which provides card-based processing for Visa, MasterCard and China UnionPay services. It also enables mobile payment facilities, such as SugaPay – what we consider to be the “local Paypal” – for more convenient corporate and individual payment programmes designed for G-commerce, payrolls, benefits and remittance services. SugaPay provides an entire payment eco-system, from prepaid cards, to mobile wallets facilitating mobile transfers, to ATMs and the most modern point of sale machines. From its suite of products you can choose what you need from the system to suit your personal or business needs the best.
Many products and services from banking and financial institutions are starting to take into account their impact on the environment and sustainability. Will you tell us about GBC’s strategies for integrating such elements in your products and services?
Because of GBC’s physical location, our carbon footprint has always been kept relatively low as we do a lot of our business online and electronically. Even our seasonal Christmas greetings went digital a few years ago! Our Group vition, to be able to accelerate the mobile payment industry in the Caribbean, also reflects this. We are also highly progressive in supporting climate change defense businesses, solar energy and electric vehicles.
Being more socially responsible has been a top priority of the banking industry. How does GBC give back to the community of Antigua and Barbuda?
Though we’ve been considered a financial institution that deals primarily with international clients for many years, we are Caribbean owned and operated, and it is important for us to be able to give back to the community in which we operate. We have a significant “good corporate citizen” initiative where we contribute to the development of youth, particularly through education; sports; culture and charities. We are particularly proud of our support to a charity known as the Care Project that supports young special needs children who require specialised care facilities. When our sister island, Barbuda, was devastated by Hurricane Maria two years ago, our Bank made a large contribution to the Government’s fund for the rebuilding of the country. Now that GBC is providing wholesale banking services to the domestic market, we are proud to enable large projects that contribute to the development of the country on a wider scale.
Many employees struggle to balance their work and life. Would you tell us how you make sure that your employees are happy and satisfied, and how you keep your work and life balanced?
Our employees are our family, and we recognise the importance of their health, well-being and happiness. For many years, the Bank has provided monthly complimentary counsel to attend to the mental health of any employee who wants it. As an organisation we strive to accommodate employees’ needs for attention to their families – we would never want that dance recital or graduation ceremony to be missed! As for me, I do work very long days, but I am fortunate to have a wife who supports me and ensures that I stay healthy; my two children work within the organisation and are also there to support me when I need it; and I have four grandchildren, between the ages of 3 and 8 who help to keep me young and blessed!
Lastly, what does success mean to you? What would be your advice for individuals aspiring to succeed in the financial industry?
The real key to success in the banking sector is to focus less on profitable margins and more on serving valued banking relationships. Our Priority Banking Service is a relationship that comes with our commitment to partner with you, your family and your business, today and tomorrow. My advice for individuals aspiring to succeed in the financial industry is to be innovative, be committed to excellence, and always keep your customer’s needs in the forefront.
Thank you very much Mr. Stuart-Young. It was a pleasure speaking with you.
About the Interviewee
Brian Stuart-Young is the visionary that created an indigenous Caribbean group of companies providing innovative financial services and alternative payment solutions, including Global Bank of Commerce, Ltd., a 36-year-old institution offering international financial services. As its Chief Executive Officer for several years, he has supervised the growth and development of this institution and its affiliates. A citizen of Antigua and Barbuda, Mr. Stuart-Young has Board experience in domestic and international banking, wealth management, Caribbean business, trade, ecommerce and communications. In addition to his corporate responsibilities he has played a key role in overseeing all strategic relations for the group’s Banking, Investment and Technology services.