HSBC has officially announced plans to open a retail branch in the Cayman Islands.
Construction is already under way on the bank’s new home on West Bay Road on the north side of Bay City Plaza, a site formerly known as the Merren shopping centre.
‘Having been successful in the captive insurance management and trust management space within Cayman, we see potential growth in the retail banking market,’ said HSBC Cayman CEO Gonzalo Jalles.
‘However, we anticipate that our growth in the Cayman economy will take place in stages and that we will start offering our services to those niches with the best opportunity for success.’
The bank had previously held two Class A banking licenses, one of which was granted to the Bank of Bermuda. On 19 March the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority lifted restrictions on the HSBC licence to allow it to position itself in the retail market.
Set to compete with such institutions as Bank of Butterfield, Scotiabank, Royal Bank of Canada, Fidelity, Cayman National and FirstCaribbean, the bank’s management team promises better service, a more amenable environment and approximately 25 new jobs for Cayman.
The retail team is in the process of staffing the new office, which Mr. Gonzales says will be 70 per cent Caymanian.
Mr. Jalles said HSBC will seek to assist local clients that find it difficult to bank in other jurisdictions because they lack the right tools. By providing offshore solutions and cross border services to both locals and expatriates, HSBC’s goal will be to provide a full range of multi-currency personal banking services to a range of customer segments, including internet banking and telephone banking.
Mr. Jalles said the decision to enter Cayman’s retail market is in alignment with its expansion in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Mr. Jalles said the bank will actively seek to involve itself in government capital works projects, including playing a role in the redevelopment of Owen Roberts airport. A proposed branding campaign would come on the heels of similar initiatives in approximately 30 airports around the world, including JFK in New York and Heathrow in London.
He said he hopes the exercise will raise not only HSBC’s profile, but also that of the Cayman Islands, as the HSBC brand may help to contribute to the Island’s image as a world class international destination.
Mr. Jalles also said the bank will engage in a marked Corporate Social Responsibility campaign under Human Resources head Walling Whittaker.
‘Globally, we are committed to being carbon neutral and here in Cayman we are examining a new partnership with the National Trust,’ said Mr. Jalles.
Specifics regarding lending rates are still being ironed out. Mr. Jalles said that despite the banking community’s negotiations now being undertaken with government on mortgage rates, customers should not expect future plans will include fixed-rate mortgages.
‘While there might be room for more fixed-rate lending over the short term, it’s really not a thing that is done around the world as rates would have to be hedged over the longer term, a risk that most banks are unwilling to take,’ he said.