Scotiabank executives field questions from stakeholders at AGM

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Scotiabank’s vice president, chief financial officer, and chief administrative officer Reshard Mohammed – File photo by Angelo Marcelle

Concerns over investments and service from Scotiabank shareholders were addressed by executives at the Scotiabank Annual General Meeting (AGM) held at the Hyatt Regency in Port of Spain on March 15.

The questions were raised as all board directors were re-elected. One shareholder asked questions about Scotiabank’s investment of $250,000 US transferred to the Bank of Nova Scotia in the Cayman Islands. He asked if the investment was still in force. He also raised issues with the bank’s involvement with another company, which is wholly owned by the Bank of Nova Scotia in Canada. He claimed that the company operated “tax-free.”

“I would like to know the details and how many millions of dollars are paid annually to the wholly-owned subsidiary and which directors of this bank may or may not be directors of that subsidiary,” he asked. “I am always very suspicious of transactions between companies that are owned by another company.”

Vice president, chief financial officer, and chief administrative officer Reshard Mohammed explained that the company was the Operation Shared Services Company Ltd. He said Scotiabank pays the company for the execution of banking services, to the tune of $70 million, less than 10 per cent of the company’s expenditures.

Newsday learned that while wholly owned by the Bank of Nova Scotia in Canada, its 750 staff members are all Trinidad and Tobago citizens. He corrected the shareholder, saying that the company, while wholly owned by the Bank of Nova Scotia, does pay taxes.

Another shareholder raised an issue with the over-the-counter services, which, he claimed, turns people away from depositing cheques. Vice president Gayle Pazos explained that customer service representatives have tried to encourage customers to use the ATM services to deposit cheques because they have no charges attached.

“We try to encourage customers to use the alternate transactions because it is a cheaper form of service,” Pazos said.

A third shareholder said Bank of Nova Scotia subsidiary has invested in a company that makes Israeli defensive and offensive systems. “There have been protests in Canada about this very issue,” the shareholder said. “I am hoping that as a parent company that you can convey from at least Trinidad our view with respect to not divesting in these systems,” he said. The executive thanked him for his statement.

Scotiabank earned $678 million in profits after tax for the financial year ended October 31, 2023, according to its financial statements, a one per cent decrease from the year before. Its total revenue was $1.9 billion, an increase of $39 million over the prior year.

The company also received several rewards including best bank from Euromoney; market leader ranking in digital solutions, ESG and corporate social responsibility from Euromoney; best digital bank from Global Finance; and it was certified as a “great place to work.”

Pazos in her remarks at the AGM said the bank has found the right mix of investments in people, processes, technology, and products, which contributed to the bank’s success over the past year. She said feedback from the bank’s latest employee assessment revealed that 91 per cent of its employees felt proud to work for the bank, 93 per cent believe the bank is committed to inclusivity, and 96 per cent understand how their roles contribute to the bank’s overall strategy.

Pazos added that in 2023 the bank’s community initiatives benefited 25,000 individuals and 17,000 youths through working with 54 charities, schools, and community groups.