Natural resources have helped Trinidad & Tobago develop into a major regional economy, with a highly skilled workforce and a stable political system.
Now, it is diversifying its economy and has targeted the expansion of its financial services industry as one of the major areas for growth. The sector already provides the second highest contribution to the republic’s GDP, at 14%, and there is a belief that this could grow further.
That belief was translated into action in 2011, when the Trinidad & Tobago International Financial Centre (TTIFC) was set up to develop the capital markets and attract business process outsourcing (BPO) operations from abroad. Franco Siu Chong, Chairman of the TTIFC, says it offers a variety of solutions, particularly to U.S. firms, not available from BPO operators in India.
“We can offer to do their back-office processing in the same time zone, in English, here in Trinidad,” he explains, adding that the country has already attracted companies such as Quatrro, one of the largest BPO operators in India, as well as partner firm Caribbean Electronic Payments. Scotia Bank and Royal Bank of Canada have already taken advantage of the favorable conditions and have moved their back office operations to T&T, a testament of success for TTIFC.
Much of this influx has been down to T&T’s highly educated workforce, powered by a universal free education system, which provides a labor pool with a wide array of skills for BPO operations.
“Over the last 10 years, the government has spent billions of dollars providing free tertiary education,” Varun Maharaj, CEO at TTIFC says, with the result being a workforce skilled in banking, mathematics and computer science.
TTIFC provides an “end-to-end service” for those looking to invest and offers assistance with licenses and work permits. Its financial services BPO program Finesse is being launched, allowing firms to expand into new markets such as the energy sector. TTIFC is also looking into creating a new financial legal framework separate from the country’s current set-up to provide further guarantees to companies outsourcing operations.
Such ambitions are reflected in the republic’s wider aims for its financial services sector. Mr. Maharaj says the territory’s Special Purpose Economic Zone (SPEZ) could be used as an additional incentive to international firms looking for a Caribbean base, as well as being just a three-hour flight from the U.S.
With plans to further develop the country’s infrastructure, becoming a major financial hub for Latin America and the U.S. is firmly in T&T’s sights.