Can Trinidad and Tobago transition from walking around with cash in order to conduct day-to-day transactions to doing business cashless?
Is a cashless T&T a dream or reality?
The Trinidad and Tobago International Financial Centre (TTIFC) believes a cashless society is inevitable and has created the FinTech Association of Trinidad and Tobago (FinTech T&T) as the engine to drive this “cashless” agenda.
Speaking at the Association’s launch last Wednesday at the National Museum and Art Gallery, TTIFC chairman Richard Young said it is time T&T embraces FinTech (financial technology) so that it becomes a way of life.
“We must embrace technology, certainly in the financial services sector, but all sectors. We cannot afford to become digitally divided,” he stressed.
In fact, Young believes Government should consider creating incentives for the private sector to invest in this technology.
“We really have to go about creating this technology fund so that we can use it to provide the investment, which is not an inexpensive thing, and at the same time a fund to assist the re-skilling of people. In fact Minister (Imbert), I think you should consider some kind of incentive for the private sector if they were to invest in technology as the nucleus for growth,” he said.
FinTech T&T is made up of 23 volunteer representatives from various sectors including banking, insurance, start-ups, technology providers and public sectors agencies.
Speaking at the launch via a video presentation, Finance Minister Colm Imbert indicated that Government has been moving in the direction of digital technology in financial services.
“In the Attorney General’s department, they are already moving swiftly to remove the use of cash in departments such as the Registrar General’s office, the registry of companies and so on. Soon this will be implemented at the licensing office. There is a plan to do it at the Board of Inland Revenue and the Treasury,” he noted.
He said the TTIFC is already attracting overseas talent to come and set up shop in T&T, to use T&T as a base to spread the use of digital technology in financial services.
“I’m told the TTIFC is very, very enthused by what it has seen in terms of the interest in T&T. Several of our banks are moving away from the use of paper. In fact, they are encouraging or pushing their customers to avoid coming into the banks but instead using their phones, computers for online services. I myself use online services at several banks. I find it very convenient. I only go to a bank if I need to get cash, and that’s when the ATM is not working,” Imbert said.
“I myself would like to see a completely cashless and paperless financial sector in T&T,” he added.
Awareness is key
Addressing the launch, Maria Daniel of Ernst and Young said FinTech meant transformation.
She said in order for this transformation to take place, there must be focus on awareness, as many people still did not know what FinTech is about.
“This is our chance for change. If we are serious about transformation, we have to spread the word. We have to educate, we have to use, we have to want it, we have to tell the banks this is the service we are looking for. We have to let our regulator know that risk can be managed with technology. We have to try to get people to stop being fearful of trying the new. Change must take place and it must take place now,” she urged.
She said FinTech will bring about inclusion.
“Why is inclusion so important to Trinidad and Tobago at this time? We all complain about crime. We all think it’s somebody else’s problem but a big part of crime is the lack of inclusion,” she explained.
“If we have FinTech solutions that could make everybody able to raise money easier, be able to access banking facilities, then our entrepreneurship will grow. So this isn’t just about sending money from you to me, or about making everyday life easier. This is about solving significant issues in our society,” Daniel stated.
About FinTech T&T
The FinTech Association of Trinidad and Tobago (FinTech T&T) is a non-profit organisation aimed at improving the delivery of financial services in T&T and the wider Caribbean and promoting a cashless future.
The idea to form a FinTech Association was borne out of a FinTech Roadmap developed by a local consultant in November 2018 as an initiative to position Trinidad and Tobago as a FinTech-enabled international financial centre and a leading regional FinTech hub. The newly formed Association will be led by a volunteer group of members who will use an independent structure, based on the pillars of transparency, accountability and good governance.
FinTech T&T will work closely with Government and regulators to advocate for the adoption of global standards in the local FinTech sector.
Interim members of FinTech T&T are:
Christopher Lewis- Eastern Credit Union
Kevin Khelawan- Teleios Systems Ltd
Louis Kinley- CariPay Ltd
Anthony Zamore- PricewaterhouseCoopers
Serah Radhaykissoon- Unicomer Group
Melissa Libert-Mckell - RBC
Michael Blache-Fraser- AV Knowles and Company
Desron Palmer- Ministry of Public Administration
Luke Hamel-Smith- M Hamel-Smith and Company
Terrence Clarke - Bidrate Online
Keva Doyle- Ministry of Public Administration
Cheresse Fleming- Afflatus Software and Consultancy Services Limited
Marsha Dookeran - Digicel
Shane Ram - STEP HR Consulting
Nikieshia De Bique - Aero Services Credit Union and Co-operative Society Limited
Richard Allan - Telephone Workers’ Credit Union Co-operative Society
Nirad Tewarie - American Chamber of Commerce of Trinidad and Tobago
Melanie Tom - Ernst and Young
John Mollenthiel – WiPay
Keron Mcleish - Droid Island