Antigua and Barbuda: Interview with Mr. Michael Spencer

Mr. Michael Spencer

CEO (ECAB (Eastern Caribbean Amalgamated Bank))

Mr. Michael Spencer

Over the last few years Antigua and Barbuda enjoyed economic expansion. Yet, in the Caribbean it has serious competition on all fronts – tourism, financial, and otherwise. What are the main comparative advantages Antigua and Barbuda has and what are the areas where it can still get better?

I’d say the infrastructures that we have and the investment policies established by the administration. There are facilities for new investment, there are incentives and concessions to attract new investors. The level achieved in the development of infrastructure, financial sector and legal services is all to facilitate foreign investment.

Also, we have a very stable economic and politic climate, so a lot of investors will find a lot of similitudes with industrialized countries.

As you are well aware of, the first things that an investor looks for prior to investing into a foreign country are a trustworthy lawyer, an insurance company and a bank. What does the Antigua and Barbuda financial system offer to assure investors that they are coming into a country with a solid financial system?

They can be sure of the financial integrity system in Antigua because It is a highly-regulated industry. We are regulated as a domestic bank due to domestic financial institutions being regulated by the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank. The insurance industry is regulated by the Financial Services Regulatory Commission (FSRC). All of these regulatory bodies are here to meet international standards. Possible investors can be assured that the regulations for these institutions are in line with international private banks.

Antigua and Barbuda’s banking sector is the second largest in the Eastern Caribbean region, accounting for one fifth of the region’s deposits, assets, and loans. What is the position of Eastern Caribbean Amalgamated Bank in Antigua & Barbuda?

There are six banks here operating in Antigua, three are domestic and the other three are international. ECAB is certainly one of the leading domestic banks in Antigua.

Eastern Caribbean Amalgamated Bank Limited provides personal and business banking products and services to individual and business clients in Antigua and Barbuda and internationally. What are your competitive advantages compared to the other banks?

What ECAB can offer is a full-service bank institution. One of the advantages we have is the nature of the banking services offered. We are one of the leading banks in Antigua; we have the largest range of branches and ATM’s across of the island. We are quite expansive in terms of accessibility.

We also offer online banking, which is really challenging and telephone banking as well.

There is also a range of points for customers to interact with us.

Gaston Brown administration is making a lot of efforts to reach to new investors in the Middle East and China with projects such the CIP; Do you have any specific strategy to capitalize on this opportunities for the country? Is ECAB also reaching out for international investors?

We are primarily a domestic bank institution, so we mainly focus our work in domestic funds. As an institution in the local market we expect to be part of any development and opportunities that are taking place within the country. We certainly will support the trust in developing the country through the services that we offer.

How does the ECAB incorporate innovations into its work?

We are constantly looking for ways to incorporate innovative products and services. Banking is always evolving with technological platforms, so we are constantly making sure that we are updated with what it is happening within the industry. We want to offer as much as we can.

As a bank, you sponsor also different type of project. This year, for the second time ECAB supported JCI Mathlete competition that is part of JCI Antigua Youth Empowerment Program. Thanks to You, each student from the winning team received $200.00 which was deposited into an account at the bank. Why is it important for you to support this kind of events?

If you are providing services and generating an economic return it is important to give back to your community in one way or another. We are very proud of our corporate social responsibility programme. We are improving our performances and we are focusing in the areas of sports, education and culture.

Harvard Business Review is a review for leaders written by leaders. In your opinion, what are the main skills of a leader?

A leader needs to be able to listen and inspire. There are a lot of skills you can improve or develop in college, but a leader should have a special touch for dealing with people, to inspire them. Equally important is to be able to listen, and obviously to communicate.

You have over 20 years of experience driving strategic growth within the banking and financial services sectors. Out of all of your achievements, what are you most proud of?

I’m most proud of the changes I have been able to make in the financial service sector, not just in Antigua but also across the region. I’ve been able not to just improve people lives but to ensuring a certain stability. I am part of ensuring that we have a strong banking system.

To conclude the interview, as you know, the readers of Harvard Business Review include many of the world’s most influential business and political leaders who’d like to learn from other leaders. What message would you like to send them about Antigua and Barbuda and Eastern Caribbean Amalgamated Bank?

In terms of Antigua and Barbuda, despite of the fact of still being a developing country, it is important to recognize that we have a well-educated work force and business environment. Potential investors should know that there are a lot of opportunities here in Antigua and Barbuda. Investors should notice the benefits of our stability, location, and our regulated financial sector. They should consider Antigua like an option outside the most established countries around the world, because their business will be in good hands.