If there is one certainty in the world of investments and business, it is that change is inevitable. Add another certainty: saving and investing will always be fuelled by four (4) of life’s essentials, such as Education for your Children, Buying a home, Planning for Retirement, and Catering for Chronic and Critical Illness.
Business models have been changing and there will be more change to come, this is squarely due to the fact that technology has rapidly evolved over the past decade, and organisations across all industries have no choice but to innovate and adapt so that they can stay relevant… Essentially, that’s the only way to stay in the game! With the onset of COVID-19, businesses across all industries have placed a heightened focus on their digital transformation roadmap, using digital platforms to build their brands, connect, engage, and collaborate with stakeholders. The Financial Services sector is one of the leading industries when it comes to digital transformation. The adoption of technologies like cloud computing, analytics, and robotics are among the chief innovative digital tools which are almost overhauling the way financial institutions conduct their business.
The Trinidad and Tobago Stock Exchange (TTSE) is cognisant of the global technological shift, along with the growth of entrepreneurship and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), coupled with the spike in online presence; not only because of COVID-19, but because for the past few years, being online has actually meant being present, being current, and being existent in today’s society. The TTSE’s evolution in 2020 is a reflection of how the capital markets and the investment climate in the Caribbean are changing and will continue to change, to meet the demands of new and existing investors, both individuals and companies.
The TTSE’s rebrand, the launch of our eStatement platform, and launch of our online trading platform – TOP (TTSE Online Platform), all in 2020, are testament that the industry is evolving in order to create opportunities, to stimulate the economy, and to strengthen its appeal to the younger generations, the up-and-coming investors who will be the future leaders in this industry.
The TTSE’s new brand was launched virtually at the end of July 2020; and whilst the in-person, traditional pomp and flair of a celebratory event did not take place, the refreshed, modern look of the largest stock exchange in the Caribbean (by market capitalisation) has been welcomed by many across the region. Along with our rebrand is an appealing new website which allows for easy navigation, as the go-to platform for everything TTSE, in addition to our social media channels – Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
With technology and the demands of investors guiding our strategic initiatives, our online trading platform, TOP was launched in August 2020. At The TTSE, we understand the need to shift from traditional day trading to online trading, allowing technology to drive the business and make it more convenient and accessible to the investor. There are traditional aspects of the process which still apply, such as opening a brokerage account with a Registered Stockbroker; but once that has been completed, trading is literally in the palm of your hand.
Culture in the Caribbean is not an easy aspect to change, and encouraging investors to shift from trading through a brokerage firm to an online platform comes with a few challenges, but the advantages of online trading outweigh these. The TTSE Online Platform, TOP, aims to make the market more efficient, as a faster means to trade, with investors having 24/7 access to view real-time movements in their portfolio and the market. Once a trade order has been put through on a Trading Day, it is queued immediately to be executed. As millennials and Generation Z have become strongly tied to technology, TOP provides a way to encourage and engage young investors in the digital space, where everything is done at their fingertips.
Another new initiative catered to our shareholders is our eStatement Platform, which replaces printed and mailed account statements and notices, and facilitates full online portfolio access, not only saving the environment but saving shareholders’ time. As an initiative of The TTSE’s wholly-owned subsidiary, The Trinidad and Tobago Central Depository (TTCD), having a view of your portfolio in an electronic space allows for convenience, especially when time is a significant factor to an investor. We’ve seen the importance of having that secure, online space to manage accounts, especially in the banking and insurance sectors; and we aim to fully furnish our online platforms for our stakeholders to access everything they will need now, and in the future.
The impact of COVID-19, whilst it delayed the launch of some of our initiatives, has offered us the opportunity to spend the time sharpening the tools in our tool box and refining our execution strategies to drive greater traffic to our digital channels. Our rebrand, new website and social media platforms continue to be the collaborative channels between the Organisation, shareholders, and up-and-coming investors. Our new electronic platforms have now set the direction for how The TTSE will continue to evolve, to drive engagement and participation, by boosting innovation through technology. The pandemic has shifted how we operate, but it has not impacted how we operate – we continue to offer the highest standard of service to all stakeholders whether we work from home or in the office and email, Microsoft Teams and Zoom, also serve as collaborative tools to meet the demands of our stakeholders and the investing population.
On the business side of The TTSE, it is no secret that in the Caribbean, and T&T in particular, we have a risk-averse culture, whereby people are reluctant to invest. We have seen a decrease in trading activity across the region due to the financial impact of COVID-19; investors are extremely cautious in what to invest. We will soon be celebrating our forty (40) year milestone and during this time, the Stock Exchange has been and continues to be the bridge connecting investor, Listed Companies, and Participants in various industries, and shareholders’ investments have certainly allowed for the growth and expansion of many these Listed Companies on the stock exchange.
Keeping on the business front, as time goes by, things change; for instance, many family-owned businesses are seeing decreased interest from upcoming generations to take the lead of the business, as personal interests and their sense of purpose change. For a family-owned business to continue running viably, listing on the stock exchange is the solution for divesting the company. This will not only allow for the company to expand but to also encourage young persons to invest and expand their portfolios, allowing the stock exchange to position itself as the entity creating opportunities and financial stability for all.
A vibrant stock exchange will be beneficial to the entire financial services ecosystem and by extension the country. The Trinidad and Tobago Stock Exchange is prepared to embrace technologies that will boost our operational efficiencies so that we can better serve our clients and the market at large. We stand ready to engage and collaborate with our stakeholders and champion the requisite changes that will bolster the further development of our Capital Market in the Caribbean.
PHOTO: Ms. Amoy Van Lowe, CEO of the Trinidad and Tobago Stock Exchange