The Belize Bank Limited, the country’s oldest banking institution, has been assigned an investment grade rating by the Caribbean Information and Credit Rating Services. CariCRIS is the Caribbean’s leading credit rating agency and is an associate company of the globally-recognized rating agency Standard and Poor’s. The designation is a first for any entity in Belize. It follows a review of Belize Bank’s operations in keeping with its overall strategic objective. An investment grade rating means that the Belize Bank maintains a strong presence in the local commercial banking sector with a robust risk management framework and strong asset quality.

Lyndon Guiseppi, Executive Chairman, Belize Bank
“Over the past five years, we have engaged in a complete overhaul of the organization. We approached this from several different perspectives. In the last three years we changed out our core banking system and we are currently in the process of changing out our credit card processors. We are also changing out the service providers for our ATM backend. In addition to that, we spent a significant amount of time looking at our loan portfolio. Over the past ten years we found ourselves in a challenging position where our loan portfolio had deteriorated and were carrying a significant amount of none performing loans. But in the last four years we were able to retrieve that situation to the point that today the Belize Bank has been able to demonstrate that we have a non-performing portfolio of less than one percent. This is an excellent ratio, perhaps one of the best in the Caribbean and certainly one of the better ratios in Belize. In addition to that, we have been looking at expenses and we’ve reduced our cost because one of the ratios we focused on in banking is called the efficiency ratio and our goal is to have an efficiency ratio of fifty percent or less and today we are approaching that ratio. So against the background of those initiatives, I thought it would be appropriate to invite an independent arbitrator, an entity that is familiar with banking to sort of look at the organization and give us an objective view in terms of how we were doing. So it was with that in mind that we approached CariCRIS to conduct the credit rating for the bank.”

What Does Investment Rating Mean for Belize Bank?

The assigned rating augurs well for other local companies wishing to improve their profiles on the regional and international markets. It is in line with some of the more prominent and larger regional banks across the Caribbean and thus provides a platform to attract talent across the region, as well as to assist initiatives to raise capital going forward.

Lyndon Guiseppi, Executive Chairman, Belize Bank
“The rating essentially is an exercise in which a group of professionals, mostly finance individuals, would come in and look at the overall operations of the bank from a technical standpoint. They would interview the executive, they also interviewed junior staff and they would then compare the performance of this bank against certain key benchmark ratios. For instance, some of the things they would look at is the level of capitalization in the bank. Do we have sufficient capital to operate? They would look at the quality of the loan portfolio, what is our non-performing ratio? Are we overexposed in one industry as opposed to another? They would look at our efficiency ratio, I mean, how efficient is the bank in terms of its expenses to income ratio. They would also look at the quality of staff and the caliber of staff that the bank has. And then, looking at these parameters they would compare us to other banking entities across the Caribbean, whether in Jamaica, Barbados or Trinidad. And having done that exercise, CariCRIS was able to adjudicate that the Belize Bank has investment grade rating, essentially what that means is that we can compare, in terms of all of those parameters that I’ve outlined, with the top banks across the Caribbean. We’re not the same size as those banks, but in terms of the quality of our assets, in terms of our return on assets, in terms of our return on equity, in terms of our efficiency ratio we are comparable to the top regional banks. That rating then allows us to go to the public whether in Belize or in the Caribbean and to advertise ourselves to raise capital. It says that we are as strong as our peers across the Caribbean.”

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