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Edwards takes charge at Unit Trust Corporation




By Rapheal John-Lall

Petroleumworld 06 29 2018

In taking on the position of executive director of the Unit Trust Corporation (UTC), Nigel Edwards says he now has a “massive responsibility” to the people of T&T .

“ I feel a sense of going through a period of preparation for it,” he said of his new role at one of the country's leading financial institutions.

“If I take scan of my career, everything that I have done in my career has helped to prepare me for these responsibilities that I now face,” he said in an interview at UTC's head office in Port-of-Spain.

Like his predecessor Ian Chinapoo, Edwards will hold the position for five years.

Before he joined the UTC almost five years ago, Edwards worked in the financial services sector of the ANSA McAL Group of Companies for 16 years. Prior to moving into the top post at the UTC, he was the chief financial officer.

He said the biggest expectation in his new position is to effectively manage UTC's funds which “represent a quarter of the national savings of T&T's population in the amount of $21 billion.

Edwards said his main responsibility is to keep those funds “safe and secure and maximise the returns to our unit holders.”

As a mutual fund company, asset management which is the mainstay of the UTC, he said.

The company's flagship fund is the Growth and Income Fund, which Edwards described as a mix of investments in stocks and shares and fixed income investments.

“Our largest fund is the TT Dollar Income Fund. This is an investment mostly in fixed income securities. We also have a US dollar Income Fund, a Retirement Fund and we have a North America Fund which is primarily equity,” he said.

The UTC's customer base of just over 600,000 unit holders represents approximately 90 per cent of T&T's adult population, he said.

“That is a really substantial penetration rate. We are still not quite satisfied and we are very keen to increase that with further market penetration.”

In 2017, the UTC celebrated its 35th anniversary.

Edwards pointed out: “We came into existence in 1982 at the time when the stock exchange was still in its nascent form. That was really important as it allowed the average Trinbagonian investor to access the stock exchange which many people were very unfamiliar with then. The UTC gave them the ability to access that in safe way.”

Referring to the UTC's recent financial results, he revealed: “In 2017, our flagship fund, which is the Growth and Income Fund, saw a return of 5.36 per cent. When we compare that to the T&T Stock Exchange, which fell by 5.75 per cent, we feel a sense of satisfaction that we were able to give positive returns even in light of the Stock Exchange that was falling, while at the same time providing the strength and stability that is a hallmark of the UTC.”

Future challenges

According to Edwards, it is significant that the UTC currently has $21 billion under management, as that is “a good launching pad for continuing our growth in funds under management, increased number of products that we can offer to the population.”

He said despite economic challenges facing the country faces, there are opportunities for growth.

“We continue to invest into the local economy as this is a period of tremendous opportunities. We have been adding to our portfolio. The issue is ensuring that the fundamentals of asset management decision making are adhered to.

“We have been very close to our unit holders and we understand their focus is on preserving their capital. The average T&T investor is a little risk averse and very concerned about ensuring the maintenance of their capital.

“They do not want to necessarily put what they have invested at risk. The Growth and Income Fund gives our investors access to some growth, but that growth does not come with tremendous risk attached to it.”

To keep up with the challenges in the financial sector, the UTC has been updating their technology platforms and is moving “more dynamically into the digital era,” Edwards said.

He added: “Our professionals are as good as some of the people that I have met on Wall Street, as good as some of the people that I have gone to school with and met in Europe. It is important to know that we compete toe-to-toe with international minds even when they have access to larger and more sophisticated platforms than we do. We are not less capable than they are.”

He also admits to taking “tremendous pride” in the quality of the UTC's customer service which he said makes them a leader in the financial services sector.

The company currently has 513 employees operating at nine investment centres across the country.

“Invariably people come to me to talk about the level of customer service support that they receive at UTC. It is always positive, people always talk about how pleased that they were dealt with,” Edwards said
Although the local and international financial sectors are evolving, he assures the public that they can expect stability at the UTC.

“UTC is very conscious of the fact that we are safeguarding people's future. Stability and security is something that we take very, very seriously. We value the place that we have in the hearts and households of T&T. “We are making a shift in our culture to more adequately serve our unit holders.


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Story by Rapheal John-Lall from TT Guardian 06 29 2018

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