Robert Le Hunte has a reputation for taking businesses to the next level.
His experience in banking, insurance and management has taken him all over the world, where he took the wheel of companies that were either looking to make a change in the way they operated or a change in their level of performance, and within years there was a turnaround or expansion.
That skill will come in handy for the former Minister of Public Utilities in his new role as managing director of Ansa Bank, which was renamed after the Ansa McAl group acquired the local branch of the Bank of Baroda.
Well, Le Hunte has a formula which he has used in his lengthy career in the private sector – one that could turn a parlour into a mini-mart and a sou-sou into a money-lending business.
The formula is simple. Le Hunte says any business can be grown by answering three questions: what is your proposition, what is your plan and who are the people that will help you execute it?
The formula – proposition, plan and people
“You have to know what your value proposition is,” Le Hunte said. “What do you propose to offer to your clientele?”
He said businesses have to know what differentiates them from the others.
Businesses need a plan. They need to know where they are, where they plan to be in the future and how they plan to get there.
But most importantly, they need skilled and talented people to take the business to the next level.
“I am one that always supports surrounding oneself with the right people,” Le Hunte said. “I don’t know it all. It is important to have bright people around you who will always be able to help you execute your goals.”
Bank of Baroda was run as a small bank with a small footprint. Le Hunte said Ansa plans to be a disruptor in the banking industry. What would make it different, he said, would be how it reaches its customers – using technology.
He said while the customers are the same – individuals, commercial institutions, mortgage-holders and so on – the bank’s approach will be different.
“Our goal is to create the first real digital bank.
“Digital banks differentiate themselves from the other banks in the type of experience that they provide for the customer and the way in which they interact with their customers.”
This means that as a digital representation of a customer-based business, Ansa Bank will need people who are comfortable with technology, but still capable of treating customers in the way they deserve.
He also has the support of Ansa Merchant Bank, which has already tasked them to oversee a roster of customers.
A history of service
As far as managing banks is concerned, this is not Le Hunte’s first time at the rodeo. He’s enhanced and developed businesses for their own benefit and the benefit of the consumers they serve.
Early in his career, he said, he was a manager for bank operations in Tobago, where his work allowed him to grow several small businesses into medium-sized businesses and commercial customers to corporate customers.
From 2003-2010 Le Hunte served as managing director of Barbados National Bank. While there he oversaw the bank’s transition from a government organisation to a consumer-based private-sector organisation.
“It was important to the people of Barbados because it was one of their largest divestment programmes by the government. It had to succeed, because everyone was looking at it. The people of Barbados felt the government was selling their prized jewel – their national bank.
“Therefore it was important that we made that organisation successful.”
By the time he left, the bank had been ranked best in Barbados three years in a row, and had been given the title four out of the last five years he worked at the bank.
“We were able to transform the organisation, at tremendous value. It was a fulfilling assignment,” he said. “We transformed the organisation, increased the staff and the services.
In 2013 he went on to Ghana, tasked by Republic Bank with overseeing the acquisition of HFC (Ghana). The bank was acquired as part of Republic’s international expansion strategy, Le Hunte said.
But to him it had a more fulfilling purpose.
“At one time our forefathers were brought from Africa here to the Caribbean. So it was significant to me because that investment from us at the time was recognised in Ghana as one of the largest single investments by a diaspora company back into Africa.”
When Le Hunte oversaw the acquisition, Republic copped 40 per cent of the shares in the bank, making it the largest shareholder. In 2020 it saw its shares in the bank increase to 84.9 per cent.
“I was charged to carry out Republic’s plans for expansion beyond the region. so we started with the Ghanaian bank. That was very fulfilling, because it really signifies the people of the African diaspora adding value back into their homeland.
“The experience in Africa was tremendous. It allowed me to understand in greater depth of the African culture. It even allowed me to appreciate the similarities between African and Indian cultures in TT.
“I have fond memories of Ghana. We were able to complete the transaction and transform the institution. When I left it was operating at the highest capacity it had been in its history.
“Because of my work there, Ghana gave me citizenship. I even met my wife there.”
Where you are is where you are supposed to be
Le Hunte says this new mission, growing Ansa’s latest financial institution, is not a matter of ambition, but of service. Le Hunte told Business Day his knack for upgrading businesses and banks was a gift which he was put on earth, and at Ansa Bank, to share.
“Where I am is where I am supposed to be. I believe that where I am is where my Supreme Being wants me to be. That means that I don’t look back, I don’t look forward, I live and perform what is being called upon me to do in the now.”
He added that he was also a passionate person who believes in the development of businesses. He said his work is done to the best of his ability, because in his relationship with God, he offers his work as his prayer.
“I believe that whatever you have to do, you have to be able to sleep at night afterward. Therefore whatever you do, you have to do it with integrity, professionalism, and service,” he said.
Ultimately Le Hunte expressed pride in his career, having helped so many with his innate ability to help businesses and institutions grow.
“I have fond memories of working with several companies. And it is with pride I sometimes look back and I see some of the organisations that I worked with, who at the time were small, have now grown over time.”