Managing during Covid-19

Managing during Covid-19

An Interview Series hosted by InvesTT Trinidad and Tobago

Like many other countries, Trinidad and Tobago continues to monitor and adapt to the crisis brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic. We took the time to chat with some of our valued business clients on their ability to navigate the ensuing restrictions faced by businesses here and what a post Covid-19 future looks like for them.

This week we begin our chat with STACY ADAMS, Vice President-Investor Services & Acting President, InvesTT.

What was InvesTT’s initial response to the emergence of COVID-19?

When COVID-19 emerged, InvesTT took an informed approach. We followed national and international guidelines for responding to the pandemic, as well as best practice in the field of Investment Promotion. We anticipated some fall-out of projects in our pipeline. So, we redoubled our efforts to provide our clients with the support they needed to better navigate the regulatory environment during the crisis. In our own office, we immediately implemented measures to ensure the safety of our staff in keeping with guidelines provided by the Ministry of Health.

How easy was it for InvesTT to adapt to national safety measures?

It was thankfully a seamless transition for the InvesTT team to adapt to national safety measures. As an organization, we kept abreast of the developments in the spread of the virus. Our plans went as far as preparing all staff for the possibility of closure of our offices and piloting a work-from-home programme before it became a directive by government. The entire organization successfully participated in a one-day pilot for remote work operations. This allowed us to identify and tweak the process for maximum efficiency, particularly in terms of connectivity. When the state announced that only essential services were to remain open, we were prepared to move to a fully functional work-from-home status. 

How did InvesTT provide continued support to clients during the crisis and were there any major challenges encountered?

IPAs around the world have revisited their investor targeting and facilitation activities. So InvesTT was not alone in this situation. We curated information from credible sources with expertise on IPA crisis management strategies, such as UNCTAD and WAIPA, and elicited feedback from investors to inform changes to our approach.  

When the pandemic was declared, InvesTT was in the final planning stages of the launch of our FDI Stimulator Network. Scheduled for the end of March, this event was to include key businesses leaders across our priority sectors. We assessed the options available to us and subsequently hosted it as a webinar in April. It achieved its objectives despite having to pivot to an e-platform at short notice.

As an IPA, our job is to engage the relevant approval agencies for our  clients and to deliver an investment experience that is as efficient and seamless as possible. The near shutdown of major regulatory agencies that we depend on for information and service tested our ability to deliver this experience. This was the biggest obstacle we encountered. However, our working relationships with these agencies enabled us to access the necessary information and services to guide the majority of our clients’ projects.

Clients in the process of submitting documents to move their investment projects forward were uncertain of their next steps due to the new restrictions. InvesTT was able to fill this gap. Our Aftercare Officers explored available avenues to get the processes moving again. Where that was not possible, information was provided on the existing protocols in place, with ongoing follow-up. Meetings scheduled with regulatory bodies were facilitated via online meetings to continue stakeholder discussions. Public service advisories were also uploaded to our website to keep our clients and stakeholders informed. We wanted to ensure that our clients knew that they were not alone during this time of uncertainty and that our expertise, support and resourcefulness would continue to be readily available to them.

In May, InvesTT was ranked Top IPA 2020 in the Caribbean and Latin America by Conway, Inc. What is the significance of this achievement to the agency?

It means that Trinidad and Tobago is very much on the radar of global site selectors and that InvesTT continues to be a key resource for keeping them informed of the country’s investment offerings.  During the pandemic, we took the time to continue building our internal professional capacity which is a key element in our success as an IPA. Staff were encouraged to participate in international webinars and discussions that helped to expand our networks and areas of expertise.

What does business continuity look like for your company with relaxation of safety restrictions and Post COVID-19 environment?

The landscape of the business environment has changed permanently, internationally and at home here in Trinidad and Tobago. As the country moves towards the full reopening of businesses, we continue to monitor and adapt the guidelines and best practices to our corporate operational model. The safety of our employees and clients is of course tantamount, so we have developed strict protocols for the return to the office space which include guidelines for members of staff and visitors. Operations focused on generating FDI will be greatly impacted by international travel restrictions. To counter this, we are exploring creative digital options such as virtual tours to replace physical site visits, virtual meetings to engage our investors and stakeholders and the hosting of webinars to host larger events.

How can businesses prepare for the new reality in the aftermath of COVID-19?

The post COVID-19 environment, while still unclear at this time, will definitely not be a return to the old ways of doing things.  The world has changed. We adapted to life in a post 9-11 world and we will adapt to life after COVID, even if some do so kicking and screaming. Moving forward into a post COVID-19 era will require agility, adaptability and collaboration. Businesses need to be part of the dialogue and embrace innovation that will support not only our local businesses but international businesses as well.

Next week, we chat with our client Virtana about their experience...