Ex-Cadets Abroad – Connecting with 7573 Terry McCoy in Panama

E3161 Victoria Edwards (RMC 2003) is doing a series of E-veritas interviews with Ex Cadets living abroad. She interviewed 7573 Captain Ret’d Terry McCoy (CMR 63-66 & RMC 66-68), who lives in Panama.

e-veritas: Your father was in the military: Is that how you became interested in travelling and living overseas?

Terry McCoy: When I was growing up, my father was in the military- WW II at Dieppe and later part of follow up support to the Normandy invasion. We moved every 2-3 years and spent 2 tours in Germany in the mid 50’s and early 60’s. My last year of high school was spent at a Canadian school in Soest, Germany. Later in the Canadian Military (4RCHA) I had several trips overseas and I spent 6 months in Vietnam on a peacekeeping mission – ICCS (Jan-July 1973). That is where I very much got the bug to return and work in Asia. The photo is of my family in 2007 on Lake Titicaca which borders Peru and Bolivia and at almost 4,000 meters is the highest inland lake in the world. There is a famous floating village on the lake which we visited where people live full time and it is built on about 10-12 feet deep of reeds tied together.

e-veritas: After retiring as a Captain from the Canadian Forces, you worked at Scotiabank in various countries overseas.

Terry McCoy: After graduate school at UWO in London Ont. I joined Scotiabank in Toronto but didn’t spend much time there as I spent almost 10 years in Asia – 3.5 years in Manila and 6 years in Hong Kong where I met my current wife Rosalind. After a brief 18 months back in Head Office in Toronto (for re-education my boss said as I was spoiled in the Far East!) I was dispatched to Curacao for 2 years where I worked at an affiliate bank – Maduro and Curiel’s Bank N.V. Subsequently I ended up in Kingston, Jamaica with Scotiabank Jamaica where I spent 6 years in 2 different jobs – one a commercial credit job and the other as Manager of the Main Branch and de facto head of Corporate Banking for Jamaica. My last assignment with Scotia was in Panama City, Panama from July 1997 to October 2009 as Vice President, General Manager and Country Head for Panama. If you wish I could add more detail on some of the other places I have lived but the memory gets foggier the further I go back.

e-veritas: In 2007, Scotiabank Panama funding directly contributed to bringing education to children in poor, rural areas of Panama.

Terry McCoy: Thousands of children in poor and isolated areas of the country returned to school, thanks to the ambitious Countryside Schools Project spearheaded by former First Lady Vivian Torrijos. Over a 5 year period 50 rural schools in Panama were rebuilt through a collaborative arrangement with Scotiabank, other private companies and the office of the First Lady of Panama Vivian Torrijos. In 2007, Scotiabank funding directly contributed to the rebuilding of a school in Puerto Armuelles, Chiriqui. Once complete, the Bank and our staff stayed actively involved in ensuring the children have the resources they need to succeed academically. http://www.scotiabank.com/images/bs/en/files_AboutScotiabank/5839.pdf

e-veritas: What motivated / prompted you to stay in Panama after retiring from Scotiabank?

Terry McCoy: I retired from Scotiabank November 1st 2009 and decided to stay in Panama. One of the main reasons was we had lived here for 12 years before I retired from Scotiabank. Also, most of our friends are in Panama now, the kids (Tamira and Timothy) were still in high school in the International School of Panama and my wife was working full time as a real estate agent. Additionally I was working part time as a Financial Advisor and was invited to join the Board of a local bank. Other significant factors are weather and fiscal reasons! Our children are fluent in Spanish, my wife almost fluent and I come a distant 4th. Our daughter Tamira has since moved on to study architecture at the University of Toronto and our son Timothy will be going to College in Canada this September.

e-veritas: You are semi-retired these days? What do you usually do in your spare time?

Terry McCoy: I am semi retired as I work part time as a financial advisor for companies- mostly ones looking for local bank loans for projects in Panama and also I am on the Board and several committees of a local Panamanian bank. Additionally a couple of years before retirement from Scotiabank and 3 years after retirement I spent 5 years on the Board of Directors of The International School of Panama (2007-2012). The last 3 years were as Board President. This period was a very busy time for the school as it was undergoing a major expansion program costing approximately US$ 25 million and where enrolment nearly doubled to roughly 1100 students. In my spare time I travel and play golf – the later 1-3 times a week to try to keep the handicap in single figures!! Also, I am still a member of the American Chamber of Commerce and on the Real Estate and Tourism Committees (previously a Board member for 5 years). I am also a member of the British Chamber of Commerce and the CanadaPlus Club and American Society. The latter two organizations are mainly social clubs with 1-2 functions a month. I also watch some sports on TV (mainly golf, tennis and NBA basketball) and go to the gym. We also dine out quite often in some of Panama’s many restaurants.

I play in some local golf tournaments (Senior Division!!). I have won 2 gross prizes in the past 4-6 weeks – one in a LATAM senior’s tournament that Panama hosted in early April and the latest in my golf club’s club championship held in late April Also, I have found that recently – say the past 2-3 years – there are significantly more visitors coming to Panama than before and I tend to get involved with quite a few in one way or another.

e-veritas: Do you run into many other Canadians/Ex Cadets in Panama?

Terry McCoy: Some but not that many Canadians/Ex Cadets as there are many other nationalities here. The International School has students from over 45 countries!! Our main friends are from many different countries including Panama, Colombia, several provinces in Canada, Brazil, Spain, China, Guatamala, USA etc. I had a visit from 7723 Paul Beswick (RRMC 68) and his wife this past January and 13567 Jim Waddell (RMC 84) visits from Florida once or twice a year.

e-veritas: Do you travel back to Canada regularly?

Terry McCoy: Usually about once a year and I try to avoid the winter!! In September 2013, I attended the RMC/Old Brigade induction week-end which was great. I also visited Ottawa where a sister and some friends are – including RMC graduate 7530 LCol (Ret’d) Fletcher Thomson (RMC 1969) and wife and the former College Administration Officer, Col. (Ret’d) Harky Smith and wife. The next trip planned is the end of June to Vancouver to visit friends and to transit for a trip to China where our daughter Tamira (19) has an intern summer job in Shanghai finishing July 2nd. Several weeks vacation in China and Hong Kong are planned for July. Fortunately my wife speaks Mandarin and Cantonese.

e-veritas: How do you compare your present location with living in Canada? Any challenges in adjusting to the local customs / culture etc?

Terry McCoy: There have been a number of locations so quite a few comparisons. In terms of Panama some of the pros are weather, fiscal benefits, different Spanish/ Latino type culture, dynamic economy (GDP growth has averaged approximately 8-10% the past 5 years.) Panama is quite international – similar to Singapore or Hong Kong. Since it is a relatively compact city there is not much transit time to different locations (traffic permitting). Although the overall cost of living is quite reasonable it is increasing with inflation roughly 5-6% p.a. which is significantly higher than Canada. On the not so favourable side there is currently quite a bit of traffic congestion even with the recent opening of Phase 1 of the METRO – a mass transit system, a relatively inefficient legal system and a poor local public school education system, government bureaucracy- about 2 hours to get a driver’s licence renewed versus 10 minutes in Canada! Customer service can sometimes be a challenge – restaurants, banks, car dealers etc.!! The quality of building construction and trades services generally is not too good. On the job training is the standard here!! Adjusting to the local customs/culture is generally not too hard as the people are friendly and many here speak at least some English and many in the business community are fluent in English. Learning Spanish becomes a definite advantage and is recommended. The concept of punctuality is a bit different. Latino time is more like Caribbean time than Hong Kong time!!

e-veritas: What sticks out in your mind about your time at military college?

Terry McCoy: I met some great people both staff and students at CMR/RMC. I am getting back in touch with some of the old RMC and Army colleagues who I haven’t seen for years. The newsletters and reunion week-ends are great!! Very much enjoyed the sports – although not too sure about cross country running!! I really enjoyed being on the RMC golf team and the junior varsity hockey team. I can still recall Sgt. Wally Travis comments about “ No gain without pain” and “ skate it out “ if someone was sick at Sunday morning hockey practise after having had too good a Saturday night in town!! Also, thanks to ex cadet 7608 Commander (Ret’d) John Gabel (RR/ RMC 1968) I believe many of the Beach Boys songs are permanently etched in my mind after hearing them every week-end for about 2 years!!

e-veritas: Anything else to add?

Terry McCoy: Travelling and living overseas is not for everyone as there will be many ups and downs and lots of things not the same as in Canada or the USA. You need to have an interesting and remunerative job with an understanding and supportive spouse. If you have children then they need to be able to adapt also. When comparing to Canada or the USA there are obviously Pros and Cons and individual families have to make their own overall summary assessment and each country is quite different. There will be definite disadvantages but also opportunities to see many interesting places and meet many interesting people and sometimes some very lucrative financial opportunities. I believe I was quite fortunate to hit Manila and Hong Kong when I was single, younger and more energetic and later Curacao, Jamaica and Panama when I was more older and settled. Panama’s economy is strong and diversified with the world famous Canal (currently undergoing a significant US$ 5-6 billion expansion), the Colón Free Trade Zone with over 1400 companies, 5 international ports, an excellent local airline – COPA- and great airline connectivity. It is also increasingly the country of choice for large multinationals such as P and G, Sony, Maersk etc. to locate their LATAM regional headquarters in Panama. Additionally, tourism and attraction for overseas retirees really started to take off about 10-12 years ago and is in full swing now. If any ex cadets are looking to visit Panama then they can feel free to contact me with any questions they have and I will attempt to assist wherever possible.

2 Comments

  • Paul Hession

    May 20, 2014 at 12:50 pm

    Terry: great to hear about your recent life in Panama, and our shared interest in NBA and the Beach Boys! Congratulations on joining the Old Brigade last year.

    Paul Hession 7855