With COVID-19 restrictions and Social Distancing now just memories for most, the amplified local response to this year’s first Jazz & Arts Festival was more than anticipated or expected – and many are already preparing for Carnival 2023 in July, Emancipation Month in August and Kweyol Heritage Month in October.
In the midst of it all, it’s been easy for many to miss major unprecedented achievements by one local public and private sector institution with longer-term national interests which continues to survive, succeeding and scoring ‘firsts’ despite the global, regional and domestic disruptions that came with the COVID Pandemic in 2020, and which have since lingered to this day.
Financial institutions have faced furious headwinds in the last two years from economic, commercial, financial and other effects of the Supply Chain created by the pandemic and exacerbated by the Ukraine War, affecting movements of goods and creating food and energy crises that created unprecedented mishaps even in the bastions of world capital, including the USA and the UK.
Caribbean countries have been hit severely on all counts, affecting all commercial sectors, from banks to hotels to retail distribution outlets.
In the current environment where the UK is reeling under the pressure of being the only European country to experience zero-growth in 2022, and with the US struggling to eventually balance its 2023 budget, many big-name global entities are also going under, from Switzerland’s Credit Suisse to the Silicon Valley Bank.
These are stark reminders that the same conditions that led to the earlier 2008 banking crises in the developed world and on the world stage generally simply haven’t gone away.
In this situation, only the strong and the toughest have been able to survive and companies and institutions, big and small, that didn’t or don’t or simply refuse to adapt to new changes have failed, some most likely never to rise again.
One Saint Lucian entity that’s performed remarkably in light of and despite all the above is the 1st National Bank St. Lucia Ltd., the island’s very first indigenous bank, which has survived over eight decades overcoming challenges, however difficult.
Here we have a bank that started in 1938 – one year before the Second World War – after a few visionary Saint Lucians led by J.Q. Charles and John H. Pilgrim and driven by the strong spirit of early corporativism — took the unprecedented step of establishing the St. Lucia Co-operative Bank Ltd.
The bank was also called (and better known as) “The Penny Bank” back then, because, unlike the only other bank at the time, Barclays Bank DCO of the time, anyone could have opened an account with “a penny” (in the days of Pounds, Shillings and Pence).
A penny back then was worth two cents and it’s simply remarkable that a bank that started 85 years ago accepting one penny as a deposit is, in 2023, not only the island’s oldest indigenous bank, but also the first to have acquired the assets of two of its competitors, one regional and one international.
In the last two years, 1st National Bank St. Lucia Ltd became the first to purchase the local assets of two competitors — the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) and the Royal Bank of Trinidad & Tobago (RBTT); and, having completed its takeover of RBTT’s operation in Saint Vincent & The Grenadines, which it acquired last July.
Following a recent visit by a high-level 1st National Bank team (led by its President Nigel Fulgence and and Managing Director Fletcher St. Jean) for meetings with Vincentian bank staff, national business leaders, Finance Minister Camilo Gonsalves and Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, the way is now paved for the final transition to the new 1st National Bank St. Vincent Ltd. as the first wholly-owned offshore subsidiary of Saint Lucia’s legendary “Penny Bank”.
1st National Bank St. Lucia Ltd.’s string of achievements thus far in 2023 have also included its role as the first Title Sponsor of the Saint Lucian Youth and Arts Jazz Festival and a top-tier supporter for the graduation of national athlete Julien Alfred, in Texas – both in May.
As the bank continues to overcome normal problems of swimming in waters unknown, these sparkling achievements mark sterling tributes to the quality of leadership at all levels (from top to bottom) but also — and equally important – from the selfless and dedicated service of staff at all branches.
Well done, 1st National Bank St. Lucia Ltd.