“Rooted in the soils of change”
It is unfathomable to most that Saint Lucia did not always have its own national bank and that for many, banking, even simple saving of their hard earned pennies, was a privilege reserved for only a few. From the politically and socially fertile soils of change, the St. Lucia Co-operative Bank Limited opened its doors for business in January 1938, in a humble Mongiraud Street backstore. A haven where the savings and investment culture on which nation building would flourish took root.
The names of the first Board of Directors of the Bank will still be familiar to many, for these were men who left an indelible mark on commerce and development of St. Lucia:
George Palmer - First President
J.B.D. Osbourne - Secretary/Manager
John H. Pilgrim
“A sense of ownership and local partnership”
The Bank started with a capital of $50,000 made up of shares of $1.00 each. As a small Savings and Loans organization, the Bank stood a pioneer and innovator, in realizing the potential of seemingly insignificant deposits towards the encouragement of thrift. The first-time depositor was empowered with an incomparable sense of pride upon receipt of their first banking passbook. Even today despite the massive innovations and technological shifts that have advanced our landscape, the passbook remains a symbol of personal empowerment and ownership.
“Here...for a nation”
The Bank was challenged by the major disaster of the second Castries fire in 1948, dubbed by an 18 year old Derek Walcott as the “Hot gospeller had levelled all but the churched sky.” The Bank was called upon to translate its workers’ pennies into mortgage finance needed for the rebuilding of Castries– the pattern to repeat time and again into its future, as the bank resolutely rose to meet every challenge the nation faced, from crop failure and economic downturn, to hurricane devastation.
By 1948, the initial share capital had increased from $50,000 to $100,000. That amount would translate today to millions of dollars. By 1950 the total assets were nearly one million and Savings Bank deposits amounted to over eight hundred thousand.
“ Growing with us all”
The fifties saw the coming of King Banana- the crop which represented an economic and social revolution. That sweet fruit became the principal export and cash earner, bringing a new prosperity to St. Lucia and its soil-turning mavericks. Castries, the capital, hungry for modernity, risen from the ashes of 1948, was on the move! It was to Castries that the new banana farmer came to buy his goods, to do his banking, and the St. Lucia Co-operative bank, the people’s Bank, held its own, provided for the banking needs of these new investors, and with them, the Bank prospered.
“not for sale!”
During that period 1960 to 1978, the Bank expanded and reinvented itself to better meet the needs of its growing customer base. A steady and sustained growth of its asset base and capacity eventually caught the attention of international banking giants who actually made efforts to acquire substantial holdings in the Bank. Wisely, the Directors resisted the tempting offers. By 1978, the Right Honourable Sir Vincent Floissac, a distinguished St. Lucian lawyer would write, “The Bank was founded by St. Lucians for St. Lucians. Our shareholders and depositors are nearly all St. Lucians. Our directors are all without exception, St. Lucians.” This truth endures to this very day. We remain, Indigenous.
Already, the digital age was fast approaching. Nearing the end of the century, a sophisticated telecommunications industry was getting ready for liberalization. Hi tech computer systems and all the paraphernalia of the digital divide were arriving. In commerce and business, the big, familiar names were now competing with newer and more aggressive enterprises.
“new vision...new beginnings”
The Bank moved into the era of technological advancement with ATMs for 24 hour convenient banking. Sophisticated IT systems were purchased in order to make the institution Y2K compliant. With the rapid expansion of the tourist industry, and growth in air travel, the Bank opened a Bureau de Change at the George F.L. Charles Airport in May 1999. Its overall staff complement was now 74. In his President’s address for the 1999 AGM, Ferrel Charles will call directors, management, staff and shareholders to a “new vision and new beginnings.”
On 22 June 2004, the old Penny Bank received formal certification of change of name. Henceforth, the St. Lucia Cooperative Bank, now 67 years of age, would be known as the 1st National Bank St. Lucia Limited.
“we have always been...and will always be...”
From the endeared Penny Bank that opened its doors in January 1938 in a Mongiraud Street backstore, to the new attractive edifice of the 1st National Bank St. Lucia Limited on Bridge Street and branches spreading nationwide; from the humble staff complement of 3, to an employer of over 100 St. Lucians; from a $50,000 asset base, to a multi-million dollar corporate entity; we’re still here for our St. Lucian family; we remain an enduring and important St. Lucian institution; we are...
“Here... for YOU!”