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“Rooted in the soils of change”
Nearly 75 years after the first seeds of indigenous banking were sown, it is perhaps easy to forget 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 denied to them to that point. From the politically and socially fertile soils of change at the time, the St. Lucia Cooperative Bank Limited opened its doors for business in January 1938 on Mongiraud Street in a backstore of Carasco and Son – an established business house. A place where the savings and investment culture on which the nation’s back-bone would be built, took root.
The names of the first Board of Directors of the Bank, will still be familiar to many:
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, our bank was a pioneer and innovator. The difference between our bank and others was its willingness to accept very small deposits to encourage thrift. Simple as it may sound, the issue of a bank book to a first-time depositor, gave a sense of ownership and local partnership that exists even today despite the massive innovations and technological shifts that have taken place.
“here...for a nation”
The Bank was challenged by the major disaster of the second Castries fire in 1948. “After that hot gospeller had levelled all but the churched sky” to quote the 18- year old Derek Walcott, the bank was called upon to translate its workers’ pennies into mortgage finance needed for the rebuilding of Castries - pattern to repeat itself into the future as the bank resolutely rose to meet every challenge the nation faced, from crop failure and economic downturn, to hurricane and boom times that threatened wild inflationary sending.
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 also 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. It brought a new prosperity to St. Lucia. 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 Cooperative bank, the people’s Bank, held its own, provided for the banking needs of these new investors, and with them, the Bank prospered
“making our mark”
Arthur Lewis and Derek Walcott led the names of many St. Lucians who were making their mark on the international stage. Economic and social development were obvious everywhere. Many of those who had emigrated contributed to the economy by sending remittances home. With more secondary schools built around the island, educational opportunities increased. More graduates were returning from the University of the West Indies and other universities.
“not for sale!”
During that period of 1960 and 1978 the bank expanded and renovated to better meet the needs of it growing customer base. The records show that the bank’s deposits kept increasing, as did the demand for loans, reflecting the steady growth of the assets and loan capacity. As you would have expected, the newly thriving economy of St. Lucia attracted the interest of foreign banks. Efforts were made to acquire substantial holdings in the bank. Wisely, the directors resisted the tempting offers, and the Penny bank has remained entirely under local control and ownership to this day.
By 1978, the Right honourable Sir Vincent Floissac, a distinguished St. Lucian lawyer could 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 too remains true today.
Even then, the digital age was appearing quickly. 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”
Our 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 opens 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 old Penny Bank that opened its doors in January 1938 in Mongiraud Street in Carasco’s backstore, to the new attractive edifice of the 1st National Bank St. Lucia Limited on Bridge Street and branches spreading nationwide, we’re still here for our St. Lucian family. Indeed, “an enduring and important St. Lucian institution.”
From the Penny bank of 1938, to 1st National Bank St. Lucia Limited – we’re
“HERE FOR YOU!”
© 2012. 1st National Bank, St. Lucia. All Rights Reserved.