(THE ANGUILLIAN) — The Government of Chief Minister, Mr. Victor Banks, held a hastily-convened press conference on Wednesday, September 12, in response to the announcement by FirstCaribbean International Bank (FCIB) that it will be closing its operations in Anguilla on January 31, 2019.
Mr. Banks told the media personnel that on Tuesday, September 11, he had a scheduled visit from some principals of the FCIB’s regional office in Barbados about the closure of the Bank, having before been briefed on that possibility by Eastern Caribbean Central Bank officials.
The Chief Minister continued: “The representatives came to inform us of a decision made by FirstCaribbean Regional Corporation to close the Anguilla branch of the Bank. The agreement was that we would send out a release on September 13…As a consequence, I decided that I would await that timetable, but subsequently there has been some information going out to the public – and in fact certain aspects of that release, to my understanding, have also been a part of the social media.”
He explained that, as a result, he had taken the time to inform the media about what had transpired.
Mr. Banks said that during their visit the FCIB officials outlined the reason for the decision to close the Bank. He went on: “One of the key things they said, in terms of its operations, was that the Bank had only five percent of the overall market share in Anguilla. Obviously, the National Commercial Bank of Anguilla and Scotiabank would have been taking up a considerable part of the market. So, in essence, FCIB was not holding its own and not performing up to levels that would satisfy them that it merited to have their continuation as a branch in Anguilla.
“Without going into the specifics of their situation, they commented that since the recession and the economic downturn in 2008, all banks in the region were affected in varying degrees. As you know, our indigenous banks suffered as well. FICB would have had some large foreign investment in Anguilla which was impacted by the economic downturn… so they would have lost millions of dollars. Obviously, NBA and CCB would have also been impacted and that was one of the main reasons why we had those banks going into receivership. So it [the coming closure of FCIB] is not an isolated issue. It is not a new issue.”
Chief Minister Banks further told the press representatives: “I have noted that there is a lot of stuff in the social media which points to a certain reasoning for the closure of FCIB which has no relationship to reality in terms of what the Government of Anguilla is doing. The Government is doing exceptionally well in turning the economy around. We have a number of large projects which are now hiring hundreds of persons. We have a number of projects in the private sector coming on stream. We have in our discussions plans for serious expansion in the public sector including airport and seaport development; and there are private sector projects that are now taking place. So the economy is looking good, especially for the opening of the tourist season. We all have been impacted by both natural and human events and, as a consequence, there are a number of businesses in the region that have [suffered] and FirstCaribbean International Bank is no exception.
“We are saddened that, as a result of its closure, a number of staff at the Bank will be impacted. FirstCaribbean Bank [formally Barclays Bank] has been around for over thirty years – probably close to forty years in Anguilla and it provided a very useful service to its customers and to the Anguillian people in those early days. But in recent times, as it has indicated, it has not done very well.
“It is my understanding that, unofficially, the estimate of loans at FirstCaribbean is somewhere in the region of eight million. The number of deposits is somewhere in the region of seventy million. As a consequence of those kinds of numbers, it is obvious that the Bank will not be able to maintain its customer deposits and, as a result, it has decided to close the operations in Anguilla.”
The Chief Minister took the opportunity to read the agreed press release sent out by the FCIB. The full text is published elsewhere in this edition of The Anguillian newspaper.
Mr. Banks added this high note to his final comments:
“Thankfully, the National Commercial Bank of Anguilla is in a position to provide some customer support required to create a close to seamless transition for the customers of FICB after January 31, 2019. I am sure that the fact that NCBA is holding its own has been a critical factor in allowing them [FCIB] to make this decision and to make this appeal to NCBA, its management and staff, to support their customers after their closure on January 31, next year.”