Castries, Saint Lucia, Friday October 22, 2021:– Saint Lucia’s first indigenous national bank has been plunged into quiet controversy following the sudden resignation of its Managing Directopr earlier this week.
1st National Bank has remained silent all-week-long over news that Managing Director, Jonathan Johanness, resigned on Tuesday (October 19). The news hit the road on Wednesday, but the bank has not confirmed or denied.
Mr Johanness has not himself issued any public statement either about his sudden resignation, nor has the bank’s public relations department or its Board of Directors.
No member of the Board, which includes several prominent Saint Lucian citizens, has spoken publicly on the matter, all those contacted claiming to be bound by “confidentiality” codes none wish to violate.
But news of the resignation continues to spread like wildfire, particularly in social media, where the Managing Director’s quiet departure was met with mixed reaction by Saint Lucians.
Most of the comments by locals are supportive of Mr Johanness, many expressing regret, some claiming the bank lost a great asset and others seeming to blame his departure on the Board of Directors.
Mr Johanness has won several awards locally and regionally after he was appointed to lead 1st National and his leadership was praised by observers in the regional banking fraternity.
Saint Lucia’s first indigenous bank, established in 1938 as The St. Lucia Cooperative Bank, was originally also called The Penny Bank, until it had a name-change to 1st National Bank several years ago.
As a new corporate entity, 1st National met the competition toe-to-toe, moving from its original headquarters on Bridge Street in Castries and a branch in Vieux to opening new branches at Choc, Rodney Bay and the GFL Charles and Hewanorra airports.
The bank also promised to open a branch in Soufriere, but hasn’t yet done so.
1st National made Saint Lucians proud recently when it formally acquired the local interests of the former Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), which had also earlier been acquired by Trinidad & Tobago-based Republic Bank.
It was a major acquisition that saw the island’s “Penny Bank” virtually swallow a major Canadian bank’s local assets and staff, a major feat by local and regional standards, never mind the related industrial p0roblems also inherited with the acquisition.
1st National Bank, with over 80 years history, has survived all the competition at home and built a solid reputation as a member of the Caribbean Association of Indigenous Banks (CAIB).
But Mr Johanness’ untimely and unexplained resignation has been raising eyebrows at home and abroad since it was communicated to his superiors on Tuesday, accompanied by a Facebook post suggesting the outgoing Managing Director was a victim of disrespect.
Saint Lucia News online (SLNO) has learned the Managing Director submitted his resignation Tuesday, the same day as his Facebook post of the quote about “respect”.
In the absence of any official statement, customers, shareholders and fellow bankers, as well as citizens, have been left to wonder why the Managing Director decided to leave his top post so quickly and with such apparent secrecy.
Board members contacted by SLNO declined to comment, some citing “confidentiality” or simply redirecting all inquiries to the Managing Director, whose resignation triggered the mountain of speculation since it became known on Wednesday.
Mr Johanness has so far chosen to keep his lips tightly sealed on the issue and with the bank’s directors also zipping their tongues, it all remains Open Season for speculation and rumour as to why the bank’s resigned Chief Executive and Board of Directors have banked on remaining absolutely and deafeningly silent on the issue.
Now that the Managing Director’s Facebook account’s reference to “respect” has made the rounds on social media platforms and attracted over 500 personal responses, attention is now shifting to the Board of Directors, the only line of authority above the Managing Director.
An employee of lower rank who claims to “know absolutely nothing” about why the Board asked the MD (Managing Director) to resign, said “Staff members too” are “confused about the rumours” making the rounds since hearing of the resignation.
She told SLNO: “We are hearing things, but until and unless the Board says something to confirm or deny the claims that it disrespected the Managing Director, all we have is what we are hearing, and that’s not nice at all.”
Meanwhile, there’s no indication the Board is about to make any public statement on the matter, members contacted continuing to insist that “based on principle” and “bounded by the type of confidentiality we have always observed”, they’ll “neither confirm, deny or comment” on the news that the holder of the bank’s highest post decided to virtually throw-in the towel, or kick the bank’s proverbial bucket — and move on.