Observation: Banking In Antigua Is Killing Business

The content originally appeared on: Antigua News Room

Banking In Antigua Is Killing Business

Here is a true story about the two local banks in Antigua.

A client at ECAB who has been with the bank from the day the bank opened and  owned by a local man, then throughout the Stanford ownership, and now as Eastern Caribbean Amalgamated Bank.

Operating a small business account in both EC & US Dollars the client had one U.S. client for more than 25 years which kept the U.S. account open, transferring the small amount to the EC operating account each month for all those years.

Suddenly the bank started to deposit the U.S. Transfer into the EC account causing the U.S. account to be closed to lack of activity. When discovered and attempts made to correct the situation the bank refused to take responsibility and further returned two transfers sent from the U.S. The client then tried to have their U.S. account restored as it was the bank’s error (?) to no avail, their bank-for-life ECAB continued to fail them.

The client them contracted its sister company to manage the U.S. account on behalf of the smaller company and had their U.S. Client reformat bank transfers to the company’s other local Bank, ACB. This other local bank ACB, failed to communicate on receipt of the transfer, and also twice sent the transfer back to the U.S. without communicating with the local client.  Two local banks sending back money without even trying to communicate with their client. This is the failure of small island penny banks when they have grown into handling millions of dollars, and when their officers have lost their willingness to serve. Five months stringing out their local business with attitude.

The Customer Service of local banks is very, very local, in that the cultural contempt which small islanders have for each other comes to the surface, even as their politics which is worn on their sleeves. Making the cultural shift to offering international banking services after 55 years in operation, suggests that the cultural contempt for each other, grown on the plantations, is too great to overcome without international exposure.

We have seen the Canadian banks when operating in Antigua produce professional bankers with confidential Managers & Supervisors, trained in Know Your Customer (KYC). These persons are of the same background as our current crop of bank officers operating in our indigenous banks, they receive the same education and training, and the only difference is the ultimate management (white) whose wrath they dared not provoke.

The regulatory pressure put on the Caribbean has more to do with the new investors who are attracted to our Criminal Investment Program (CIP) and the on-the-edge business trends which leaders of our region tend attract. There is no good reason why small business and local people are now bearing the brunt of the banking failure of our local banks and their inadequacies. Clearly we had no choice but to try to buy out the Canadian banks, but it may have been a better option to bring in Republic or some additional bank to pick up the slack from exiting Canada.

Whether we like it or not, the local banks just cannot hack it, and to quote the vibe of the Prime Minister, ‘dem just don’t care how dem talk to people’ and worse they don’t care period about locals.