THE CLOSURE OF SCOTIABANK BRANCHES IS AN OPPORTUNITY FOR THE START UP OF CREDIT UNIONS IN ALL THE ISLANDS IN TCI.
“When one door closes, another door opens, but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.”
– Alexander Graham Bell –
The closure of Scotia branches is upsetting news for many of us especially the people of the nation’s capital Grand Turk. Personally, I will miss the Grace Bay Branch and I want to use this medium to thank them for their professional services they have extended to my family and me over the past years.
Like other multinational companies in TCI, Scotiabank is controlled by shareholders who do not have any emotional ties to these countries in the Caribbean. The only tie they have with us is their investment. Therefore, when decisions are made, it is based entirely on the bottom line. There are occasions when local management or the Caribbean Govt who have emotional ties to its citizens are able to convince the Board to delay the laying of staff or the pulling out of a country, however eventually the Board will have to make a decision to proceed with their initial withdrawal plan especially if there is no significant improvement in the bottom line.
ScotiaBank has even change the way they conduct business in the Caribbean. Recently, I found out, they have discontinuedoffering mortgages for the construction of a home. They will give mortgage but it has to be for a home you purchased. We know most locals in the Caribbean want to construct their own home and so this will not be an appetite for many of us. As a result, Scotia bottom line will not improve significantly and I am quite sure they expected this before they made the decision to discontinue the construction mortgage loans for residential customers.
Regionally, ScotiaBank announced they will close 35 of the 200 branches and lay off of 1000 persons in the Caribbean because of prolonged economic recovery and continued uncertain outlook. Again, it is all about the Bottom Line.
The Good News
The good news is that First Caribbean International Bank remains in Grand Turk that can service the people there. The other good news is that Scotia Bank has agreed to provide the people of Grand Turk with 24 hour ATM service. For the past two years, 95% of my activities with the bank was through online banking and the ATM. I used the ATM for my deposits and withdrawals. I used the online banking to pay my bills and credit card.
The Bad News
The bad news is Grand Turk is the capital and the closure of the branch does send the wrong signal. Grand Turk needs revamping and the closure of the branch will further put it in a decline state. The other bad news is that a significant number of persons will be unemployed. Are there enough vacant jobs in the public sector on Grand Turk to accommodate those persons that may be laid off?The next bad news is that no matter what we say, write or do regarding Scotia Bank closure of its branches, the decision will not be reverse. It is too late and I know many of us know that.
Now is the time for us to move on and talk about the opportunities.
The Opportunity – The Credit Union
This is a great opportunity for the Government to engage in discussions with RBC Bank to establish a branch in Grand Turk.
The Govt. needs to meet with FCIB to ensure that FCIB remains in Grand Turk. Do not take anything for granted.
There is also a great opportunity for Scotia Customers to be on par with the technological advances.
There is also an opportunity for former employees or current employees to work out an arrangement with ScotiaBank to service their clients in Grand Turk.
The opportunity to establish a national bank in TCI.
However, the greatest opportunity I think is for us a people to unite and establish credit unions throughout the Turks and Caicos. Therefore, islands such as North, Middle and South will now have an opportunity to house a financial institution. Obviously, a credit union will not replace 100% of the functions of a commercial bank but it is a start if different groups come together and form credit unions.
The Government of the Turks and Caicos Islands passed the Credit Union Ordinance in August 2016 and to date, to the best of my knowledge there has been no formal establishment of any credit unions in the Turks and Caicos Islands.
What is a Credit Union
According to definition from Wikipedia, acredit union is a member-owned financial cooperative, controlled by its members and operated on the principle of people helping people, providing its members credit at competitive rates as well as other financial services.
Quite frankly, the establishment of a credit union has been on my mind heavily for the last couple of weeks. I have contacted an individual in the Bahamas to assist me with information on setting up one. Therefore, I am throwing this challenge out there for some of us to get together to establish the first of many credit unions in the Turks and Caicos Islands. It is not the government’s responsibility to create the credit union. The government did its part in 2016 when they introduced the ordinance. We as a people need to stop talking and writing (yes I know I write) and no action. Let us come together and start a credit union.
Learning Lessons from the Closures of Scotia Bank Branches
- If the Bank weremaking a few jobs redundant, I would not have an issue with them just discussing the matter with the Government and Opposition the day of their press release because as far as I know, they are not obligated to do so. However, if they are going to close down a complete branch especially in the capital, I believe out of courtesy and respect and the fact that TCIG is Scotia’s client, Scotia should have alerted the Government far in advance.
- We must ensure that there are respectful relationships with the TCIG, the people and these multinational companies in TCI. There should be no surprises. As long as TCIG does not compromise itself, there should be regular meetings with these large employers.
- We must have some type of local financial institution such as credit unions in our country where the focus is not just the bottom line but there is also focus on the members of the country. This can only achieve when we have locals and residents that are committed to the welfare of TCI at the helm.
- Don’t take anything for granted. Not because you are big means you cannot fall. Have a contingency plan.
- The communication strategy needs to be revisited. Rumours were out long before press releases from the Govt and Scotia were released.
All is not lost. Let us use the closure of these two branches as an opportunity for us to venture in other areas. Let us not use this announcement for political mileage as it is not helping us but further dividing us. When our country is impacted negatively, we all are hurt. This is not the end of the world. Grand Turk will rise again and Grace Bay will continue to bloom despite Scotia’s decision. Let the people flourish togetherand increase our national pride by starting our credit unions.