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First Citizens opens for business in Barbados
First Citizens (FC) on Monday formally introduced banking services to the Barbados consumer, six months after the bank bid and successfully acquired the Barbados operations of Bermuda-based Butterfield Bank for US$45 million. Having satisfied concerns of regulator and unions, the local-based financial institution was given the all clear to re-brand and introduce its savvy business practices to that market said Larry Nath, acting chief executive officer of First Citizens Financial Services Group.
Even though the Barbados economy was now sluggish, he believes First Citizens could breathe new life into the economy. Nath said while that economy was not in the best shape, “we believe now is the time to buy into Barbados. It will always be a high-end tourism market. “Do you buy when the market is expanding or when there is a pull back? We are cautiously optimistic about the economy. Barbados is a good business.”
Nath said there had been no anti-T&T sentiments over the re-branding of Butterfield Bank and that the move was made easier since FC—through its acquisition of CMMB in 2009, with branches in St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Barbados–already had a presence. CMMB has since been renamed First Citizens Investment Services. While FC is based in T&T, Nath added that the company operates as a Caribbean entity. The company has an office in Costa Rica.
“Christopher Sinckler, the minister of finance has been very supportive. For them it is about foreign investment and developing the financial services sector. The bank will play a role in the SME sector which we have done well in T&T,” he said. FC which was rated as the safest bank in the Caribbean was the preferred buyer for the Government of Barbados, according to Nath.
He explained that the Freundel Stuart-led administration did not want a bank in Barbados to simply buy and hold the assets of Butterfield, but to introduce new fiscal disciplines and introduce new and exciting products. “We have men in T&T walking around with pink credit cards in their wallets. The pink card allows the customer to give back to the cause of ending domestic violence, through the card itself,” he said.
As the best capitalised bank in the region—with US$5 billion and shareholders’ equity of more than US $800 million—FC’s desire to buy wealth was likely to make the company even more attractive for the impending initial public offering announced by former finance minister Winston Dookeran in the 2011-2012 budget. Nath said, “We are very excited. We are gearing up for the IPO. We hope in the October 1 budget presentation it will take further shape and form.”
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