Despite FirstCaribbean’s plan to close, Premier says banking sector remains vibrant

CIBC FirstCaribbean, Main Street branch in Charlestown, Nevis will close on November 30.
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CHARLESTOWN, Nevis -– After being notified that FirstCaribbean International Bank Ltd. (CIBC) will close its Nevis branch on November 30, Hon. Mark Brantley, Premier of Nevis and Minister of Finance said Nevis said its robust banking sector will not be significantly impacted. Nine members of staff will be affected.

Hon. Mark Brantley Premier of Nevis and Minister of Finance indicated the closure of FirstCaribbean International Bank Ltd. will not significantly impact the Nevis economy.

“Luckily for Nevis, we have many other banks that are operating here and customers will certainly have options,” explained Hon Brantley. “We will not be without banking services because FirstCaribbean has opted to leave. I think that whilst they have decided to close their doors, other banks here are doing well.

“The banking community on Nevis is quite robust,” he explained. “I feel that the international community and investors ought not to be concerned unduly that one of the smaller banks has decided that it will close its doors in Nevis and continue on St. Kitts. So I don’t see any dampening effect.”

Brantley described the impending closure as a business decision on the part of the Canadian-owned bank. The decision was probably prompted by the sale of the FirstCaribbean operations in the region.

In November 2019, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) announced it was selling two-thirds of its shares in its Caribbean entity, FirstCaribbean International Bank Limited, to GNB Financial Group Limited.

“I would go on record to say there was no consultation or discussion with the Nevis Island Administration on this matter,” said Brantley. “Nor do we have any control whether a bank or any other business decides to close, because that is a business decision.

“FirstCaribbean has taken a business decision to close its door in Nevis after many decades of operation. My understanding is that this closure has to do with an impending takeover, and it appears they are closing small branches around the region.

“This is how business is done the world over,” he said. “If you are too small, even if you are profitable, you are small and therefore you can be dispensed with.

“Of course, our concern is for the people who work there, but also our concern is for the customers of FirstCaribbean that they be adequately dealt with.”

Premier Brantley, said it has not yet been made clear how the bank will service its clientele in Nevis, however, customers and companies on the island who do business with FirstCaribbean will have to adjust accordingly.

Mr. Brantley noted that customers affected by the bank’s closure will have options available to them since there are other banking institutions on Nevis.

In recent years there has been an exodus of Canadian banks from the Caribbean region. Mr. Timothy Antoine, Governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) said the exit of those banks has been foreshadowed for some time now and thus is not a new development.

In December 2019, Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) announced its intention to sell its banking operations in the Eastern Caribbean.

Also, in 2019, the Bank of Nova Scotia completed the sale of much of its stake in the Eastern Caribbean to the Republic Bank, based in Trinidad.

Governor Antoine suggested that the absence of the Canadian banks presents opportunities for domestic institutions to increase their market share and strengthen their operations.

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