(Photo Credit: Provided)
With the snip of a ribbon, Banco Popular commenced offering three-day banking services on the sister island of Virgin Gorda bringing the island’s financial services drought to an end.
However, through all of the accolades, both the bank management and the Premier and Minister for Finance, Hon. Andrew Fahie alluded to the fact that the delivery of the service required “creativity.”
The need for banking services on Virgin Gorda became critical after the last operating company pulled out of the island last year and it was disclosed that financial viability was the main reason for the pull out. As the new service provider Banco Popular opened today November 6 with the question of viability still looming. However, both the Government and the bank brushed the issue away.
Both Premier Fahie and President/CEO at Popular Inc., Ignacio Alvarez alluded that the arrangement and decision considered greatly the human element of the situation.
The Premier said that meetings were held with Banco Popular management and through those meetings a means to make the service a reality was found. Additionally, the Premier noted that government made financial contributions to the initiative.
Hon. Fahie in mentioning the investment into the bank said: “Government has put skin in this game for the next five years as our contribution to partner with Banco Popular to make sure that the people of Virgin Gorda will always have physical banking on Virgin Gorda.”
In explaining the decision to contribute the Premier said, “We could not afford to do as some and ask which comes first a chicken or an egg and why should we invest because a bank makes money.
He also noted, "We cannot take those kinds of archaic mindset when it comes to bringing better to the people of the Virgin Islands. That is the approach some people take, they argue that they should not put down their money unless they see some kind of guarantee of high return on investment, but this is not what Banco Popular did…”
According to the Premier, “I understand the financial constraints that led to the discontinuation of another provider of banking services on Virgin Gorda more than a year ago and as they say numbers are stubborn things, but numbers are single bottom lines that do not take into account the most important and crucial factor in any business environment the human element."
Meanwhile, Alvarez described the decision as a chance and also expressed optimism about the service in Virgin Gorda, noting that with the Government’s help they were able to solve the banking problem.
“We solved the problem because there was a partnership between government and the private sector,” Alvarez stated.
As he skirted the concerns leading up to the Bank’s decision Alvarez said, “When we do the numbers it looks very difficult."
"We would talk to the Premier and we would share with him what our concerns were. Our concerns was the difficulty of bringing money back and forth – the cost. He said isn’t there a way we can work it out, and I would go back to our team and say …Isn’t there a way we can work it out because I really wanted to be here, I didn’t want to see another Bank’s sign there,” Alvarez stated.
In further noting that the venture was somewhat of a leap of faith the Banco Popular CEO said, “With some creativity the Premier and his government, following the steps of prior governments were creative and came up with a solution. We were creative, we took a chance. We took a chance because we do see the future in Virgin Gorda. I’m personally bias, but I think all of us view it. We see the future not only of Virgin Gorda, but we see the future of the Territory as a whole. We’re very committed."