Saint Lucia
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1st National Bank MD Heralds: A New Dawn, A New Day, A New Beginning!

1st National Bank’s Management team with Prime Minister Philip J. Pierre.
1st National Bank’s Management team with Prime Minister Philip J. Pierre.

1st National Bank (Saint Lucia) Managing Director Fletcher St. Jean says his bank welcomes the Caribbean’s top banking and finance executives gathered here for the Caribbean Development Bank’s (CDB) 53rd Annual General Meeting.

The annual conference, which started here on June 12, is being held under the theme ‘Marshalling Finance for Development’ with emphasis on ‘Access to Adequate and Affordable Housing’, kicked-off with a Youth Fire forum at the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College (SALCC), named after the CDB’s Founding President Sir Arthur Lewis.

The 1st National Bank Managing Director said his bank was also proud the meeting will be chaired by Saint Lucia’s Prime Minister Philip J. Pierre, who is also Chairman of the CDB’s Board of Directors and of the Eastern Caribbean central Bank (ECCB), the region’s two topmost banking development and monetary entities.

The MD said he and his bank’s top executives and customers were showered with praise by the Prime Minister during a ‘Meet and-Greet’ and ‘Mix and Match’ exercise the bank hosted on June 3 at the Sandals Cap Estate Golf Club.

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He told the VOICE he was “indeed honored to present” the bank’s “refreshed strategy and roadmap for the future,” to the Prime Minister, “as we forge towards expanded growth.”

He said the event was attended by Chairman of the Board Nigel Fulgence and 1st National Bank’s Management Team, to afford its customers “an opportunity to know more about each other…”

At the event, St. Jean also gave notice that “Over the next few weeks” customers will be visited by Management Team-members, “as we look towards a renewed relationship that caters to your business needs.”

3 Years and 4 Pillars

The MD says his bank has also informed gathered clients, shareholders and specially-invited guests the bank’s Strategic Roadmap” for the next three years includes four pillars, all based on serving ‘People’, which he identified as: Customer and Data, Operations & Technology, Risk & Compliance and Finance.

With the ultimate focus on ‘Serving People’, the MD says, the bank’s aim is “to build a purpose-driven team focused on high performance and an inimitable customer service culture.”

Regarding ‘Customer & Data’, St. Jean stresses the aim is “To foster a customer-centric environment focused on engagement, lifetime value, innovation and trust.”

On ‘Operations & Technology’, the aim is “To support the realization of 1NB’s 2025 strategy through innovation, technology and enhanced efficiency.”

The ‘Risk & Compliance’ objective, he says, is “To embed a risk philosophy that supports the business objectives.”

And with ‘Finance’, the aim is “To transform the finance function into a strategic driver.”

5 Commitments

Further explaining the bank’s “strategic plans”, he identified “five additional commitments…”

First, he said, is “A commitment to improving our Customer Service…”

According to the MD, “We are acutely aware of the lingering customer service issues at our institution, and while these are not isolated only to 1st National Bank, my role as Managing Director is to ensure that these bottlenecks regarding customer service are fixed…”

For that reason, he added, and “for the very first time here at 1st National, we have introduced a new department under the umbrella of ‘Customer Xperience’, where their sole responsibility is to provide training, analyzing customer complaints and building relationships with all of our customers…”

The Customer Xperience Department is headed by Ms. Vernelle Joseph, who, the MD says, “has done an awesome job and together with her team they are responsible for this event today…”

The Second Commitment is for ‘Improving our technology” and in that regard, he explained, “Many of you came to us from the RBC (Royal Bank of Canada) acquisition — and that meant you were accustomed to a certain level of ‘Customer Xperience’ that includes the technology that facilitated the efficiency of your transactions.

“Rightfully so, you should feel a sense of dissatisfaction, so it is pleasing for me to disclose that for 2022 and 2023, we have spent upwards of $3M to improve our technology and our efficiencies throughout our institution.”

The infrastructure for the technology upgrade, he reports, includes: “The ability for our clients to open accounts online that are fully-automated from end-to-end processing and fully-automated online loan application” that “will drastically-reduce the time a loan takes from the application to the approval process”, so that, within 48 hours of application the customer will receive a pre-approval confirmation.”

Third on the list is the bank’s ATMs, which were the first to be operationalized here.

The MD explains, “We are currently in the process of replacing six new ATMs, with a further four to be delivered within the fourth quarter of this year.”

“This,” he adds, “is a commitment to ensure our financial footprint is widened across Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent & The Grenadines,” thus “further ensuring the bank’s services are brought to our customers across our markets.”

Regarding ‘Expanded Market Growth’, MD St. Jean recalls that the bank “has expanded into the St. Vincent & The Grenadines market, through the acquisition of RBTT St. Vincent operations”, which he also described as “A proud and historic moment for our indigenous Bank.”

Pointing ahead, he says that “By 2025 we anticipate a net asset position of $2.25B, moving from our current base of $1.6B, which places us second in the market only behind Bank of St. Lucia.”

The bank is also aiming for what he describes as “Growth by means of organic and acquisitions” and “Seeking other markets”, pointing to “Guyana, where the economy provides great potential for increased profits.”

The bank also aims for launch of a Wealth Management segment of the business in the last quarter (Q$) of this year and also plans to have its own ‘Corporate Home’, indicating the bank is “currently in discussions to secure the long-term placement of a Corporate Office for 1st National Bank.’

Regarding the 85th Anniversary of the establishment of the 1st National Bank’s indigenous predecessor, the St. Lucia Cooperative ‘Penny’ Bank in 1938, MD St. Jean drew attention to the bank’s new corporate advertisement making mention of its 85 years in the financial market.

He says, “This is a testament of 1st National Bank St. Lucia Limited’s resilience, strength and stability.”

The MD notes, “We have survived the Great Castries Fire and while banks are forced to close doors on the international market in that of Silicon Valley Bank and Credit Suisse, to name a few, here in St. Lucia, our indigenous bank has not only survived the COVID-19 pandemic, but we have also expanded throughout that storm.”

“Indeed,” he says, “this is a moment each of you should be most proud of. This is your indigenous Bank!”

The MD further indicated that as part of its 85th anniversary, the bank launched some of its most attractive campaigns which kicked off last Saturday, June 10.

The Managing Director also makes ‘A Case for Change’, saying: “As a bank, we have braced and survived one of the worst pandemics the planet has ever seen, which had a resounding impact on the global economy.

“There were teaching moments during those uncertainties, and that is why, as part of our strategic roadmap, we have redefined our culture with an enhanced focus on our customers, as we constantly transform our business model.”

“Critical to this business transformation,” he says, “is the integration of two cultures, in that of RBC and the original 1st National Bank, as we continue to streamline and merge our processes and accept best practices.”

In Conclusion, MD St. Jean says, “This is a great time to be associated with 1st National Bank St. Lucia Limited,” adding that he could say, with confidence,” and that “this is a good time to be a leader, as it allows us to accept and rise above the challenges and to bring about the change that is needed for this historic institution.”

He assures customers, “We are on track to having one of the best years the Bank has ever seen, and from a sales standpoint while we started particularly sluggish in January closing with a mere $3M in sales, our employees, managers, executives, and Board of Directors commitment continue to show in our performance, as from February onwards we continue to beat budget and forecast estimates, closing at $8M in February, $11M in March, and $16M in April, rounding to a close of our April YTD position of $38.9M…

He noted it was “a shortfall of $1.1M of our YTD (Year-to-Date) budget position”, but pointed out that “It should be noted; however, our preliminary numbers indicated a closing position of $12M, which would indicate a YTD May position of $50.9M and a favorable budget variance of $0.9M.”

Expanding his good news to shareholders and customers, the MD also indicated, “Your Corporate business represents 65% of our success”, which was, “indeed an indication that consumer confidence is strong with 1st National Bank.