FICS Marks 23rd Year, And Raises Concerns


FINANCIAL Investment and Consultancy Services Limited, founded by George and LuscaTheophilus celebrated its 23rd anniversary on February 24 this year.

Financial genius and FICS co-founder George Theophilus was born in Caffeire, Choiseul but his mother moved from the interior to the Choiseul coast where she engaged in a number of entrepreneurial activities.

The entrepreneurial gene was inherited from his mother and father, but it was mainly his mother who helped hone his interest in business. “As a young teacher I used to help my mother in the shop and after studies in the UK I worked for a long time in the grocery shop, the rum shop and in the hardware shop before joining the civil service”.

A young George Theophilus was enticed to travel to the United Kingdom to work and pursue studies by his brother. This he did and there he confirmed another character trait of his mother. She was a philanthropist. It turned out his mother was instrumental in facilitating a number of other persons who were trying to get to the United Kingdom. Those persons were now repaying the generosity by being helpful and expressing their gratitude in many ways.

That philanthropy has been a key pillar of Financial Investment and Consultancy Services as hundreds of thousands of dollars have been allocated for scholarships, [a large number in the Choiseul area;] and for support of community organisations including homes for the elderly. The scholarships have been named after co-founder and deceased wife of Mr.Theophilus, LuscaTheophilus and his departed mother Bernadette Theophilus.

Theophilus and his wife both started their career in education. He got his first Degree in the United Kingdom and returned home in 1965, eventually joining the Ministry of Finance and subsequently the Ministry of Education. After two years he went to Canada on a Commonwealth Fellowship where he obtained a Diploma in Public Administration and a Masters in Banking and Finance.

In 1969 he returned to St. Lucia and became the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education where he served for just over three years. It was then onto the Eastern Caribbean Currency Authority, the precursor to the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank where he served for eight years.

In 1981 Theophilus returned to St. Lucia to head the St. Lucia Development Bank as Managing Director and Chairman. He was also Chairman of the then National Commercial Bank the forerunner to Bank of Saint Lucia.

Theophilus eventually left to establish in 1992 Financial Investment and Consultancy Services Ltd, designed to complement the services offered by existing financial institutions.

He says the focus was on providing a personal and family atmosphere for FICS clients, whom he says are family and consequently part of the institution. FICS was not set up to replace commercial banks.

The FICS founder was full of praise for the staff of the institution; some have been with the organisation from inception. He said they have helped FICS deliver a personal but professional service to clients who are made to feel like they belong to the organisation, not just a customer to be taken advantage of.

The patrons have returned the favour by their loyalty and approval of the institution, among them Dame PearletteLouisy and the late Justice Suzie d’Auvergne.

Customers such as Margot Thomas of the National Archives and ThommyTomeh have commended the organisation’s superior customer service and unmatched interest in the welfare of customers. Nurse Theresa Fletcher and Attorney Lydia Faisal have commended FICS for the professional treatment of customers and urged St. Lucians to support a home-grown institution which was started by a humble son of the soil.

Faisal points out that FICS provides true financial security because unlike foreign banks the wholly locally owned institution is here to stay. It has now opened a branch in the Providence Building in Rodney Bay.

In spite of the successes of the Financial Investment and Consultancy Services Ltd, George Theophilus has expressed concern about other locally owned banks being taken over by interests from outside of St. Lucia.

“I am a regionalist by perspective but at the same time I am a nationalist also. St. Lucia has in many respects, to be independent. Our people must be able to continue to make their contribution to the development of their country and if you allow outside institutions to take over your institutions one by one, what are you leaving for your people? And we are talking about the youth of the country. What scope are you leaving for them? You’ve got to give them opportunities for growth and development within their own environment”.

Theophilus cautioned the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank and regulatory authorities on over-regulation of the industry as this could keep young St. Lucians from venturing into the financial services sector.

“Right now there are a number of constraints in the regulatory environment which are inimical to the growth and development of our institutions. And I believe more and more governments and the Central Bank must rethink the whole concept of financial development”, Theophilus pleaded.

On the future of FICS, Theophilus acknowledged the realities of the financial services sector saying that “Institutions don’t function in isolation. Whether we remain a separate and distinct entity is a function of policy choices which may be outside of our control. Right now the government and the central bank, they are talking about indigenous banks/institutions coming together to form one institution in order to be able to compete effectively against the foreign institutions. We too can’t see ourselves remaining isolated from that if it becomes necessary to do that. We certainly will be part of that initiative”.

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