News, Top Story

At 1st National Bank, Silence is Golden!

By VOICE Reporter

Ten days after Managing Director of the 1st National Bank of Saint Lucia Johnathan Johannes’ sudden resignation, there’s still no word as to why.

But there’s a growing feeling that whatever the reason, the 82-year-old bank should not only overcome its current irritation, but also brace itself for the future challenges.

1st National Bank
1st National Bank

Mr Johannes, who has led the bank since June 1, 2017, submitted his abrupt resignation last Wednesday (October 19) — and since then, the bank’s staff and customers, shareholders and managers, have been speculating wildly about what could have caused him to call it quits – and without explanation.

The bank has opted for deep silene on the issue, senior executives and board members citing confidentiality clauses and agreements as reasons to effectively (even if unintentionally) allow the press and the public to continue to speculate.

The VOICE has learned that many insiders are concerned about the implications, if any, for the bank’s ongoing acquisition of the local interests of the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC).

But the insiders indicate that the related agreements are beyond being affected and therefore not at risk.

Another source – a retired banker with much experience serving on corporate boards, told The VOICE:

“It is understandable that those who mean well for the bank will be concerned, but it will be difficult for the truth (about the real reason for the resignation) to come out from Mr Johannes or the Board, because their tongues are mutually tied by the exigencies of confidentiality.”

In the meantime, however, there is a silent lobby within the bank’s existing leadership intent on ensuring the minimizing of the possible continuing and extending negative effects of the resignation on the bank’s reputation.

According to this source, “The bank is a national institution and all must be done to protect and preserve its reputation as an entity that’s been there for Saint Lucia and Saint Lucians at every point of need since 1938.”

She continued, “We have to be careful that we don’t allow something like a resignation (that happens everywhere in the corporate world) to break-down the reputation of an institution that has lasted over eight decades and is today the leading example of what an indigenous bank should be.”

She added, “The VOICE graciously acknowledged the important role of the bank in our history last weekend and the main point in the editorial in that issue was that we as Saint Lucians should be proud that the Penny Bank has lived to takeover a multinational Dollar Bank’s assets here, when the big Canadian bank turned its back on us and the rest of the region and pulled-out.

“That our own (1st National) bank can takeover those assets and continue to make us proud must not be sacrificed on the altar of expedience, convenience or friendship.

“Our common responsibility and task, as a nation and as shareholders and account holders, has to be to save the bank from any and all adversities that can come from this making of a mountain out of a mole hill.”

According to this source, “The former MD has decided to go his way and the bank has to continue along its way, so the best thing they can do is to allow everybody and everything to go their way and concentrate instead on continuing to take the bank along the admirable road of achievement it has been able to achieve over the last eight decades.”

Meanwhile, as advertised in the last Weekend VOICE, the bank has invited shareholders to its 82nd Annual Shareholders Meeting on November 4 (next Thursday) at the Finance Administrative Complex in Castries.

The main item on the agenda is a motion to allow the bank to hold such meetings online, but despite that being the first opportunity for shareholders to gather since the MD’s resignation, it is uncertain whether this will be an item on the day’s agenda – especially in his absence.

Meanwhile, silence seemed golden at 1st National Bank in the past ten days, as the main players remained totally (and properly) quiet. But Saint Lucians honestly look-forward to their first indigenous bank moving on-and-up to higher heights for the rest of 2021 and well beyond.

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