CIBC FirstCaribbean Sells Out To Heritage Bank In Belize
Heritage Bank Limited (HBL) has bought the Belizean operations of CIBC FirstCaribbean.
The transaction is pending approval of the central banks of Belize and Barbados.
"We have a strong team in Belize and these decisions are never easy, however, it was necessary to sharpen our focus on the growth opportunities we have in other markets where we operate," said Rik Parkill, the chief executive officer of CIBC FirstCaribbean Inter-national Bank, which is based in Barbados.
"We conducted a strategic review of our business across the region and, given the growth path we have identified, we have made the difficult decision to sell our Belize operations," he said.
HBL Managing Director Stephen Duncan described the acquisition as an excellent opportunity which will cement the bank's operation in the Belize market.
CIBC FirstCaribbean did not disclose the cost of the acquisition, but Parkhill said that the bank has already informed staff and shared information about potential opportunities for them with Heritage Bank.
The Christian Workers' Union (CWU) said at least 60 persons will lose their jobs as a result of the sale that is expected to conclude within the next three to four months.
In a statement, CWU said that it was also disappointed with CIBC FirstCaribbean for not being forthcoming when the question was directly put to them via a letter dated July 3, 2015.
The union said it would be working to ensure that the workers from the CIBC five branches, who have been told that they need to reapply to HBL for their jobs, are given a proper exit package, and that it would be negotiating an overdue collective bargaining agreement to replace the one which expired on December 31, 2013. Talks are to begin Thursday, the CWU said.
Last night, we told you about how Heritage Bank is buying First Caribbean Bank's assets, in what is called in a "first-of-its-kind consolidation."
But the downside is for the employees of First Caribbean, 60 of them who will be let got - and have no guarantee of getting a job with Heritage. But we're not there yet - all employees will remain fully employed until the sale is final, which could take until November.
Today, the Regional representatives from First Caribbean, who had flown in to handle the negotiations and dialog with the employees, returned to headquarters in Barbados.
Daniel Ortiz tried to speak with First Caribbean's CEO of Regional Operations, Rik Parkhill, , when he exited the bank on the way to the airport. As you can see here, Parkhill turned us down, and he made a bee line for the waiting transport. But his manager of Corporate Communications was more forthcoming and took our questions:
Anthony Blackman, Mgr. Corporate Communications - FCIB
"This is business as usual at the bank. As we said yesterday, we've notified all the relevant persons of respect to the regulatory approval. We've spoken to the union as well, we've informed our staff and we believe this morning its business as usual at the bank. That is as much as we can say at this time."
"Sir, did the bank handle this situation correctly with the employees? We've been told that you've just informed them as late as yesterday."
"Like I said, it's as much as we able to say at this time. We've spoken to our employees and we are satisfied that we have handle the matter as appropriately as we could, given the circumstances and the complexity of the situation. We are not prepared to say anything more at this time."
"What is the timeline for the transition from CIBC to Heritage Bank?"
"The sale is subject to regulatory approval and so there can be no specific time line as such. It all dependent upon regulatory approval."
We understand that the executives of the Christian Worker's Union met with the employees of the bank up until this evening. President Audrey Matura-Shepherd told reporters that they employees will not be commenting at this time.
Business As Usual at FirstCaribbean Despite Looming Sale to Heritage Bank
A formal announcement confirmed on Monday that CIBC FirstCaribbean’s local assets were being acquired by Heritage Bank Limited, a move that will change the banking landscape locally. But the acquisition remains open pending approval by the Central Banks of Belize and Barbados. As FICB’s executives from Barbados met with staff from all branches to deliver the news on Monday evening, a joint release was issued on the imminent transaction that places Heritage Bank as one of the largest financial institutions in Belize. The sale of assets follows an unsuccessful year for the regional financial services company. While its representatives are tightlipped on details of the sale, it is known that the bank is in negotiations with the Christian Workers Union concerning a collective bargaining agreement on behalf of its employees. That CBA will be retroactive to January 2014, according to a CWU release. Upon the acquisition of CIBC’s resources, a majority of FirstCaribbean’s present staff will be made redundant. This morning, officials from CIBC’s headquarters in Barbados, including C.E.O. Rik Parkhill, were once again meeting at the FICB’s offices on Albert Street in Belize City. According to Corporate Communications Manager, Anthony Blackman, it was business as usual today at the bank.
Anthony Blackman, Corporate Communications Manager, CIBC FirstCaribbean Bank
“It is business as usual at the bank. As we said yesterday, we’ve notified all of the relevant persons with respect to the sale which is pending regulatory approval. We’ve spoken to the union as well. We’ve informed our staff and we believe that this morning it is business as usual at the bank and that’s as much as we can say at this time.”
“Did the bank handle this situation correctly with the employees? We’re told you just informed them somewhat as late as yesterday.”
“Like I said, it’s as much as we’re going to be able to say at this time. We have spoken to our employees and we are satisfied that we handled the matter as appropriately as we could given the circumstances and the complexity of the situation. We are really not prepared to say anything more at this time.”
“What is the timeline for the transition from CIBC to Heritage Bank?”
“The sale is subject to regulatory approval and so there can be no specific timeline as such. It’s all dependent upon regulatory approval.”
“You can confirm though that the bank will enter negotiations with the union for a collective bargaining agreement that will be retroactive…”
“That has been stated as much, that has been stated already.”
Central Bank Governor Says Transition Should be Seamless
But will the transfer of FirstCaribbean’s assets affect its existing clients and what does the sale mean for the banking sector? That’s what we asked Central Bank Governor, Glen Ysaguirre, earlier today. He says that he has been assured by both parties that the transition will be seamless. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the staff of FirstCaribbean, sixty who have membership on the CWU. Since Heritage Bank is only acquiring assets it is not mandated to take on FirstCaribbean’s employees.
Glenford Ysaguirre, Governor, Central Bank
“It’s not a sale of the bank, it is a sale of the assets and a transfer of the assets and liabilities to the Heritage Bank. So it is not a sale of the entity itself but Heritage will acquire the assets and I guess they will negotiate based on the value of the liabilities a price at which they will settle that arrangement, that transaction.”
“Will there be any financial impact, if any, with regards to the transfer of these assets to Heritage Bank and the existing either client base or transactions that are being conducted through CIBC FirstCaribbean in Belize.?”
“Financial impact on customers, what specifically?”
“Yeah, either on customers or on the overall banking sector.”
“Well it will certainly change the banking landscape, you will now have with the acquisition of that portfolio, both the deposit base and the loans, Heritage should be considered amongst one of the larger banks in Belize, as opposed to maybe the third in line. It will be a much more robust and stronger institution. Of course we will lose the presence of FCIB which has the international affiliation. So it will somewhat change the landscape and the market distribution of the industry in Belize. Hopefully, and from my understanding and discussion with both parties, it is expected that the transition will be seamless for the customers of FirstCaribbean. I would imagine that their two IT departments would be working to make sure that when the transition is being made it will not affect services to the former customers of FCIB.”
“Is there any clause or anything under law, any sections, which would prohibit Heritage Bank in its acquisition of FCIB’s assets in Belize from either terminating the services of the existing staff or is there anything that says they are obligated to keep those people on?”
“Not that I am aware of in the banking act because as I explained earlier it is not an acquisition of the entity itself where you take on the employees and all the obligations. They are just buying the asset portfolio and assuming all the responsibility for the deposit liabilities and I don’t know if in the deal that they will also acquire the physical assets, the buildings and the structures. I would imagine that would be a part of it. We have received and application for the transfer because by law it is required that they do get approval from the Central Bank before any bank can dispose of any portion of its assets or if any bank can acquire any portion of another bank’s assets. That is subject to Central Bank approval.”