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#510645 - 01/14/16 10:34 AM First Caribbean Int'l Bank sells to Heritage Bank
Marty Offline

Heritage Bank gets ready to replace FCIB

First Caribbean International Bank is two weeks away from closing operations in Belize after several decades dating back to its days as Barclays Bank. The Bank sold its assets to Heritage Bank subject to approval by the Central Bank, which it received on December 21, 2015 and said at the time that the completion of the transition to Heritage Bank is due by January 31st, 2016. However, branches in Dangriga and at the San Cas Plaza will be closed. Today Stephen Duncan, Managing Director of Heritage Bank, told us that the transition is well underway. Duncan also noted that they are making arrangements to use the remaining properties they purchased, which will see Heritage Bank join its banking rivals in the center of the Old Capital. The former Alliance Bank already has established locations across the country from Corozal to Independence.


#510942 - 01/22/16 10:45 AM Re: First Caribbean Int'l Bank sells to Heritage Bank [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Heritage Bank Prepares For FCIB Asset Assimilation

In 6 business days, on the 29th January, First Caribbean International Bank will shutter its operations in Belize - and handover to Heritage Bank. It's a first of its kind transaction in Belize - where one bank is actually buying over the other's assets, not simply assuming its operations. That makes it exponentially more complex because First Caribbean customers - and there are thousands of them - have to wake up on Monday February first, and be able to seamlessly access all their services at the Heritage Bank. It's no small task and today the Managing Director of Heritage, Senator Steven Duncan told us how it's been going:...

Jules Vasquez
"How is it going here at Heritage Bank? What's the atmosphere like?"

Hon. Steve Duncan, Managing Director, Heritage Bank
"Oh, it's very hectic. Everybody is running around, but I must need say that there is an atmosphere of togetherness. So on Friday 29th, First Caribbean will closed its doors at the end of the close of business and they will not reopen. From Friday night, Saturday, Sunday we have to try to move across everything that needs to be moved. So that Monday when we open, customers of First Caribbean will be able to access their account. So we have to take over all the cash, the vaults, everything. You name it and so we have one weekend to do all of that. In terms of the customers of First Caribbean, we've done a quite a few things to try to help them to make the transition smooth. We have for instance, we've been able to retain the account numbers of those customers. What it means immediately is that they don't have to be trying to run around to try to fill out forms and get new account numbers and try fill out new account forms. And so with the account numbers being able to remain the same those customers have the comfort of knowing that their cheques that are in circulation will be honor when it reaches. Because it is going to the same account number. So they don't have to worry about that. What we've done also is we have sent out credit cards and debit cards in advance. Those are already out. They've been mailed from Heritage Bank to replace the First Caribbean credit card and debit card which will no longer work. So after the end of the month those will not work."

Jules Vasquez
"How about those who have loans, because you know there are variable rate and you could change the terms. I know there is a lot of anxiety that people have built their entire lives - all their commitments around these loans and so there could be some concern that well I was get so and so rate at First Caribbean, but Heritage will not give me that."

Hon. Steve Duncan, Managing Director, Heritage Bank
"Well we can say to customers that they need not worry or become anxious. Albeit, I can understand the anxiety. Because we have committed and we are committed to honoring their arrangement they have in place with First Caribbean. Like I say we want to make this transition as smooth as possible. So we don't not have time to make any sort of changes to these accounts. But in terms of making changes, definitely we won't have time on the weekend. Certainly that can happen down the road. But the driver is really the whole at the end of the day the purpose for the investment. Heritage Bank has made this investment because it wants to grow. It wants more customers. It wants more business. So the last thing we intend to do is to do anything that will drive away the customer or push them through the door. In fact, I can say to you that as far as I am aware our credit card interest rate for instance, is already lowered than First Caribbean interest rate. And I suspect people would want to benefit from that. So even though I would have said to First Caribbean as part of the agreement we are going to honor your arrangement with your customer, I am sure people will not be upset if I change that agreement so that their rates go lower."

And when the changeover happens on February first - how many former employees of First Caribbean Bank will be working at Heritage? That's been a hot topic for months - after it became known that First Caribbean's 60 employees would lose their jobs. Well, with the acquisition, Heritage is doubling its assets from quarter million dollars to half a billion. So how much more staff do they need to manage that?:..

Hon. Steve Duncan, Managing Director, Heritage Bank
"We believe that by the time we are done, within another month or two we would have taken on about another 50 staff to help us get through. We have already taken on about 35-40 people and we forsee that we will need another amount to complete that."

Jules Vasquez
"So how many total are you all taking from the First Caribbean operation?"

Hon. Steve Duncan, Managing Director, Heritage Bank
"From First Caribbean it's somewhere around 25. I don't know the exact figure. Its somewhere upwards of 25, between 25 and 30. I still are acutely aware that some of my friends, so to speak did not get in. I don't know if they still call me friends, but they were not successful. But from day one we said we knew we would not be able to take everybody."

But those who made it over to Heritage, and those who were already there can take some pride in knowing that this small Belizean bank bought over an international bank. The objective circumstances may make it seem a little grand, but when once considers that 15 years ago, there was no Heritage Bank, and 8 years ago when many said it would go under - today it's emerging as profitable and fast growing bank. Duncan discussed that progress:..

Hon. Steve Duncan, Managing Director, Heritage Bank
"When I took over this bank 7-8 years ago, the concern was how long will we have a job? Job security was the concern of the staff. Today it's not talked about. Because they are comfortable. They feel much better than 7-8 years ago. This transaction helps to even solidify that for us. Because it makes us even a stronger bank. But we need to take something away from what is happening to today. A bank started by a Belizean has survived. It survived 15 years and now you are trying to take it to the next level where you are expecting that it will survive more than another 15 years."

But, from the big picture to the small one, most customers just want to know where they can bank starting Monday February First. Well, in Dangriga, the First Caribbean Branch will close down and yield to the Heriage branch in that town. In Orange Walk, it will be the opposite, where the Heritage Branch will close down, and they'll move into the First Caribbean Branch; in Belmopan, they'll move into the First Caribbean Branch, as well, and in the city, where both banks have their main branches here's what will happen:

Hon. Steve Duncan, Managing Director, Heritage Bank
"In Belize City First Caribbean has two offices and we have one. The BelCan office, the office by the BelCan Bridge is about 300 yards from our office here on Princess Margaret Drive. So we will not take up that office. So that will remained closed. The one downtown, we are the only bank without an office downtown - so we will setup a branch downtown on Albert Street and keep that office open. We will transfer certain things downtown, because we need space and we need to have certain things there to help the whole customer service aspect of things. But it is not the intention to transfer what you may want to call the head office, so to speak. It is not my intention to go down to Albert Street."

Later on you'll hear more from Duncan as he explains how even more de risking by American Banks could affect his bank's credit card operations.

Channel 7

#511189 - 01/29/16 06:21 PM Re: First Caribbean Int'l Bank sells to Heritage Bank [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline
First Caribbean says goodbye...

#511202 - 01/30/16 11:15 AM Re: First Caribbean Int'l Bank sells to Heritage Bank [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

After 67 Years, First Caribbean’s/Barclay’s Farewell

But while Matura may disagree about the status of the labour matters, as far as First Caribbean is concerned, the agreement has been duly signed and that's that. So at 5:00 pm today, First Caribbean formally closed the curtains on its commercial operations in Belize. And now, behind the scenes computer systems administrators will be working furiously over the next 48 hours to transfer all operations to Hertiage Bank so that thousands of account holders can have a seamless transition - one where they will retain the same account numbers. They have also been given new bank and credit cards for Heritage. And, as of Sunday January 31st, the transition to Heritage should be completed. Today, country manager Glen Smith told us that even though they are saying goodbye - they won't leave their workers out in the cold. He discussed the job opportunities for workers abroad.

Glenn Smith, Country Manager - FCIB
"For my employees - on behalf of the bank's management, both the local management committee and the regional executive committee, it's a difficult time for us. We have been in Belize since 1949. It's not easy to leave, so it's difficult for us. We have sought to do whatever we can do to make the transition more tolerable for our staff. We continue to work with our staff in that regard to assist in all the ways that we can possibly afford to do so and as we have extended to the staff that if ever there have made a decision that they wish to relocate to a territory outside of Belize where a vacancy exist that we are not adverse to considering them for employment into those other territories. We will miss Belize and we are never ruling out the possibility that we may one day returned to Belize under different set of circumstances. But for the time being we are just simply saying farewell. I don't know long it will last. The relationships that we have built over the years should serve is a lifetime. I have encourage the staff to treasure these relationships. Relationships should not be dependent upon you having total agreement with somebody every time, you will have disagreement and you will need those to strengthen and make you grow as a person."

About 30 employees have gotten job offers from Heritage Bank and a few are already working with Heritage. First Caribbean is the successor to Barclay's Bank which had been in Belize since 1949.

First Caribbean signs Off With Workers

The First Caribbean International Bank ceased operations in Belize today. It's the end of an era - because First Caribbean took over from Barclay's which was established in Belize in the mid 1900's. That circle is closed now as all their assets have been sold to the Heritage Bank.

But what about their employees? Well, as of today, the 60 plus workers are out of a job. Now for months we've been reporting on labour agitation as these employees protested - demanding a fair exit package for their years of service.

But, since December, the labour agitation went quiet, and that's because according to Country Manager Glenn Smith, the bank management and the employees finally agreed on a suitable exit package. They signed a Memorandum of Agreement one week ago on Friday January 22nd and they also agreed on the terms of the outstanding Collective Bargaining Agreement for the period 2014 to 2016. Today when the bank gave its final round of charitable donations, we asked Smith about this settlement of the dispute:

Glenn Smith, Country Manager - FCIB
"The bank has always felt that we wanted to have negotiated agreement with our staff. Our staff is our biggest asset that we have and we wanted to treat with them fairly and in a manner that the bank could afford to do and so we after months of difficult and touch negotiations, both sides were sufficient professionally enough to at the end of the day sit down at the table and come up to what we consider to be a reasonable benefit package for our staff. As you know the bank has always maintain that we do not negotiate in public. We consider the privacy of our staff sacrosanct and so we will not get into the details of what the package was. But it was much better than the minimum requirements by law and so we are proud that we are able to reach an agreement with them that they could live it and that they would see to carry them over the challenges of the next month or two. We have no issue with staff having demonstrations or doing whatever they consider necessary in furtherance of an industrial dispute, It is part of the development of industrial relations law and practice and Belize's is coming of age. So the bank understands that and is able to appreciate their rights to do that and also the staff at the end of the day came back to the bargaining table. We sat down and as true professionals we were able to come to a negotiated settlement."

But while Smith is quite contented with how things turned out, CWU President Audrey Matura-Shepherd is not. Today via text she told us "the CWU did not authorize the signing. I was shocked to find out about it and even more so how come the signing was kept secret until one week ago." We asked Smith about this and he said as a far as he is concerned the agreement is authentic and the CWU representative who signed the MOA was authorized to do so.

Glenn Smith, Country Manager - FCIB
"I cannot speak for the CWU. I can only speak for the bank. What I can say is that what is contained in the MOA is what was negotiated with a properly constituted negotiating team representing the staff and the union and in fact during the last few days of negotiations, we sought clarification and we received reconfirmation that the team representing the First Caribbean Bargaining unit is authorized to do so. I cannot comment on anything that the union president may say. I didn't hear it. It wasn't directed at me. So probably you should clarify that with her."

Matura- Shepherd also said the "CWU executive will be meeting to discuss and find out what transpired". We will keep following up for the official comment from the CWU. She then ended her response by thanking the FCIB employees for their years of service.

A Last Gush Of Goodwill

As we told you at the top of the news, First Caribbean has ended its commercial operations in Belize effective 5:00 pm today. And, with the closure, it had one last gush of goodwill. 9 organizations including 7 schools received donations this evening. Country Manager Glenn Smith told us it's all about social assistance.

The donations totaled $15,000.

Channel 7

Credit and Debit Cards Must Be Activated by Monday

Steven Duncan

While Heritage Bank is embarking on an automation process to ensure that the changeover is easy, customers of FCIB are being asked to make certain that their new credit and debit cards are activated by Monday.

Steven Duncan, Managing Director, Heritage Bank

“The transition is intended to be seamless that as little involvement from customers as possible.  We are trying to automate everything so we’re picking up the database from First Caribbean and move it over to Heritage Bank and land it or place it in our database here.  So, account numbers for instance, we are retaining those numbers.  So the First Caribbean account numbers will be the same after the transition.  It’s certainly going to make it a little smoother and easier for the customer.  Similarly, First Caribbean will provide us with their files for the customers and with those files we are trying to avoid having to get each customer to complete new account forms for Heritage Bank.  We will use those and where there is any gap, if there is a document missing that we might need, then we will just ask for that from that particular customer rather than make it a kind of wholesale kind of thing that everybody comes and fills out a form.  We’re trying to avoid that so we won’t go through all that.  Also, to try to help with the transition we sent out debit cards and credit cards very early, somewhere around the beginning of January, to allow time for them to reach the customers of First Caribbean and to allow time for the customers of First Caribbean to be able to pin those cards.  We sent out instructions, there were instructions in the letter asking them to do certain things and I am asking again that those customers do that because next week when they want to use those cards they will not be able to.”

Channel 5


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