photo: Hazel Durand

Windward Islands Bank building at Saba – photo: Hazel Durand

THE BOTTOM – Saba Business Association (SBA) says they are disappointed in the relatively short notification of Windward Islands Bank’s decision to close up shop on Saba. The Maduro and Curiel’s Bank (MCB) in Curaçao, the parent company of the WIB, confirmed earlier this week its intention to close WIB’s branch in Saba at the end of October.

“This is certainly not good news for Saba in general. After receiving the information from WIB we as the representatives of a large number of local business were shocked. This doesn’t really help to improve our economic climate at all,” said SBA President Wolfgang Tooten.

‘Business decision’
SBA and the local business community nor the local government were not previously contacted by the bank to discuss this sudden closure. MCB Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Lionel Capriles said to Antilliaans Dagblad the closure “is a business decision, based on the reality of our business in Saba.” The market is not big enough to have two commercial banks operating on the island.

“Many businesses recently shifted their accounts from Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) to WIB since the only other bank on the island has many issues. To set up a new account with another bank can take 3-6 month and more, therefore a closure at the end of October is devastating for many locals and local businesses that did business for many years with the WIB. Many of their customers have no computer skills to work with the bank online and depend heavily on their local presence,” said Tooten.

“Also there will be no more night drop, an important feature for many businesses since the other bank doesn’t offers this option. Furthermore, the remaining bank branch on Saba will be overwhelmed by new and old customers since the bank branch is very small. So we are left with an inferior option for our local banking.”

ATM machine
Tooten noted that this closure will reduce the island to 1 ATM machine. “This also effects tourists, medical students, etc. Besides that, most medical students (about 400 of them) live in The Bottom where the WIB is located. That means for all their transactions they have to travel to Windwardside to do their banking business.”

Saba’s Island Council and Executive Council are very concerned about the closure. A letter was sent to the Dutch State Secretary of Finance Eric Wiebes in attempts to block the closure. In comments made earlier this week, CEO Capriles said although on Saba since 2008 the bank had not seen significant profits and it got less support than it expected.

“I think this closure shows that the Dutch way of doing business is not working, the system is not stimulating investments and encouraging people to business. Losing a bank that open merely 8 years ago is a big deal and I hope it has the attention of the those in in the first and second chamber in terms of the vision for economic development for Saba,” stressed Island Council Member Vito Charles.

Dutch bank
Rumors are circulating of the intentions of a Dutch bank to take over from WIB once it closes its doors. However, this cannot be confirmed as yet.

Author Hazel Durand