photo: Hazel Durand

THE BOTTOM – The Windward Islands Bank (WIB) has delayed its closure of its Saba branch until the end of January 2017. The bank had initially set the closure of its Saba branch for November 30.

In addition the Dutch government has agreed to cover the cost of keeping the ATM machine on island. The ATM will function as mainly a cash dispenser. It will not able to accept deposits.

Projected closure
According to WIB Managing Director Derrick Downes the end result of 10-10-10 and the economic crisis in early 2000 are major events which impacted the closure of the Saba branch. He said the bank closure was already projected at the same time discussions were ongoing into the dismantling of the Nederland’s Antilles. He said basically Saba’s population is too small, turnover was not sufficient and overhead costs are too high.

Downes said the closure of the Saba branch was a decision made by the bank’s shareholders. “We did the non-sensible thing for a very long time,” said Downes. “It has become very difficult after 8 years of consistent losses.”

Those in attendance of the town hall meeting openly expressed their discontent in what they consider as being misled by WIB. In October Egbert Gerritsen, the Manager Supervision Account of the Authoriteit Financiele Markten (AFM) accused WIB of neglecting its responsibility to properly inform their customers on the reason for the closure.

WIB Managing Director Derrick Downes - photo: Hazel Durand

WIB Managing Director Derrick Downes during the second Town Hall meeting – photo: Hazel Durand

Good news
The AFM had put pressure on WIB to acknowledge the consequences of its closure and to guide their customers on how to deal with these consequences. Since then bank representatives have visited the island on several occasions to assist its clients in the transition.

A major update coming out of the recent visit of WIB Managing Director was that Sabans will be able to deposit or withdraw cash at any of the WIB or MCB branches on St. Maarten, St. Eustatius, Bonaire, Aruba or Curacao. Initially it was communicated that Sabans could only withdraw cash, deposit cash or cheques at the branch in St. Eustatius.

This news was well received seeing that Sabans rely mostly on cash when doing business. In addition Sabans will be able to request for new loans or refinancing of existing loans, however the bank is prohibited from soliciting clients. The AFM rules and regulations will still be enforced.