By Esther Durand, BVI News Staff
Sister Islands Programme Coordinator Vincent Wheatley believes the limited banking options offered by the National Bank of the Virgin Islands (NBVI), would make it unsuitable for some sections of the Virgin Gorda community.
Wheatley’s remarks follow government’s announcement that talks are underway to open an NBVI branch on the island.
Those discussions began as a result of Scotiabank’s impending closure of its Virgin Gorda branch on September 1.
Besides plans to keep an automated teller machine (ATM) on the island, Scotiabank will relocate all business operations to its Road Town branch on Tortola.
As for the concept of opening an NBVI branch on the sister island, Wheatley said: “It is not a bad idea. But, for the business community, it is useless. It does not serve Virgin Gorda’s purpose.”
He said the bank’s lack of international features such as an ATM would make it difficult for Virgin Gorda residents to do business.
“National Bank is not a normal bank. It just has a chequing and savings account and that’s it. It is not a business bank and Virgin Gorda needs an international bank to function properly,” he insisted.
From another perspective, outspoken Virgin Gorda resident Shereen Flax-Charles saw the move to open a Virgin Gorda branch of NBVI as a step in the right direction.
“I think it (NBVI) will be helpful. From what I understand, they might not have all of the services that we may require but I think if that can happen and happen quickly before Scotia departs, it would serve as some sort of comfort where persons can have somewhere to deposit their earnings and revenue,” she said.
“It would be a start because we have to start somewhere … If we don’t have a bank, it is putting us back,” she added.
Flax-Charles then described Scotia’s impending closure ‘a serious matter’.
“There are so many things that are going to be affected that I think some people may not have thought about.”
Virgin Gorda residents might now require a full day to go to Tortola to conduct business and there might be security risks for residents who may now have to travel between islands with ‘more cash’.
One stakeholder meeting already has been held in relation to the sister island’s banking woes and another is being planned for 5:30pm Thursday at the Catholic Centre on Virgin Gorda.
Flax-Charles said residents are hoping government authorities show up and address the growing concerns as it relates to banking.
She is also inviting residents to brainstorm solutions to their present dilemma.
Back in 2014, the Jamaica Observer reported that in a bid to cut costs, Scotiabank had pre-announced plans to shut or shrink 120 of its branches mainly in the Caribbean region.
A regional executive of Scotia had said, in some of the Caribbean countries, the bank is ‘over-branched’.
“We have to size it to the economic realities of these economies,” the Scotia executive said.
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