Larry Howai, CEO, First Citizens Group

“ We put you first” In Trinidad and Tobago these words have real meaning, immediately conjuring up smiling faces, attractive green offices, innovative access to products and excellent customer service. These are the watchwords of First Citizens Bank, inculcated in all employees. The customer always comes first. It would appear that Barbados is about to share in this winning formula with the recent acquisition of Butterfield Bank (Barbados) by First Citizens.

On a larger scale, recent world events have taught people to be extremely cautious about how they invest their money.  Banks and the banking industry operate from a position of trust, safeguarding their reputation is as important as carefully managing their portfolios. It’s a fair issue, after all, banks are personal to people, it’s only natural that the customer would want the best possible caretaker.

Closer to home, Barbadians may be forgiven for asking what the acquisition of Butterfield Bank (Barbados) by Trinidad and Tobago owned First Citizens meant for them. After all, lately, businesses originating out of the twin-island state have not necessarily been welcomed with cries of joy throughout the region. However, Sharon Christopher, Deputy C.E.O., Corporate Administration in underlining First Citizen’s commitment to the people of Barbados said,

Nyree Alphonso, Chairperson, First Citizens Investment Services and Sharon Christopher, Deputy CEO, First Citizens Group

“Our challenge is to get people to understand who we are as First Citizens and to trust us and to understand that we have come into the country not to take from the country but this is part of regional Caribbean growth.”

The First Citizens Group has a solid base with assets of almost US$ 4.9 billion and Total Equity of US$0.9 billion as at March 31st, 2012. The Group is one of the leading financial services groups in Trinidad and Tobago offering a full range of retail, corporate and merchant banking services as well as asset management, trustee and brokerage services.

First Citizens Bank has an extensive retail network with a large deployment of ATMs throughout the twin island state while also offering services on-line. The customer has every possible avenue to choose how they wish to be served.  Additionally, the company currently offers investment services in Barbados (as well as St. Vincent and St. Lucia) through its First Citizens Investment Services subsidiary and recently announced plans to open a representative office in Costa Rica.

However, the best banks are not built on assets alone. First Citizens has long held the reputation for strong, personal customer service and innovation. On acquiring Butterfield Bank (Barbados), First Citizen’s C.E.O. Larry Howai said,

This is certainly a ‘win win’ situation for both organizations and what is most rewarding; is the fact that the customer wins. I must emphasize, that our commitment to put customers first has been replicated in Barbados through our Investment Services Company and will be extended to more communities thanks to Butterfield Bank (Barbados)”

Butterfield Bank (Barbados) Limited was established in 2003 upon the acquisition by Butterfield of the Barbados assets of the Mutual Bank of the Caribbean, Inc.; at the time a subsidiary of The Barbados Mutual Life Assurance Society. As at December 2011, the bank had assets of BB$ 617 million (US$ 308 million) and customer deposits of BB$ 540 million (US$ 270 million). The bank employs 114 staff at its main office in Carlisle House in central Bridgetown and five additional Banking Centres across the island. First Citizens does not have an existing retail bank in Barbados so this acquisition allows them to tap into existing expertise and knowledge of the market.

Bradford Kopp, Butterfield’s President and CEO in confirming the sale said, “In First Citizens, Butterfield has found the ideal buyer for our Barbados operations: a full service bank with a strong reputation for service and innovation, which has well-established complementary business on the island. Our employees, customers and premises in Barbados are a good fit with First Citizen’s business model, and we are confident that all stakeholders will benefit from this transaction.”

Indeed, despite the global economic climate, the acquisition of Butterfield Bank (Barbados) represents confidence in the Barbadian economy and it’s growth potential. As a small marketplace, the region must continually look for synergies to encourage regional growth; this acquisition represents part of a larger strategy of regional expansion for the First Citizens Group which has actively been seeking potential opportunities within the region and Latin America. Ms. Christopher stated,

“…. we feel there is opportunity to grow this institution and grow it to the benefit of the people of Barbados and the benefit of ourselves.”

Barbadians will still have some time to get used to the idea of First Citizens ownership, as the regulatory process will take approximately three (3) months. It is estimated that the official transfer of Butterfield Bank (Barbados) to First Citizens (Barbados) will take place in August of this year, long enough to get used to the idea that, “we put you first”.

About the Author

First Citizens
First Citizens -

In August 2012, First Citizens acquired Butterfield Bank Barbados Limited. With this acquisition, the Butterfield Bank was changed to First Citizens Barbados. First Citizens has 5 branches in Barbados located in the following areas: Bridgetown; Collymore Rock, St. Michael; Worthing, Christ Church; Sargeant's Village, Christ Church and Somerley Banking Centre, Christ Church.