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Managed by  Vincentians for Vincentians?

Managed by  Vincentians for Vincentians?

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EDITOR: The history of the St Vincent Building and Loan Association states that “We are owned and managed by Vincentians, for the benefit of Vincentians”.

Years ago this term meant something to citizens of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. It meant that decision-makers will be more understanding of the local dynamics and will not have to necessarily seek decision-making clearance from Barbados, Trinidad, Jamaica or even Guyana.

I worked for an indigenous financial institution for close to ten years and that line, that unique selling point was used with great honesty to convince workers to trust a local institution, I now feel somewhat ashamed to see how that term has come to zero.

I cringe every time I hear of the plight of Ms Haywood of Campden Park, the lady who is forced to use the airwaves to solve her personal problem with local financial institution – St. Vincent Building and Loan Association. 

The Association is now celebrating 80 years of existence and has lots of fancy promotions to highlight its services and achievements.  I say to the Board and Management that your marketing and Public Relations efforts ring hollow when I hear the voice of Ms Haywood.   Ask Becket about Hezekiah.

Some years ago a media release from the Association in the Vincentian newspaper sated the following:

“Management continues to work diligently at reducing delinquency to acceptable levels.  This task has been very challenging in light of some bad loans in the organization in the past, and the effect of the global financial crisis.  We have been able to contain the effects of these factors on the Association’s loan portfolio over the years, and have managed effectively to date the effects of the write down of our investments in British American Insurance Company Limited.  This investment is now fully provided for, and any future recovery will be recognised when received.  Our investment in CLICO is also substantially provided for.  Hence, there are no further write-offs that are likely to impede our efforts going forward.

The Association’s management continues to work closely with the Regulators to ensure compliance and adherence to the various statutory requirements.  The 2011 unaudited draft financial statements were submitted to the Regulators, and 2012’s are in the process of completion”

Based on the stance now being taken with the ailing retired lady; I am concluding that the Management has placed the organization in a quandary and now, come what may, the pains of the mismanagement must be borne solely by the members.  It now appears that the association is managed by staff for staff.  If you cannot deliver on your promise and provide to members on your very essence, your raison d’etre, then you are no longer what you say you are – mutuality means nothing in the spirit of your being.

The Board of Directors and Staff need to be continually reminded of the following:

1. your Mission Statement:

“To provide the best financial solutions distinguished by product innovation, sustainable earnings and community partnerships”;

2. and your Vision Statement:

“To be a successful indigenous institution delivering customized and affordable financial solutions in a sustainable manner”;

3. you have even gone a step further and made a promise:

“We promise to treat you equitably, provide you with access to high quality products and services and respond to your requests in a timely manner”

4. you have indicated that you will put members first by stating:
“That’s what being a mutual building society means. And as we’re owned by you, our members, we listen to what you want. It’s this that shapes our future – and helps us build society, nationwide.”

I am unaware of the prudential standards/requirements that the FSA has place on the Association, but those entrusted with leadership of the entity must, and I say must, make an effort to ensure that the St. Vincent Building and Loan Association remains relevant to Vincentians and not just a place that is struggling to survive and maintain jobs. 

After all, the Financial Services Authority has publicly stated that one of their core guiding principles is the protection and fair treatment of consumers.   The Board and Management of the Association must find solutions to put on the table to solve its challenges.  If the Board is locked in by the FSA then I say the FSA is perhaps too single minded for the times. You cannot have a Building Society or for that matter any financial institution without the members!

I say to the Board and Staff, think of the PR you will get if you were to learn tomorrow that Ms Haywood has passed and she never benefited from her life’s plan – to retire in beautiful St. Vincent and the Grenadines and use her retirement savings that she placed in the trust of the St. Vincent Building and Loan Association over all those years, as she toiled the harsh winters and the blistering summers of North America.  

For the sake of all indigenous financial organization in SVG, I do hope all concerned can dig deeper to solve the problem of Ms Haywood and others like her. Our words must bond us to our deeds and please remember to manage for the benefit of Vincentian member/customer.”

Marlon Stevenson

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