The Bank’s Visionary Founder – Ormond Cyril “OC” Forde
MR ORMOND CYRIL “OC” FORDE established two major financial institutions (the St Vincent Building and Loan Association and the St Vincent Cooperative Bank Ltd.) which played, and continue to play, crucial and constructive economic roles and he managed these important entities at the outset without a salary.
Similarly, O C Forde was supported in this work by an elite group of Vincentians who initially served as company directors without fees.
Mr Forde and his colleagues were outstanding pioneers in the financial services sector and they made a vital collective contribution to our overall national development.
Ormond Forde was the son of a Barbadian-born pharmacist (William C Forde) and his Vincentian wife (Emily Forde nee Hackshaw). They could not afford to send OC to study abroad when he came of age because they had already mortgaged their property to allow one of his elder brothers, O W Forde, to attend law school.
OC was therefore left with basically no choice but to join O W Forde’s Law Chambers as a solicitor’s clerk right after he left the St Vincent Grammar School.
While he was a clerk, Mr Forde made his entrance into the world of finance when he became a foundation member and secretary of a Friendly Society that was registered in 1937 and which offered sickness and death benefits. This Friendly Society is still around and it is now known as the Employees Benevolent Association (EBA).
Mr Forde did not plan to be a clerk in his brother’s office for all the days of his life. He gained valuable insight on financial administration issues from his work with the Friendly Society and saw the need to provide broader financial services.
There was a regional movement for the creation of building societies in the late 1930s and early 1940s, and Mr Forde left his post in the law firm and started the St Vincent Building and Loan Association on July 4, 1941.
Building and Loan provided long term home mortgages.
O C Forde had no money of his own to use as startup capital, so he recruited Alfred ‘Fred’ Hazell from the plantocracy to his cause.
Fred Hazell was a big drawing card because although he didn’t have money per se, his name and skin tone were “worth something” and his association with the new venture was beneficial from the company’s standpoint.
Alfred Hazell was Building and Loan’s first president and its first manager was none other than O C Forde.
The company’s board of directors was full of local luminaries, such as Robert Milton Cato, Val Archer and Rudolph Baynes. Mr Forde’s ability to build a great team that comprised well-respected and astute merchants, legislators and citizens in general was central to his success. He was also known for his meticulous record keeping and careful attention to details.
Soon after Building and Loan was up and running, Mr Forde decided to extend even further the scope of his financial sector involvement. He teamed up once more with his colleagues from Building and Loan and launched the St Vincent Cooperative Bank Ltd. to provide general financial services in the mid-1940s.
The bank was incorporated on October 18, 1944 and then officially opened for business on February 1, 1945. It was just the second fully locally owned and operated bank and it was nicknamed “Forde Bank” and “Penny Bank” after its founder (who true to form also served as its first manager) and because it catered for the “man on the street” who probably could not afford to save more than a penny at a time.
The Friendly Society, Building and Loan and the Cooperative Bank all shared office space downstairs O W Forde’s Law Chambers (near the former Tony’s Pizza Uptown site) for some time.
They also basically had common management, a common board of directors, a common vault, and a common goal to help poor people save from whatever little they had to improve their financial security.
These three entities worked hand-in-hand.
In 1952, they all moved together from their original office to 108 Halifax Street (where Building and Loan is still based). This property was bought independently by Building and Loan but the Cooperative Bank was also housed there until 1974, when the Bank purchased and moved to the corner property in Middle Street right next to Edwin D Layne and Sons. By this time, OC was one year into his retirement and had been replaced by his son Mr Kenneth Forde. Later on, the bank bought the Blue Caribbean building in which its offices now are and from where the business of the Friendly Society is conducted.
After his retirement, OC served as president of the St Vincent Cooperative Bank up to the time of his death.
Kenneth Forde picked up from where his father left off as the bank’s chief executive officer and admirably managed the institution for over 30 years until he himself retired in 2007 and was replaced by Mrs Laverne Velox who served as CEO for 10 years until her retirement in 2017. She had worked for a total of 34 years at the Penny Bank. The current executive director is Albert Porter.
Ormond Cyril Forde was born on September 15, 1908 and he died on December 21, 1983 at the age of 75 years.
(“Excerpts from “Entrepreneurs of St Vincent and the Grenadines – Ormond Cyril “OC” Forde” written by Luke Browne)