FirstCaribbean opens new branch

FirstCaribbean International Bank officially opened its Plaza Venetia Branch Wednesday, 20 April.

New branch

Branch manger Ms Carolee Aaron explains the layout of the 3,000 square-foot facility – about twice the size of the bank’s former branch in Industrial Park. Listening closely are Leader of Government Business McKeeva Bush, left, and Financial Secretary Kenneth Jefferson. Photos: Carol Winker

Plaza Venetia is the new shopping centre on North Sound Road, just north of the intersection with Shedden Road.

The ceremonial ribbon was cut by Leader of Government Business McKeeva Bush, who spoke on the relationship between government and the financial sector.

Mr. Julian Carillo, executive director of retail for the region, spoke on behalf of the bank.

First Caribbean managing director Mr. Tom Crawford served as master of ceremonies. Branch manager Ms Carolee Aaron gave the vote of thanks. Later she escorted Mr. Bush and Financial Secretary Kenneth Jefferson on a tour of the premises.

During the short ceremony, Ms Lynne Whittaker presented a cheque on behalf of FirstCaribbean to representatives of The Pines Retirement Home. The donation of $40,000 will pay for reconstruction of The Pines’ kitchen, which was damaged by Hurricane Ivan.

In expressing thanks, Mr. Julian Reddyhough quipped, ‘And we know exactly where we ought to be depositing our new cheque.’

The presentation followed a prayer offered by Pastor Winston Rose. FirstCaribbean employees Ms Nadine Hylton and Ms Gina Wilson harmonised in a stirring rendition of Cayman’s National Song.

Mr. Murillo praised everyone who had rallied after Hurricane Ivan to reach this milestone. He thanked customers for their patience during the recovery period and pledged that FirstCaribbean would be the bank of first choice.

The overall picture for the bank is one of expansion and the outlook for Cayman remains extremely positive, he concluded.

Mr. Bush departed from his prepared speech to acknowledge that the branch opening brought back a lot of memories for him. He recalled first job in the world of commerce – as a messenger/clerk for FirstCaribbean (Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce at the time). ‘That meant chief cook and bottle washer,’ he observed.

‘You’ve come a long way from the branch at Kirk Plaza. And it’s good to recall where we come from and where we’re going.’

The trust company was in the Thompson Building next door. Then came the new branch of Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, he noted.

CIBC and Barclays Bank merged to become FirstCaribbean in 2002.

On behalf of Government, he congratulated the executive team and staff of FirstCaribbean on the opening of the new branch.

‘World-class institutions like FirstCaribbean Bank are a welcome presence in the Cayman Islands,’ he said. ‘And FirstCaribbean in particular has been synonymous with the growth and development of the entire Caribbean region.’

‘Your strong management approach, demonstrated understanding of the Caribbean’s diversity, and economic strength all help showcase our region’s economic and business contributions on the world stage.’

For many people locally, Mr. Bush said, FirstCaribbean means financial strength and exceptional service as one of Cayman’s trusted retail and institutional banking partners.

He was pleased to see that the bank is continuing to invest in its presence here in Cayman and he hoped to see many more such investments for years to come.

Mr. Bush said he found it personally gratifying that the financial services sector continued to move forward even after the events of September 2004.

‘We believe that the strong level of co-operation and partnership this government has with the financial industry has been and will continue to be essential to the economic well-being of the Cayman Islands. I believe that the financial industry always needs solid, decisive leadership from government.

‘We have been there when you needed protection and guidance, and I can only think of one time when we had a difference with the industry – when I said to you that we will charge you more, but in turn we will not restrict your growth.’

Mr. Bush said the industry has grown and has been even more successful, as he had seen new building plans and expansions.

‘We helped you to grow, gave you the necessary permits as we believed you needed expertise not found locally. We put in place a fair immigration law and policy. Now you have surety, but you also have to make plans for upward mobility for locals. This has also helped you to give more scholarships from within the industry, although this area can be improved upon,’ he commented.

Government’s contribution to the partnership with the financial industry was clear, Mr. Bush asserted. ‘We intend to continue to provide the proper commercial, regulatory and legislative infrastructure in which the industry can operate, compete on the international stage and be successful.’