By The Hands of Grenadians: A tale of Commitment Fortitude & Leadership

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Photo: Reynaldo Bernard

By the Hand$ of Grenadian$

A Tale of Commitment, Fortitude & Leadership

Celebrating 90 Years Grenada Co-operative Bank Limited 1932–2022

Copyright © Grenada Co-operative Bank Limited, 2022

All rights reserved. Except for use in review, no part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, any information storage or retrieval system, or on the internet, without permission in writing from the publishers.

First Edition

Researched and written by Simon Lee, edited by Alice Besson

Design & Layout by Paria Publishing Company Limited

Printed by The Office Authority Limited

ISBN: 978-976-8244-48-2


With Grenadian pride, we improve the lives of our customers through the provision of high quality financial services while ensuring a fair return to our shareholders and contributing to the well-being of the citizens where we operate.

Historical map of Grenada by Bryan Edwards Photo: Paria Publishing


Table of Contents

Part 4:

by Managing Director, Larry N. Lawrence XI
the Board,
Brathwaite XIII
Foreword by
Duncan XIV
1: 1932–1950: Setting the Stage 1
2: 1951–1974: A Formative Time—Not Without Its Turbulences 39
3: 1975–1995: Expansion 73
by former Managing Director, Richard W.
1996–2007: Transition
Preparing the New Hive 109
Onwards and Upwards
the Final Ascent from Penny to Billion Dollar Bank 157 Appendices: Willan my Father by Annette Smith 210 RBTT’s Letter of Offer of Acquisition, 1992 212 GCBL’s Answer to RBTT, 1993 213 Staff Signatories to the Treaty of Tower Hive, 2013 214 Board Directors at the 90th Anniversary 216 The Bank’s Executive Team at the 90th Anniversary 217 Our Former Staff 219 Our Current Staff 221
Part 5: 2008–2022:

Thank You for Sharing Your Memories!

Evlyn Joyce Camp Claudette Sylvester-Forteau Roger Duncan Kirani James Shane Regis Andy Matheson Jabari Fleary Livingston Krumah Nelson Christopher De Riggs Floyd Dowden Michael Julien Keith Clouden Richardo Keens-Douglas Darryl Brathwaite Lucia Livingston-Andall Carlton Peter Antoine Rudolf ‘Rolf’ Hoschtialek Devon Matheson Elwyn McQuilkin Gerald Keens-Douglas Jerome Thomas Francis Urias Peters Dhannyram Lalsee Raleigh and Agnes Monteram Willvorn Grainger Brenda Williams Claudia De Allie Richard W. Duncan


Grenada Co-operative Bank Limited wishes to thank all who contributed to this book and made its production possible.

We especially thank Richard W. Duncan and Roger Duncan for their unrelenting pursuit of this project over several years, and Sharon Christopher whose expert input was indispensable in making this book a reality.

We also are grateful to our interviewees who shared their memories with us: Carlton Peter Antoine, Darryl Brathwaite, Evlyn Joyce Camp, Keith Clouden, Claudia De Allie, Christopher De Riggs, Floyd Dowden, Richard W. Duncan, Roger Duncan, Jabari Fleary, Willvorn Grainger, Rudolf ‘Rolf’ Hoschtialek, Kirani James, Michael Julien, Richardo Keens-Douglas, Pastor Gerald Keens-Douglas, Dhannyram Lalsee, Lucia Livingston-Andall, Andy Matheson, Devon Matheson, Elwyn McQuilkin, Agnes and Raleigh Monteram, Livingston Krumah Nelson, Francis Urias Peters, Shane Regis, Claudette Sylvester-Forteau, Jerome Thomas and Brenda Williams.

We mourn the loss of Gordon V. Steele and Cosmo St. Bernard who passed away at the time of writing, so we were unable to speak with them.

We also wish to thank Carlton Peter Antoine for project oversight and support and Aly-Terese Wilson for her support.

To our Chairman Darryl Brathwaite we say a particular thank-you, as many of the images in this book came from his personal collection. We also thank Michael Jessamy for allowing us to reproduce some of his photographs. All the way from Australia, Ludo Kuipers generously sent us his photos of the 1980s that were published on his website Reynaldo Bernard of Unique Photography took a number of the captivating photos in this book, adding to its appeal and value.

Special thanks also go to Simon Lee for conducting the interviews, researching and writing the text, and to Alice Besson and her company Paria Publishing Co. Ltd. for editing the text, supportive research and writing, and the design and layout of this book. Both Simon Lee and Paria Publishing also contributed photographs and other images to the book, for which we are grateful. Last but not least, thanks to our proofreaders and fact-checkers Floyd Dowden, Julia G Lawrence, Carlene PhillipFrank, Roger Duncan, Alyssa Bierzynski, Jarelle Amade, Magdaline Antoine and Denise Mohammed.

St. George’s Retail Banking Unit, and two buildings down the street, GCBL’s Head Office on Church Street Photo: Reynaldo Bernard


It is a privilege for me to be at the helm of Grenada Co-operative Bank Limited at this point in its history. Its establishment in 1932 as a locally owned financial institution represents what can only be described, some ninety years later, as both fortuitous and insightful. With this in mind, I welcome the reader to enjoy BytheHand$ofGrenadian$:ATaleof Commitment, Fortitude & Leadership.

The Bank has been on an arduous journey from its inception. The founding fathers heard the plight of the working-class plantation workers who could not afford to save, purchase property, or even educate their children. These noble men yielded to the call by taking the initiative of coming together to establish a bank for and on behalf of the people.

As the Bank celebrates its 90th year of existence, as Grenadians, we should all be cognisant of the fact that it is our collective initiative to ensure the viability and longevity of this national icon for future generations of our dear nation.

At Co-op Bank, we can boast of having assembled some of Grenada’s finest professional men and women as custodians of the people’s Bank. It is against this backdrop that the Bank embarked on its most ambitious project to date. On October 12, 2021, Co-op Bank confirmed that it had entered into a definitive agreement (subject to regulatory approval) to acquire the banking operations of CIBC FirstCaribbean in Grenada.

This momentous event, in my humble estimation, could only have been a dream in the imagination of the Bank’s founding fathers during their quiet reveries. The African proverb “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together” bears much resonance in this moment. At this juncture, ninety years ago, we decided to go together, as a people, consolidating our pennies to build each other, our communities, our families, and Grenada. Encapsulated in this book, readers are given a brief overview of the Bank’s history, its stories and the Grenadian pioneers who contributed to its continued existence.

As Managing Director and current steward, I am eternally indebted to the previous generation of leaders who, with their respective team members, steered this enterprise through the turbulent times. It is now our obligation to continue the journey moving forward, continuously serving the Grenadian community. Grenada Co-operative Bank Limited, to me, represents the best we can build as a people, and I am proud to be a small part of this meaningful tradition of excellence. The Management team and I are fully committed to the future development of the Bank and the broader Grenadian community; indeed, it’s our moral obligation. As you dip into the pages of By the Hand$ of Grenadian$: A Tale of Commitment, Fortitude & Leadership, may it engender a sense of pride and appreciation for the sacrifices of those who came before, and reinforce what Co-op Bank means to us.

Birdseye view of the town of St. George’s and its historic landmarks, including Co-op Bank at the centre.

Photo: Reynaldo Bernard


It is ironic, I suppose, that 90 years after its establishment when my granduncle, Sam W. Brathwaite, became a founder and first Manager of the Bank, that I am here writing this introductory note as current Chairman of the Board of Directors. As a Board, we continue to build upon the foundations laid by the founders of Grenada Cooperative Bank Limited. It is therefore our fiduciary responsibility and moral obligation to maintain, enhance and prudently manage the investment of the four thousand odd shareholders. By the Hand$ of Grenadian$:ATaleofCommitment,Fortitude&Leadership is one way we’ve decided to celebrate and capture such a momentous occasion. We wish that the pages of this book fill you the reader with a sense of pride, joy and appreciation that together, we have built a ship (Co-op Bank) that sails through all seasons as we celebrate the Bank’s 90th anniversary.

Grenada Co-operative Bank Limited, since 1932, has been governed and managed by Grenadians and it remains so today. These individuals through their wit, determination and professional acumen proved that we could build and sustainably develop a Bank that represents and caters to the needs of the average man. It is important to note that at the onset, sound

governance has been one of the key pillars of Grenada Co-operative Bank Limited’s success; Sam Brathwaite, W.E. Julien, Arnold Williamson, C.F.P. Renwick, J.B. Renwick, R.O. Williams, Simeon A. Francis, T.E. Noble Smith, Joshua R. Phillips, P.G. Hosten, and P.M. Francis started this tradition of good governance. It would be remiss of me to not be sufficiently minded to highlight upon reflection the proverb “If we don’t know where we’ve come from, we won’t know where we’re going”. By the Hand$ of Grenadian$: A Tale of Commitment, Fortitude & Leadership serves as an avenue for such self-reflection. It showcases how much, and for how long, Grenada Co-operative Bank Limited has touched the lives of almost every Grenadian, one way or the other. On the cusp of such a significant milestone, the Board of Directors is committed to following international standards in the development and implementation of its governance practices and procedures.

On behalf of the Board of Directors, I would like to thank every Grenadian, past and present, who has contributed to the development of the Bank. It is our honour to have this opportunity, at this moment in time, to continue to guide the Company into the future.


In the Anglophone Caribbean we do not spend enough time and effort, as I think we should, to understand our success over time. It is also true that celebrating each other’s triumphs, or even our own, does not come readily.

Grenada Co-operative Bank Limited, wholly owned, controlled and managed by Grenadians, is a Grenadian icon, having out-competed its rivals, both local and foreign.

The learning organisation concept postulates that an organisation, as a living organism, survives by extracting the needed nutrients from the environment, mutating as the environment changes to ensure its continued existence. Co-op Bank has not just survived, it has thrived in the nine decades of serving the Grenadian people, businesses and institutions.

Understanding how the Bank has not only adapted to the changing environment, but also helped to shape it, is a line of enquiry pursued in the pages that follow.

Celebrating our founding fathers, pioneers, business leaders, trailblazers, entrepreneurs and visionaries, acts as a source of inspiration and motivation for the movers and shakers of tomorrow. Everyone who walked through the physical or virtual doors of Co-op Bank—employees, Directors, shareholders, customers and service providers—should feel profoundly proud of their association with, and contribution to, the Bank’s success.

By adding to the body of literature on the history and performance of iconic Grenadian enterprises, the Bank has cemented its place in the documented history of Grenada.

The pan-Caribbean movement to provide banking services to the poor and financially disenfranchised, which began in the early 20th century, led by Captain A.A. Cipriani et al., came of age at different points in time in the respective territories. Where many institutions such as co-operative banks and building societies have either failed, been acquired or have stagnated, at 90, Co-op Bank holds the singular honour as the most successful independent indigenous bank of that ilk.

Along the way, many individuals and institutions have contributed to our success. It was not simply our own doing. The iconic Co-op Bank that we know and have come to admire benefitted from advice, insights and support from across the Caribbean, especially the Eastern Caribbean.

As early as 1997, Dr. Basil Springer and St. Anthony (Tony) Proute of System Consulting Limited of Barbados assisted us in laying down our Strategic Plan.

Denby De Freitas and Laura Antoine, retired bankers from Barclays Bank, held our hands; likewise, Ian Fraser, banking consultant of South African heritage with background in National Commercial Bank (Grenada) and Royal Bank; Lera Gooding of Royal Bank of Canada

This book should act as an inspiration to employees of all financial institutions in Grenada who choose to dedicate their careers to the profession and the transformation of their business.

heritage mixed with Grenada Bank of Commerce and RBTT Bank’s insights joined forces with Celia Palmer of Barclays vintage and Roy O’Neale of Scotiabank as consultants and advisors along the way. So, in a sense Co-op Bank is a cross-pollination of multiple cultures and approaches to banking, management and strategy.

There has been a high level of co-operation and collaboration among indigenous banks. We readily share with each other any aspect of banking technology, strategy, finance, human resource management, payment services, credit, audit or risk management, which the other has mastered. Our Bank has benefitted immensely from those acts of sharing. National Commercial Bank (St. Lucia), now Bank of St. Lucia, has been the most forthcoming—Brian John, Joanna Charles and Estherlita Cumberbatch were among the most accommodating.

First Citizens Bank of Trinidad & Tobago and its Deputy CEO Sharon Christopher were supportive and inspirational.

This book should act as an inspiration to employees of all financial institutions in Grenada who choose to dedicate their careers to the profession and the transformation of business and industry.

Of the many lessons we have learnt, here is the one that we hope all leaders will take away. Striving to be bigger than the competition is not a strategy. The best strategy is endeavouring to improve the quality of customer experience day by day, week by week, month by month, year by year, and decade by decade.

As Co-op Bank continues its transformational journey, so does the indigenous banking movement. It is our hope that this book provides some nuggets to bolster our resolve as indigenous bankers to build strong, successful and stable banks that create value for their shareholders and contribute significantly to the growth, development and prosperity of our people.

Reynaldo Bernard
“For the younger folks to truly understand that the world did not start yesterday.”
(Richard W. Duncan, Managing Director Grenada Co-operative Bank Limited 2008–2021)

A 1932 penny with the profile of King George V on the obverse and the allegorical Britannia on the reverse.

Date: June 11, 2021.

Location: St. George’s.

Not Time To Say Goodbye (Gordon V. Steele’s Funeral)

It’s a torrid Friday afternoon in St. George’s. Church Street simmers and my black outfit is smart, but I’m sweltering in it. No work for me today or for all employees in any of our five branches. Instead, we line both sides of elegant Church Street from the new head office up the punishing gradient to the Tower Hive flagship branch and around the bend to the Anglican Church.

We’ve all come to pay our last respects to Gordon ‘Knocky’ Steele, former Managing Director of Grenada Co-operative Bank Limited, who resigned back in 2008, when I was still in pigtails at Springs primary school; blissfully unaware that within a decade I would be a frontline teller at the Spiceland Mall branch of the ‘Penny Bank’, which Steele had transformed into becoming Grenada’s successful and only indigenous bank.

The strains of Andrea Bocelli’s “Time to Say Goodbye” drift up the narrow street, announcing the arrival of the hearse preceded by an immaculately white-tunicked police motorbike escort. Beneath the Georgian church’s cream and red brick tower solemn pall-bearers slide the coffin out from the hearse and carry it slowly toward the porch. The church’s bright white interior, with its shining wooden beams and brightly coloured stained-glass altar window, is packed with family, friends and dignitaries, including the Governor General and Minister of Health.

I listen carefully to the opening tributes, hoping to gain a picture of this man I never knew but to whom I probably owe my job, along with all the life-changing opportunities it brought me. What emerges is an exceptional figure, not only in terms of reinventing the Bank, but as a deeply caring human being who, as his successor Richard W. Duncan said, “affected so many lives in so many ways”, or as Floyd Dowden put it, “taught me life.”

The empathy, compassion and humility—all the tributes mentioned echoed what I had heard in the village: from the ever convivial ‘Bush’, the Mong Mong master cook, or ‘Food’, the former tailor, mariner, Scoutmaster and bus driver, whom ‘Knocky’ had helped out with a post-Ivan loan, and gap-toothed ‘Funky’ who maintained ‘de boss’ garden.

Today has piqued my curiosity, not just about Knocky and his legacy, but also about the Penny Bank and its history, which I realise is as much a part of Grenada as my own family’s history.

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Simon Lee June 11, 2021 Saying Goodbye to Gordon ‘Knocky’ Steele. Photo: Simon Lee

Blast Off Historical Background

The shimmering mirror of the silent noon sea shatters. Earth moans, groans and roars, ripping the water’s surface in fiery columns of molten lava shooting up beyond eyeshot into an azure sky. The sizzling sea heaves and thrashes like an enraged monster; its mouth an immense churning cauldron wreathed in steaming clouds, spewing rock and belching stinking gases.

From this fury emerges a smouldering cone, showering massive embers, thrusting skyward, forming a mountain top, an island in the sea that in a far-off future would be named “Grenada”— Grenada, which rises in all her stunning lush green beauty from the shimmering turquoise waters of the southeast Caribbean Sea, her dependencies Carriacou and Petite Martinique some 27 miles to the north. Only 21 miles from tip to top and 12 miles across, blessed with a gentle tropical climate and cooled by bracing sea breezes, with pure air redolent of spice aromas, her topography and history have been defined by her volcanic origins.

The spine of the steep central mountain ridge running north to south and rising to the 2,757 ft heights of Mount St. Catherine spreads limbs of rugged peaks east and west seaward, sheltering deep fertile valleys rich in volcanic soil. Mysterious mist-wrapped Grand Etang, low-lying Lake Antoine and sedate St. George’s harbour are just some of many extinct volcanic craters, part of Grenada’s prolific portfolio of natural sites.

From white beaches like Grand Anse’s world-renowned languorous two-mile stretch, to the black sands of secluded La Sagesse bay; from the shaded forest waterfalls of Concord, Annandale and Mt. Carmel, to the hot springs at River Sallee, Grenada’s natural beauty is complemented by the elegance of its capital St. George’s, “The prettiest town in the West Indies”. St. George’s retains small town charm and is unique in the Caribbean for its delightful Georgian architecture, a reminder

of the major role the town played in regional and global history.

First settled by Amerindians from the South American mainland on their way up the islands and sighted by Columbus on his third voyage of 1498, Grenada’s modern history begins with French settlement in 1649, which was fiercely resisted by the Kalinago defending Camerhogne—‘Land of Abundance’. By May 1651, the Kalinago were driven north and the last forty surviving warriors leapt off the cliff at Sauteurs.

Initially run as a commercial venture, Grenada became a French colony in 1674. Fort Royale—town and fort—were established in 1705/6 and the island divided into six parishes: Basseterre, Gouyave, Grand Pauvre, Sauteurs, Mégrin and Marquis. The 1700 population of 835, including 525 slaves, grew to over 13,000 by 1753, with 83 sugar plantations worked by nearly 12,000 slaves. Cocoa, coffee and cotton cultivation

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Volcanic Heartland of Grenada Photo: Simon Lee

along with sugar, rum and tobacco production drove increasing prosperity for the plantation owners.

As the battle between European colonial powers for possession of the wealth-producing Caribbean territories escalated, Grenadian waters became part of a marine theatre of war. During the Seven Years War of 1756–63, the British established supremacy in the Caribbean, not only ruling the waves but also seizing French possessions: Guadeloupe, Martinique and then Grenada in 1762. French creole culture, however, despite the loss of patois, continued to be a distinctive element of contemporary Grenadian identity in the Roman Catholic majority religion, place names, architectural heritage, folklore, music, dance and cuisine.

Apart from the brief French interregnum (1779–83) Grenada remained in British hands until independence nearly 200 years later. As the repercussions of the French Revolution played out in the Caribbean, Republican commissioner Victor Hugues introduced the bloodthirsty guillotine to the islands. Julien Fédon, supplied with arms by Hugues, headed a group of wealthy Roman Catholic Free Coloureds and an army of former slaves in a daring revolt against the British. With their intimate knowledge of the impenetrable interior and lightning guerrilla strikes, Fédon’s troops controlled the entire island except for St. George’s from March 1765 until June 1796,

when, surrounded at the heights of Belvedere Estate, they were defeated by superior numbers.

The British, in their second term as colonial rulers, rigorously re-programmed Grenada as an English colony, with English as the official language and the Church of England the sole state religion, leading to an exodus of many French creoles and their slaves to Trinidad. Representative government was established with a Legislative Council and a House of Assembly but in reality, power and control remained in the hands of the British Governor, as elected local assemblymen were notorious for their absenteeism from assembly meetings.

Following Emancipation in 1838, labour shortages, exacerbated by a growing peasantry’s preference for subsistence farming, the rapid decline of the inefficient sugar industry and abandoned estates led to various initiatives to import indentured labour: Africans freed from slave ships; labourers from Malta, Madeira and India. Another scheme led to an influx of ‘poor white’ Barbadians, who settled in Mt. Moritz from 1861, adding more flavour to an increasingly cosmopolitan society.

Along with these arrivals, the post-Emancipation period heralded the emergence of a vibrant local middle class. Ambitious and increasingly wealthy from investment in the developing cocoa and spice bonanza and as successful merchants, traders and entrepreneurs, it was this evolving middle class that set the tone for Grenada’s subsequent development. Religious, respectable, industrious, and propelled by reverence for education, they made upward social mobility a reality. This highly educated middle class initiated a culture of love of country and community, commitment to progress and betterment for all, which not only produced brilliant men and women in the coming years but also laid the foundation for Grenada’s future. Education opened the avenue for advancement, as doctors, lawyers and professionals returned from studying abroad to take up important positions on their return. It was leading figures of this class who would later become the founders of GCBL.

At the advent of the 20th century and through to independence, agriculture and the ever fertile land continued as the mainstay of the entire society’s economy and development. This is the era when Grenada became known

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The Grand Etang Lake Photo: Simon Lee

as the ‘Spice Isle’, as cocoa and nutmeg production revived fortunes after the decline of King Sugar in the 1880s. Grenada became a significant player in the global network trading in these highly prized commodities, stimulating the opening of new trading houses, and development in transport and communications. In addition to the annual two-crop cocoa yield and the success of nutmegs and spices, coffee, cotton and bananas, rubber and even kola nuts were also cultivated. Adding to all this abundance was what the English novelist Anthony Trollope observed in his 1859 travelogue The West Indies and Spanish Main: “Grenada is headquarters of the world for fruit.”

Agriculture wove all sections of society inextricably together, bonding them to the rhythms of the land in a shared culture of festivities and traditions, grounding them in stability and fortitude capable of weathering the coming storms of modernity. Prosperity generated by the cocoa and spice boom undoubtedly contributed to the success of smallholders, who now took their rightful place in a slowly but inexorably modernising society.

Grenada embarked on the 20th century, its Crown Colony status—voted for by the House of Assembly in 1876—still intact, but under pressure from some sections of the rising middle class. They called for a return to a representative system in central government to augment the limited local self-governance of the semi-elected Town Boards set up in 1900, responsible for water supply, sanitation and maintaining byways.

Two leading figures promoting self-governance and a Federation of the British West Indies, T.A. Marryshow and the brilliant lawyer Charles ‘Jab Neg’ Renwick, established The West Indian newspaper in 1915 as a vehicle for the cause.

A gifted orator, Marryshow followed in the footsteps of his mentor W.G. Donovan, who had long campaigned for selfgovernment and West Indian unity. Renwick’s popularity and social influence secured increasing support from the educated middle class, resulting in the formation of the Grenada Representative Association in 1917. The Association’s efforts brought partial constitutional reform, including enfranchisement for eligible women and a new Legislative Council, with a minority of five locally elected members in

1925. Both Marryshow and Renwick were elected. Soon both of them would also be instrumental in founding GCBL.

Considerable progress in infrastructure and public works had already been made under Governor Walter Sendall (1885–1890): the existing road system was repaired and the highway from St. George’s to Grand Etang reconstructed and resurfaced; the prison and colony hospital much improved; unpopular excise laws that encouraged smuggling, removed; ten square miles of land between St. David and St. George’s supplied with water; a tunnel connecting the Carenage to Market Square constructed; a Hospital Board and much enlarged Education Committee established along with the Botanical Gardens and a regulatory committee; primary education was improved with increased grants and government schools set up in densely populated areas. In the early years of the century, this extensive programme of public works continued with bridge building, creating access to previously isolated rural communities. The pace of change in Grenada accelerated noticeably.

The education system introduced in the mid-19th century was restructured and greatly improved. In 1900, there were only three secondary schools—St. Joseph’s Convent, Anglican St. George’s

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Photo: Simon Lee

Cocoa and Nutmeg

“One may observe the settlement of peasant proprietors on allotments cut out of abandoned sugar estates and the creation thereby of a body of contented labourers, where, a few years ago, there were only desolation and acacia scrub.”

Land settlement added impetus to the economic and social development of the peasantry who, since Emancipation, had been founding rural villages, markets, farming co-operatives and friendly societies. Their hard-earned savings received a major boost with the opening of the Panama Canal zone in 1906, when more than 1,500 labourers took advantage of the high wages offered, sending back remittances that were invested in land, houses and small businesses. The produce provided by small holdings would prove vital in feeding the nation in the coming Great War of 1914–18 and into the 1930s, when the Moyne Commission was impressed both by the size of the peasantry and by “its ability to alleviate distress during trade slumps and to supplement their cash earnings by homegrown foodstuffs.”

37 primary schools. Poor primary school attendance was addressed by offering bonuses to teachers for improved numbers. An ordinance of 1907 reclassified primary schools into Infant, Lower Division and Combined schools, and principals’ salaries were regulated accordingly. By 1913 there were 51 primary schools (22 Roman Catholic, 11 Anglican, 5 Methodist, 2 Presbyterian) and a ‘Ragged School’ for the poorest children established in St. George’s. The Grenada Boys’ Secondary School and The Victoria High School for Girls (which eventually became the Anglican High School) added to secondary provision. The institution of an annual Island Scholarship in 1916, covering expenses for university study abroad, demonstrates the value increasingly placed on education as a means of betterment. More advances came with the appointment of a Director of Education in 1925 and an ordinance establishing Pupil Teachers’ Centres in 1926. Schools were reclassified again in 1931, with manual training centres now offering handicraft, agriculture and industrial courses. Twenty poor children annually were given a chance of secondary education through government scholarships.

A population of just over 63,000 at the turn of the century soon included some 8,000 peasant farmers, settling on small land lots created by dividing abandoned or debt-ridden sugar plantations. The 1909 Handbook was pleased to note one of the earliest schemes at Bellevue in Carriacou:

The First World War elicited a wave of patriotism, both for the defence of Grenada and support of the Mother Country, which began appropriately with the Legislative Assembly voting for the gift of £6,000 worth of cocoa for His Majesty’s forces. Men enlisted in the Grenada Volunteer Force, joining volunteers from St. Lucia and St. Vincent to form the first contingent from the Windward Islands of the British West Indies Regiment, which embarked for England in August 1915, followed by another detachment in November. Costs for the Grenada contingent were met by a cocoa export tax. Among those who enlisted were W.E. Julien and J.B. Renwick, two more GCBL founders, who both rose through the ranks to become sergeants. W.E. Julien was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for bravery in the field after leading his platoon to capture an enemy bridgehead in the Jordan Valley, Palestine on September 22, 1918.

After the first telegram (1871), telephone and inter-island telegraph introduced in the 1880s, modernity most loudly announced its arrival in Grenada with the coming of the automobile, as this schoolboy’s reminiscence of a morning in 1907 vividly recalls:

“A sound as of thunder fell on my ears. Louder and louder it grew... What was this mechanical ‘monster’ belching billows of thick blue-black smoke from its rear; its inside

B ank L imited

filled with white, pink-faced ladies with hats from which hung fascinators? And who was this white uniformed and gloved driver with cap and visor, steering this horseless vehicle along the macadamised roadway?”

The arrival of cars and other motor vehicles prompted more road improvements (‘oiling’ or resurfacing with pitch from the La Brea Pitch Lake in neighbouring Trinidad) and the Main Road and Byway Ordinance of 1916, which banned constructing buildings or planting coconut trees too close to roads, as falling coconuts were rightly deemed a danger to traffic! The horse and mule mail coach between St. George’s and Grenville gave way to a motor coach, which also took passengers, but poor roads on the leeward coast meant mail was still delivered by steamboat.

Other markers of modernity were slower coming: the hospital was first lit up in 1925 and by 1928 a hydroelectric plant, powered by water from the Annandale River, was supplying St. George’s, with extensions down to Woodlands and Grand Anse in the 1930s. Wireless stations (Old Fort and Carriacou) built in 1925 now connected Grenada to the world. The telephone system, modernised in 1927, expanded rapidly, while a Central Water Authority established in 1928 began the process of delivering pipe-borne water island-wide. From the skies came the first aircraft: an American flying boat in 1924, followed by a whole squadron of American amphibian planes that beached at Queen’s Park in 1927. The slow, laborious system of unloading cargo by lighters outside St. George’s roadstead was finally superseded in 1938 with the construction

of an 850 ft pier, allowing vessels to berth quayside and unload directly to storage sheds.

While agriculture would continue as the economy’s mainstay, modernisation began shaping diversification. A soap factory opened in Tempe in 1911, then an ice factory. There was a brief period of whaling, with a factory on Glover Island commissioned in 1925 but abandoned by 1928. The fledgling tourist industry prior to the First World War was formalised with a Tourism Committee in 1928 and boosted by the Golf Club of Grenada founded in 1925, with courses at Queen’s Park and then Pearls.

Apart from a dip in world cocoa prices early in the 1920s, by 1925 the slump was over and cocoa and nutmeg exports once again provided prosperity at home. The amalgamation of Grenada’s Department of Agriculture with Trinidad in 1925 greatly improved services to farmers, resulting in healthier crops and livestock. Bananas were introduced as another export crop in 1929, purchased quayside by The Canada Banana Company. The revived sugarcane cultivation supplied the Sugar Factory, built in 1936 to produce muscovado sugar and rum for local consumption.

So this is the historical backdrop to the Grenada where the story of GCBL starts. Now we can zoom into the location where it all began: St. George’s. It was here, among the cobbled streets, soaring steeples and spires, dizzying hills, bustling Market Square and stevedores’ clamour on the wharf, that the Bank had its genesis. St. George’s irresistible charm combines architectural elegance with a stunningly rugged natural setting, epitomising the spirit of Grenada. Climbing the hills of St. George’s requires physical and mental stamina, a certain will and determination to reach the heights. It’s entirely appropriate that this is the home ground for a local financial institution with humble beginnings, which went on to overcome all obstacles and become Grenada’s eminently successful indigenous bank, contributing to the development of Grenadian society and culture at all levels. Rooted in the rich past, the Bank has embraced the challenges of growth, establishing the proud legacy of a better future for all.

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Photos: Paria Publishing

It’s possible to read Grenada’s entire history strolling through St. George’s, from the extinct volcanic craters that created the harbours, to the earliest European settlers whose imposing fortifications still command the towering heights. The hand of God provided a perfect setting for human hands to construct this utterly unique harbour town. A good anchorage with access to fresh water and an area to careen boats was literally a godsend. There are other possibly more impressive harbour cities, particularly in the Spanish Caribbean—Santo Domingo, Havana and San Juan, but nothing can compete with St. George’s small-scale charms. That scale has remained, so that the town still lies within the boundaries set by the French in 1700 along with many of the structures erected since the Great Fire of 1792, having weathered many storms.

While there are many delightfully elegant Georgian buildings in Jamaica and Barbados, St. George’s is the only entire town in the English Caribbean defined by a Georgian architectural heritage. That heritage was built from the bricks and tiles shipped in as ballast and then used to transform a trading centre with little more than wharves, warehouses, a few essential civic buildings and fortifications into an environment reflecting the wealth the island generated. While the overall impression is dominated by clean neoclassical Georgian lines, there are splashes of Regency exuberance and ornateness in the wrought iron balconies and striped awnings, punctuated by colourful tropical Gothic Revival edifices of the Victorian era.

The scintillating hues of the graceful façade of the Old Priory, thrown into relief by the quiet simplicity of the restored Anglican Church on Church Street, are a treat for any eye.

Although the development of the Esplanade and the cruise ship terminal have changed the face of old Bay Town, and Hurricane Ivan slightly rearranged the skyline, St. George’s remains distinctly identifiable from 19th century traveller’s descriptions. Here’s one from Henry Coleridge, nephew of the English poet

90 Y ears O f G renada C O - O perative B ank L imited H i ST orical b ack G rou N d XX i V
Photos: Paria Publishing
Historic St. George’s

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, famous for his epic poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, who had this to say in 1825:

“The Harbour is one of the finest in the West Indies... The town covers a peninsula which projects into the bay. Fort George stands on the point, the spired church on the isthmus; within is the Carenage full of ships and the wharfs of the merchants surrounding it; beyond it lie three or four beautiful creeks...the great Lagoon, and Point Salines shooting out a long and broken horn to the south west. Over all, and commanding everything in the vicinity, tower the Richmond Heights, which are crested with fortifications of prodigious extent.”

Another traveller, Charles William Day, perfectly captured the pedestrian experience in 1854 with an artist’s eye and a humorist’s wit:

“St. George’s may fairly be called the City of Steeps... the streets are paved with small hobbling pebbles which...make a pedestrian mince his steps, like a dancing master troubled with corns. The hollow of Market Square, to which these steeps so abruptly descend, seems to be shrunk into a bowl, so stifling and suffocating is it after the boisterous flurries of wind to which the upper streets are subject.”

Most of the cobblestones have gone, but negotiating ‘the steeps’ remains a feat not recommended for the faint of heart or foot. Fortunately, we don’t have much climbing to do: a short amble off the Carenage will take us up Young Street, past Arnold Williamson’s garage to a small office obliquely opposite the Antilles Hotel, now a part of the National Museum. If we’re lucky we should find Sam Brathwaite, first Secretary/Manager of the recently founded GCBL collecting deposits and scribbling frantically in a large battered ledger.

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Georgian architecture in St. George’s Photo: Simon Lee

2021: A Circle Has Closed

A New Chapter in the History of Grenada Co-operative Bank Limited

On October 12, 2021, Grenada Co-operative Bank Limited, in the 90th year of its existence, began an exciting new chapter in its history by becoming part of a consortium to acquire the banking operations of CIBC FirstCaribbean in Grenada as well as in Dominica, St. Kitts and Nevis, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The consortium consisted, besides Grenada Co-operative Bank Limited, of the National Bank of Dominica, the St. Kitts-NevisAnguilla National Bank and The Bank of St. Vincent and the Grenadines—all indigenous banking operations in the Eastern Caribbean. The press release read:

“The consortium members are market leaders in their respective territories, offering the full spectrum of commercial banking services and electronic channels. As at 30 June 2021, they held an aggregate deposit base of $6.4 billion (approx. US$2.36), representing a 53% market share in their combined markets. Collectively, they have been serving the people of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union for a combined period of over 200 years. The consortium’s customer base includes consumers, small and middle-market businesses, large corporations, statutory bodies and central governments; and remain committed to helping their customers succeed.”

What makes this acquisition (subject to regulatory approval) so significant in the context of this book

is that CIBC FirstCaribbean was the successor organisation to Barclays Bank Dominion, Colonial and Overseas (DCO). When GCBL was founded in 1932, Barclays had already been active in Grenada for almost a century, dating back to the Colonial Bank, which had come to the Caribbean in 1837/38 to administer British financial interest in the region in the aftermath of the abolition of slavery in the British Empire. In the 1930s, banking services at Barclays were, however, completely inaccessible to the average Grenadian, which is where the founders of GCBL saw a market need and created an institution that has stood the test of time.

As such, it is not without historical irony that 90 years later, a local organisation that was founded on the principles of a co-operative, where poor men, women and children could open an account with a penny and buy a share with a dollar, would have sustainably grown so much that it would be able to acquire the remainder of the assets of the once mighty Barclays Bank DCO.

Grenadians have always had a fighting spirit in them, a rebellious spirit that fought the injustices of colonial and post-colonial rule. Acquiring what was left of the Colonial Bank in Grenada by a bank that is truly a ‘child of the soil’ brings this part of colonial history to an end. It is to be hoped that with this new chapter in the history of the Bank, it will continue to contribute to the well-being of citizens through the provision of high quality financial services.

XXV i 90 Y ears O f G renada C O - O perative B ank L imited




Setting the Stage: The History of the Banking Sector in


Before commercial banks were established in Grenada, financial services for planters were provided by local merchant houses like Lushington & Law and Thomson & Hankey.

Following Emancipation, there were short-lived efforts at creating indigenous banks in the British colonies: the Jamaica Planters Bank in 1839 and the West India Bank, based in Barbados, in 1840. Although a branch was opened in Grenada, by 1848 the West India Bank had been liquidated and slipped without trace from local history.

At the time when Grenada Co-operative Bank Limited was founded, against the global financial backdrop of the Great Depression following the Wall Street crash of 1929, Grenada’s banking industry was largely limited to two foreign-owned institutions: the British Barclays Bank DCO (Dominion, Colonial & Overseas), and the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC).

Barclays was the successor institution to the Colonial Bank, which had been established in Grenada in 1837 to service British colonies in the Caribbean. Its first office was on Melville Street, St. George’s.

A Grenville branch was set up in 1879. In 1889, its St. George’s branch relocated to Church Street. In 1916, the Colonial Bank expanded into West Africa and the wider British Empire. In 1925, Barclays Bank DCO acquired the Colonial Bank’s assets, and for many years it was Grenada’s premier bank.

RBC opened its first local branch in 1913 (in what is today the House of Chocolate) on Young Street,

St. George’s, directly opposite what would be GCBL’s first office (in the building that presently houses the Marketing and National Importing Board).

Shortly after Emancipation, around 1839, the first Government Savings Banks were established in various British Caribbean colonies to promote thrift, savings and the opportunities for betterment. These banks could be viewed as the first ‘Penny Banks’, in the Caribbean, as they accepted deposits as small as one penny. However, the situation in Grenada was different: the Government Savings Bank was established only in 1881, much later than in other Caribbean territories, and apparently with different deposit regulations. An 1889 article in The Grenada People outlined:

“In Jamaica, Trinidad, British Guiana...The working men are able to save from one penny upwards...The Government Savings Bank, unlike kindred institutions in other colonies, is virtually closed to the classes that it is intended to benefit...We do not think there are 20 labouring men amongst the depositors.”

In Grenada the minimum deposit was one shilling (the workers’ average daily wage) to open a savings account, but interest was only payable on deposits of £1 (20 shillings) and above. These provisions put the Government Savings Bank beyond the reach of most workers, creating the necessary vacuum for GCBL to fill in the following century.

2 90 Y ears O f G renada C O - O perative B ank L imited


and Penny from the Victorian Era (19th Century)

Co-op Bank was for EVERYBODY!

P art 1: 1932–1950 3
Photos: Paria Publishing

Getting the Props Ready: The History of Money and Currency in Grenada

By the 1930s, currency had mostly become standardised, with all official accounting kept in British sterling: pounds, shillings and pence (plural of the famous ‘penny’); £5 notes and the farthing (a quarter of a penny) appeared most regularly in circulation.

The route to standardisation had been bumpy. During French colonisation of Grenada, the French ‘stampee’ or ‘black dog’, stamped with ‘C’ for colonies, circulated. After 1787, Spanish silver dollars were cut into ‘bits’ and stamped with ‘G’, designating them official currency. Anchorage coinage, struck on the Spanish dollar, circulated briefly from 1822, was

Maybe a future customer of the Bank?

partially replaced by British coins from 1825. In 1835, the Commissioner of Compensation for Slaves provided a conversion table:

one Doubloon 180 shillings

one Johannes 60 shillings

one Guinea 52 shillings and 6 pence

one Sovereign 50 shillings

one Dollar 10 shillings

In 1838, when the Apprenticeship period came to an end and full Emancipation came into force, an Imperial Order in Council established the official rate of 4/2d (four shillings and two pence) to one British West Indian dollar.

However, throughout the remainder of the 19th century, a variety of coinage and notes still circulated, mostly Joes (or Johannes), dollars and bits. Silver coins, including the groat (worth four pence and legal tender until 1914) were used in small payments, while bank notes, issued by the commercial banks like the Colonial Bank or later Royal Bank of Canada, covered larger transactions.

Gold currency had virtually disappeared by the start of the First World War, which curtailed fledgling tourism and its trickle of foreign gold.

4 90 Y ears O f G renada C O - O perative B ank L imited
Photo: Paria Publishing

The Actors Backstage: Credit and Cash Outside the Formal Monetary Sector

Without access to formal banking arrangements, the majority of the population in Grenada had to rely on alternatives like the ‘sou sou’ system to access credit and cash. Sou sou, like other communal endeavours such as ‘len han’, ‘gayap’ and ‘maroon’, where villages or small communities pooled labour resources for major tasks like clearing land, planting, harvesting or building houses, was another aspect of the communal culture utilised in founding and developing free villages after Emancipation, often on the outskirts of former estates. The combined contributions of sou sou members were drawn on by individual members on a rotation basis; with one member taking everything in the communal kitty.

Another alternative to achieve savings were the friendly societies, where regular savings could be made against lump sum payments to cover sickness, injury and, most importantly, funeral and burial expenses. The first friendly society was established in St. George’s in 1868, and by 1932 there were 54 of these organisations. The friendly society model had developed in England and Scotland during the Industrial Revolution towards the end of the 19th century and much like the Caribbean sou sou, it was originally based in small village communities. The Reverend Henry Duncan, a Scottish minister credited with opening the very first British savings bank in 1810, actually launched

the Ruthwell Savings Bank in the rooms of the local friendly society he had revitalised.

Finally in the way of alternatives there was the Grenada Building and Loan Association, founded in 1925 by Messrs. Arnold Williamson and Willan Edward Julien, two GCBL founding fathers, in an attempt to improve housing stock for the lower classes. Maybe this is the second institution that former Prime Minister of Grenada George Brizan regarded as one of ‘two peasant banks’ when he wrote briefly about GCBL in his book Grenada – Island of Conflict. While the Building and Loan Association was not strictly a bank, it did provide limited financial services, and George Brizan is correct in linking the two as pioneers of indigenous banking for those excluded from the formal sector.

There are some obvious similarities in the ethos underlying friendly societies, savings and penny banks, and the co-operative movement which included the credit unions. The community spirit of poverty reduction, self-help and improvement through thrift and temperance, also inspired the founders of Grenada Co-operative Bank Limited. However, while in Britain the co-operative movement was started by workers (the Rochdale Pioneers of Lancashire, North England, who in 1844 set up a co-operative to buy affordable quality food and provisions, donating the surplus to the community), the earlier friendly societies and savings banks were all founded by middle-class philanthropists,

P art 1: 1932–1950 5

many, like Henry Duncan, with strong religious convictions. It’s no coincidence that the first Sunday schools and temperance societies were also founded in this period.

The emphasis on self-help through thrift, rather than dependence on state poor relief, and resulting community pride in improvement, reflects Victorian morality, aspirations to respectability and pride in achievement. These virtues were championed by Scottish writer Samuel Smiles, who in 1859 published his best-seller Self-Help, in which besides observing “Heaven helps those who help themselves” he also noted “A penny is a very small matter, yet the comfort of thousands depends upon the proper spending and saving of pennies.”

Although the temperance aspect may have fallen on some deaf ears in Grenada, as a Crown Colony, British values, social as well as moral, permeated the emerging Grenadian middle class, many of whose professionals had studied in England. When we meet GCBL’s founders, this element of philanthropy, undoubtedly influenced by British precedent, becomes apparent.

The Co-operative Movement

Robert Owen (1771–1858), a Welsh-born self-made textile manufacturer, is regarded as ‘The Father of the Co-operative Movement’. His cotton mill workers in New Lanark, Scotland, benefitted from good working conditions, adequate housing and education for themselves and their children. Opposed to religion, as a social reformer committed to eradicating poverty, he contended that people were shaped by their circumstances, hence his emphasis on education. He also attempted to reverse the subordination of workers to machinery, a de-humanising feature of Britain’s Industrial Revolution especially harsh on child labour. Having established selfcontained co-operative communities based on the model of the New Lanark village in Indiana, USA, and in Britain, Owen became the voice of the emerging Labour and Trade Union movement, leading a campaign for the formation of the Grand National Consolidated Trades Union in 1834. Opposition from employers, the government and the courts swiftly ended the movement, but his community ideas laid the basis for the consumer’s co-operative movement, which spread worldwide. Dr. William King (1781–1865), an English physician, was also instrumental in developing the early co-operative movement. His focus was more practical than Owen’s, his monthly periodical The Co-operator giving the advice “to form a society within society” starting with a shop since “We must go to a shop everyday to purchase food and why then should we not go to our own shop?”

What began with the Rochdale Pioneers shop of 1844—the first official co-operative society—quickly spread, driven by the principles of solving common problems by combined action, worker empowerment through shared business ownership and democratic control.

The first co-operative banks were established in Germany by Franz Schulze-Delitzsch (1852) and Friedrich Raiffeisen (1864). Like the early British penny and savings banks, their origins were the friendly societies. Significantly, the International Co-operative Alliance founded in 1895 aimed specifically at ending the conflict between capital and labour by promoting co-partnership between employers and workers.

The co-operative movement soon became associated with progress, offering educational opportunities and supporting local projects. Its members were viewed as ‘people of action’, much like the ‘movers and shakers’ who founded Grenada Co-operative Bank Limited.

6 90 Y ears O f G renada C O - O perative B ank L imited

Grenada’s agricultural produce gave rise to a number of specialised co-operatives.

(Picture: Stark’s Guide)

P ar T 1: 1932–1950 7
Photo: Paria Publishing

The Curtain Opens (Dramatisation)

Date: June 29, 1932

Location: Office of Renwick & Payne solicitors, 9 Church Street, St. George’s.

Lightning splits the dark morning sky over town, as lashing rain beats the rooftops in frenetic Big Drum rhythms. An ear-splitting thunder follows, as a torrent swirls down Church Street, hurtling into Halifax Street to swell the flood in Market Square.

The bulky forms of W.E. Julien and Simeon ‘Bigs’ Francis, huddled together under a large umbrella, loom round the corner from Young Street, splashing towards refuge in the office of solicitors Renwick & Payne, where they have an appointment with Mr. Renwick, one of the partners of the firm. Tumbling over the threshold and shaking themselves off like a pair of bedraggled bears, they peer into the dimly lit interior.

“Look what the storm toss up,” comes the mocking tone of Charles ‘Jab Neg’ Renwick from the depths of a worn leather armchair, his well-cut features now defined in the weak glow of a table lamp.

“Welcome to a scene from Caravaggio, or more likely ‘Rumbrandt’,” adds Teddy Marryshow’s rich disembodied baritone from somewhere in the gloom.

Through the dense fug of cohiba cigar, fruity pipe tobacco and Temple cigarette smoke, Francis barely makes out Jab’s tooth-framed grin, Marryshow’s felt fedora nodding in approval, Arnold Williamson toying with an automobile part and Sam Brathwaite methodically filling his pipe bowl like a meticulous elf.

“Gentlemen! Once again you’re called to the bar!” Renwick declaims theatrically, emerging from his seat to produce a crystal decanter of rum from the shadows of a mahogany sideboard. Sam passes around shot glasses, which are liberally filled and raised amid purple blue plumes of smoke.

“One for the weather and a next for the Bank,” proposes Simeon Francis, ‘the wealthiest man’ in Grenada, firing his

shot in a one and easing his corpulent frame into Renwick’s vacated armchair. “But Neg, before bank business, it have we business. The small matter of St. Leonards, which you done lost to me in our last game of cards. Not so?”

“Lost? How lost, Bigs? You must scrutinise the terms of the bet, which, as I recall, only applied to the property itself and not the land it stands on. So if you can levitate St. Leonards from its spot in St. Paul’s and set it down, where shall we say— on top of Everybody’s Store or even Grand Anse beach, fix to suit. M’lud—I rest my case.”

“Why you the devil self!” roars Francis good humouredly, slapping a shovel-sized hand on his knee.

W.E. Julien mops his rain-streaked face with a paisley neck scarf, drops into a Morris chair and scans the gathering now coming into focus.

“But where everybody? Where Hosten? Where Grant? Otway and your brother, Renwick? And where Noble Smith hmm? How this go work?”

“Well them stuck in the mud in country, or they horse refuse to budge in lightning, or if they town men they can’t swim or don’t want to get they trousers wet. Don’t worry with them, who reach, reach. We could proceed and Sam, Sam you’ll take some notes, yes? For the lost goats.” Marryshow, on a roll, is in no mood to let a thunderstorm, hell or high water dampen proceedings. “The Articles of Association for the formation of Grenada Co-operative Bank Limited are being drawn up in Trinidad as we speak, but just so there’s no question of fait accompli, I throw the floor open for comment and discussion. How say you, Julien?”

W.E. rises to his impressive full height, thumbs contemplatively wedged in waistband, his patrician head, wreathed in smoke, almost scraping the ceiling. An accomplished cricketer, like a batsman at the crease he surveys the field.

90 Y ears O f G renada C O - O perative B ank L imited D ramatisation 8

29, 1932

“Listen! Everything is possible given belief, determination and the people’s trust. When Barclays refused me a loan to start my business, it was the small retailers of St. George’s who advanced me the cash I needed. If you believe in your people and you trust them and they trust you, you can achieve unimaginable things, unimaginable things. The colonial authorities don’t think we’re capable of meeting financial obligations, repaying loans, that we’re lazy and irresponsible. But listen! You know we’re all Grenadians, we cannot let these people keep suppressing us all the time. We have got to show them we are as good, or better than them in banking. We have to show them that and furthermore, if we help each other everybody will do well: the small farmer will do well; the small shopkeeper will do well; people who need homes will get their money to buy their homes. Let’s do it I say!”

A murmur of assent ripples through the room. Arnold Williamson wraps his car part in a rag, puts it to one side, remarking in his slow basso profundo, “We’ve already started our journey; we’re on the road to the future, the future of Grenada. And we must ensure we’re in the driver’s seat, our hands must be on the steering wheel and it may well be we have to lay the road ourselves. We’ve already made inroads in representation—several of us are elected members of the Legislative Council, Renwick here sits on the Executive Council. Old Bulldog—yes you, Marryshow—is famous regionally and in London as the leading campaigner for West Indian Federation. Together, we form a powerful group of planters, estate owners, businessmen, financiers, merchants, politicians and professionals. We’ve proved ourselves willing and capable of addressing our people’s needs, that’s why Julien, myself and others set up the Building and Loan Association back in ‘25: to provide loans for the lower classes to put roofs over their heads. With a co-operative bank, we can do far more, provide opportunities for both the lower classes and ourselves to grow, improve and develop our Grenada. But

it will need all shoulders to the wheel and I can provide the necessary wheels from my garage right round the corner. What you say, Sam?”

Sam, neat as a pin, straightens his bow tie, his philanthropic nature softening the punctiliousness of a former accountant.

“Obviously the foreign banks have no interest either in investing here or making their services available to ordinary Grenadians, or even extraordinary Grenadians like Teddy here, who they’re always blanking. Likewise, the Government Savings Bank seems to have deliberately put itself beyond the reach of the lower classes. So it’s up to us to make our own future, we can’t wait on London for that.” Sam pauses, sucking on his pipe stem, measuring his audience. “Williamson’s right, we’re already on the road; we tackled the housing problem with the Building and Loan Association. When I saw people walking to town from St. Paul’s, it wasn’t difficult to start the Penny Bus Company just two years back; it’s a success because it meets the need for cheap transport. Now the lower classes need access to financial services, which will improve the lives of themselves and their children and open a way for them to be part of our growth. We’re agents of our own destiny, so let’s have the Bank. I have some accounting experience, I could handle the books to begin with; so let’s sign the articles when they reach and find an office.”

Arnold Williamson nods benignly: “I believe I can assist with that too.”

Solid if soggy leather shoes stamp the pine floorboards in unanimous approval. Marryshow doffs his fedora and gives a low bow. Mr. Bigs replenishes the empty shot glasses, which are raised “To Co-op Bank!” Jab Neg Renwick offers round a box of cohibas; carefully clipping the end of one and lighting it with total satisfaction, he blows a pungent smoke circle overhead, raps his knuckles on the cigar box, declaring “Motion carried! Case closed!”

9 D ramatisation
10 90 Y ears O f G renada C O - O perative B ank L imited
Grenada Co-operative Bank Limited’s first premises on 16 Young Street, St. George’s, rented from Arnold Williamson.

Let the Play Begin: The First Years of Grenada Co-operative Bank Limited

Abrief announcement in The West Indian newspaper of July 27, 1932 heralded the coming to come of Grenada’s first indigenous bank:

“Grenada Co-operative Bank Limited was duly registered here yesterday. The bank has a nominal capital of £25,000 divided into 120,000 shares of $1 each. It is expected that business will commence within the next two months, an appreciable number of shares having already being subscribed for.”

This tantalising snippet of news, in all likelihood written by The West Indian’s founder/managing editor, the great Theophilus Albert Marryshow, begs several crucial questions: who were the founders? And what was their motivation for starting a bank at a time when both the local and world economies were in the grip of the Great Depression? The answers to this prequel give us insights into the pan-Caribbean movements and ideas that shaped British Caribbean territories from the late 19th century up to independence, and particularly into Grenadian fortitude and determination.

Starting a bank in Grenada in 1932 required complying with the following Companies Ordinance of 1926 stipulation:

“No company...of more than 10 shall be formed for the purpose of carrying on the business of banking, unless it is registered as a company under this ordinance.”

In order to register, a Memorandum of Association, along with a list of specific Articles of Association, had to be submitted. A look at the list of the names appearing in three early sources (the June 29, 1932 meeting to discuss establishing a bank, the July 26, 1932 Memorandum of Association, and the document outlining the Board of Directors) tells us who the official founders were. At the first discussion meeting we see ten signatures:

• Charles Felix Percival Renwick of St. George’s (prominent barrister, Executive Council member, who would act as the Bank’s first legal representative)

• George W.R. Otway of St. George’s (auctioneer, politician and labour activist)

• John Byron Renwick of St. George’s (solicitor and younger brother of C.F.P.)

• Joshua R. Phillip of St. Patrick (planter)

• P.M. Francis of St. David (produce dealer)

• Thomas Egbert Noble Smith of St. Andrew (planter, merchant, politician)

• Willan Edward Julien of St. George’s (merchant, Legislative Council member);

• Simeon Augustine Francis of St. George’s (financier)

• Pilton George Hosten of St. Patrick (planter, merchant) and

• Samuel Brathwaite of St. George’s (accountant). Between them, these ten signatories pledged 850 shares towards the necessary nominal capital required for start-up.

P art 1: 1932–1950 11

1932 Memorandum of Association

1932 Certificate of Registration

12 90 Y ears O f G renada C O - O perative B ank L imited

The 1932 notice in The West Indian.

On the Memorandum of Association, C.F.P. Renwick signs as legal representative and witness. In addition to the original June 29 signatories, there are three new names: Arnold Williamson of St. George’s (politician, labour activist, garage proprietor and automobile salesman), Charles Grant of Gouyave (shopkeeper and labour activist), and last but not least the indefatigable T.A. Marryshow of St. George’s, who had links with the Trinidad Co-operative Bank, established in 1914, which gave invaluable practical assistance in setting up GCBL—paying it forward, so to speak, since the Grenadian bank was later able to assist its counterpart in St. Lucia to get their organisation off the ground.

The Board of Directors document tells a slightly different story. There is no Charles Grant, likewise no G.W.R. Otway. T.A. Marryshow is also missing, but given his extensive public and private interests—journalist and editor, Legislative Council member, politician, labour activist, founder of the Literary & Debating Society, singer and sweetman—this is hardly surprising. The quota of ten is made up with the addition of businessman Ronald Oswald Williams of St. George’s.

The three documents make it clear that the founders were men of substance from different walks of life— planters/agriculturists, professionals, merchants and businessmen. As driven, astute, ambitious men they

P art 1: 1932–1950 13
Charles Felix Percival Renwick
“Once you believe in your people, unimaginable things are possible.”
Willan Edward Julien, D.C.M., Founder
14 90 Y ears O f G renada C O - O perative B ank L imited

realised that their network, with its multiple urban and rural roots, was more than capable of mobilising an indigenous alternative to the colonial financial system. Their objectives were not only financial, but can be viewed as part of the co-operative mindset developing throughout the British Caribbean at the time.

The initiative for representative self-government and active participation in local administration began in the second half of the 19th century, and by the 20th century it embraced the idea of West Indian unification. Self-government was a pan-Caribbean preoccupation, as was for example highlighted in Trinidadian C.L.R. James’ The Case for West Indian Self-Government (1932), an essay published along with James’ biography of Captain Arthur Cipriani, the Trinidadian ‘friend of the barefoot man’, who served in the same British West Indies regiment as GCBL founders W.E. Julien and J.B. Renwick.

As early as 1915, in the first edition of The West Indian (a title deliberately invoking regional identity), the newspaper founded by the ‘Father of Federation’ T.A. Marryshow and financed by C.F.P. Renwick, the editorial hoped for the day when “the West Indies Dominion will take its the glorious Empire”. Marryshow renounced this brand of ‘Mother Country’ patriotism and turned against Britain in 1931 when it granted Dominion status along with autonomous parliaments to Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, but refused the same for the British West Indies, even after Caribbean contributions to the First World War effort.

The co-operative bank movement was another pan-Caribbean initiative, aimed at alleviating poverty by encouraging thrift among both urban and rural families. Jamaica led the way in 1905 with two loan

societies, which evolved into the People’s Co-operative Bank, followed by the Trinidad Co-operative Bank founded in 1914.

The motivation for the Trinidad bank was very similar to the situation in Grenada. Many black and coloured businessmen could not source capital for starting or sustaining businesses and were squeezed out of the market by larger concerns or bankrupted by voracious moneylenders. The journalist E.M. Petioni, writing in the Trinidad Mirror newspaper (as quoted by Prof. Selwyn Ryan in his article “Black Entrepreneurship in Trinidad: From Trinidad Cooperative Bank to First Citizens Bank”), convinced a group of black professionals to form a bank in the hope

P art 1: 1932–1950 15
John Byron Renwick

“that blacks and coloured folk, whether they were small agriculturists, shop keepers, or artisans would escape the clutches of the money lender and in time become independent and in a position to acquire property.”

As a journalist, advocate of Federation and leading figure of the West Indian intelligentsia, T.A. Marryshow had connections in Trinidad, and he was instrumental in seeking guidance and assistance from the Trinidad bank in establishing Grenada Cooperative Bank Limited. The Trinidad bank’s second president, Dr. A.H. McShine, ‘the poor man’s friend’, was an ophthalmic surgeon, philanthropist and a leading voice in pan-Caribbean co-operative banking, actively encouraging other islands to set up their own

banks. The Memorandum and Articles of Association for Grenada Co-operative Bank Limited were drawn up and printed in Trinidad, where Sam Brathwaite, its first Secretary/Manager, travelled in April 1933. While there, Brathwaite also arranged for Trinidadian accountants Hunter, Smith & Earle to be the Bank’s auditors, with Lucas Kerr acting for them as local agent.

The experience of black and coloured businessmen in Trinidad was replicated in Grenada, most notably in the case of W.E. Julien who, when refused a loan by Barclays, used his Grenadian networking skills to launch his highly successful business in 1923. There were some offensive insinuations that Marryshow had personal reasons for backing GCBL; unlike the other founders he had neither flair for, nor interest in, money-making. His loan applications were repeatedly turned down by both Barclays and Royal Bank of Canada. He forgot to pay his taxes and at the time the Bank was founded, the Colonial Secretary Sir Hilary Blood spitefully remarked that he “was always on the verge of bankruptcy” and that “all his moveable property is mortgaged to the hilt”. Marryshow may have been somewhat inept when it came to his personal finances, but he was never selfseeking. When delegated by the Legislative Council to go to London to lobby for increased representation in 1932, he refused local funding for his travel expenses and organised a lecture tour in the United States to pay his way. It was the idea of GCBL and what it could achieve that he was interested in, not the money, as after founding, he played no further active role.

It’s most likely that the founders were motivated by a combination of regional ideas and local circumstances, amongst them the colonial authorities’ grip on local taxes (Marryshow had led a march of 10,000 in 1931

16 90 Y ears O f G renada C O - O perative B ank L imited
Theophilus Albert Marryshow

protesting against the Customs Amendment Order, which would have caused more hardship with raised food prices) and foreign-owned banks’ exclusivity. We get a broader picture of the founders’ motivations by looking at various accounts of the founding, the personalities involved and the trajectory of the times.

A Peek into the Life Stories of the Founders

A good indication of the founders’ mindset is concisely presented in one of the Articles of Association: “To carry on business (of banking) as capitalists and financiers”, which casts Grenada Co-operative Bank Limited in a different mould to most early co-operative banks, small community ventures that provided loans for agricultural or industrial equipment or, as in Trinidad, for land settlement.

Several founders, especially W.E. Julien and Simeon Francis, were already extremely successful businessmen, movers and shakers who owed their fortunes to daring, determination and seizing previously unseen opportunities. They were what we now call ‘critical thinkers’, but thinkers who took action. They were also gamblers who enjoyed high stakes, including their own property and lands, so the Bank looked like a good risk—an opportunity for many wins: benefitting the lower classes not just with loans but once they were shareholders, with profit sharing on investments made by ‘capitalists and financiers’.

They cleverly leveraged the exclusivity of the foreignowned banks and the Government Savings Bank to their advantage by financially enfranchising every Grenadian, bringing a whole new, previously ignored sector into the local economy and redefining the local proverb: ‘One one cocoa full basket’—if during the

cocoa harvest you patiently add cocoa pod after cocoa pod to your pannier, you will end up with a full basket!

The foreign banks offered 2% interest on savings accounts (to those who could afford the £1 deposit) while the Government Savings Bank, hoping to attract more than its existing 3,700 depositors, offered 3.5%. Some local charities and friendly societies invested funds in the Government Savings Bank, which in turn were invested in British and other markets—another loss to the local economy. Besides, the Government Savings Bank was strictly for saving, it did not give loans. GCBL was able to capitalise, first by appealing to large numbers of depositors everyone else had ignored, and then by investing in the Government Savings Bank at an attractive interest rate! GCBL was just as business savvy when it came to choosing its own

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banker, Barclays, which did three times more business than RBC and had far more banknotes in circulation.

Samuel Wright Brathwaite

While the founding of GCBL cannot be attributed solely to any one individual—as we’ve seen it was a collective effort riding on the trajectory of the times— Brathwaite must be credited for initiating the idea, turning discussion into reality, and for acting as the Bank’s first Secretary/Manager from inception until 1947.

Sam Brathwaite was inspired by a family tradition of service to the less fortunate. Both Brathwaite’s track record and his DNA speak for themselves. His family’s philanthropic tradition reveals much about the man, as Darryl Brathwaite, his great nephew and current Chairman of the Bank’s Board, explains:

“Margaret Brathwaite, the mulatto daughter of Miles Brathwaite, owner of Three Trees

Plantation, St. Phillips, Barbados, was given her manumission papers by her father and a small farm with which to support herself. She married Addo, a freed slave from Ghana and widower, who also had a small farm he inherited from his first mulatto wife. On July 2, 1821, Margaret wrote a letter to their children, instructing them to assemble annually on that date to hold a thanksgiving function for the good fortune the family had enjoyed (i.e. to be freed before Abolition, literate, financially independent and good Christians). This practice is continued to today, and instilled a sense of gratitude, philosophy and philanthropy in all the ensuing descendants. Typically, most

Brathwaites enter community service. The men would be bookkeepers, clerks and ministers and the women teachers. Sam’s parents migrated from Barbados to Grenada in the 1860s, when people were being offered attractive land deals in Grenada to lure them away from Barbados which was becoming overpopulated.”

Darryl Brathwaite’s contemporary take on the family legacy tells us a lot about the tradition of philanthropy that inspired his great-uncle Sam, and about intergenerational development—which are both prominent features of GCBL’s story:

“Margaret was very lucky, getting her freedom before Emancipation, along with some property. So we follow her philosophy—if you’re fortunate, you must help the community. You have taken a big jump and so you pull the others along. Her initial gift was enough to carry us for 200 years. We have all inherited land. You know that you’re going to inherit a piece of land. You are part of this huge family which makes sure that everybody is okay; you feel very, very secure, and you know that what you have to do with your time now is make sure you could help others in the community.”

When Sam Brathwaite retired from his position as an accountant in the public service in 1930, he started the Penny Bus Company the same year. Married to a St. Lucian, Maude Osbourne, after successfully launching and running Grenada Co-operative Bank Limited for five years, he spent some time in St. Lucia in 1937 to help his father-in-law, real estate developer J.D.B. Osbourne, establish the St. Lucia Co-operative Bank. So we can see a pattern here. Like T.A. Marryshow, Sam

18 90 Y ears O f G renada C O - O perative B ank L imited

Brathwaite was committed to improving conditions for the poor and didn’t look to profit from the Bank. He was never a major shareholder; service apparently was his reward. Lacking the capital to start up the Bank, it was natural for him to approach those who did, like W.E. Julien and Simeon Francis, and to mobilise the philanthropic inclinations of C.F.P. Renwick and his enormous social influence to persuade powerful members of the community, like P.G. Hosten and T.E. Noble Smith, to join the Bank venture.

Darryl Brathwaite gives us more insights on Sam’s achievement and his self-effacement:

“That culture is how Sam Brathwaite ended up starting the Penny Bus. He said the poor people from St. Paul’s can’t be walking to town. Same thing with the Bank, and that’s also how he started Co-operative Bank in St. Lucia. Unfortunately for him, he paid a high price because imagine, the other guys with him were struggling with their own businesses. Williamson was starting up his garage, W.E. Julien, all these guys were building at that point in the 1930s. Sam didn’t have enough money to start a bank, so he told the others ‘If we all put some cash together, we’ll have the capital to at least start. Don’t worry, I’ll run it—all the years I spent in the Ministry of Finance, I have the experience.’ He was on his own, they couldn’t really help him with financial decisions. He got his relatives, nieces, cousins to come and work as cashiers and clerks. What he should have done, if he was really thinking business, was to become the major shareholder. But he wasn’t concerned, he just wanted to see this thing get off the ground. And people who had no money were

coming and putting whatever they had in the Bank and giving shares to their children, because they thought this was the way out. So the loyalty that Grenadians have to the Bank is incredible, you can’t buy that kind of brand loyalty.

“What happened to poor Sam is they couldn’t find a manager to come and work—it was a lot of work for little monetary reward. He worked nearly until he died. He retired early from the public service, because he wasn’t feeling strong, but then he got into this project and he got stuck in it! They tried to find other managers but they couldn’t; some guys would come and start and say ‘Boy, this is too much’ after a year and leave. So Sam had to stay on and the Directors on the

P art 1: 1932–1950 19
Samuel Wright Brathwaite

Board really couldn’t help him manage, they had other skills, that wasn’t their forte.

“There are no photos of him in the Bank, no documentary evidence that Sam was the man in the Bank—the problem is the Brathwaites are too self-effacing, we’re happy to stay in the background and get the work done.”

Willan Edward Julien

Willan Edward Julien must have been an inspirational force in making the Bank a reality, and the fact that he chaired the Board from inception right through to 1969 shows it remained close to his heart, despite his many other interests and obligations. Julien was a living example of the fortitude and determination we have come to associate with GCBL.

Born in 1896 to Clara de Freitas, a Madeiran immigrant, Julien left primary school in Standard Four and went to work at Hubbard’s. At the outbreak of the First World War, he enlisted in the British West Indies Regiment. Awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for ‘bravery and outstanding fighting skills’ during the 1918 campaign in the Jordan Valley, Palestine after leading his platoon to capture an enemy bridgehead, his ‘powers of command and leadership’ were noted in dispatches. In a flush of pride and thinking of joining the British Army as an officer, he approached a colonel who destroyed his dream by telling him he’d never be commissioned because of his colour. He was devastated—the story goes he cried for a week but then he called on his reserves of determination and took his fighting spirit, leadership skills and iron resolve back with him to Grenada.

There are many versions of the story how he started his business in St. George’s, after Barclays changed their mind about giving him a loan to clear a consignment of, according to some, cement, and others sugar, but family testimony favours flour. His grandson Michael gives a dramatic account of what happened:

“He said [to Barclays] ‘What I’d like you to do, when the flour arrives, is to take the flour as collateral and lend me a small sum of money for me to pay the import duty on the flour, so I can clear it from the dock and sell it.’ They agreed, but when the flour arrived, they said ‘No, we don’t think we want to lend you this money anymore’. He said ‘But you promised. I bought the flour, I have no more money. What am I going to do?’

‘Well, sorry, we can’t help you.’ He then decided, ‘I’m not going to let these people beat me.’ So he got up the next morning and went to speak to all of the small retailers of flour in St. George’s and said: ‘Listen! Do I have deal for you! If you pay me for the flour now, I’ll give you a 10% discount and deliver the flour to you tomorrow at the latest.’ ‘Really?’ ‘Yes.’ And they paid him in advance. In those days, when someone made a commitment, it was absolute. There’s no b...s....g afterwards. So they said ‘Yea it’s a good deal. Go ahead Willan, go get the flour!’ So he went and got it and started his business.”

This anecdote highlights one of the most important elements of GCBL’s success: the trust between ordinary Grenadians, along with their extraordinary determination. Another Michael Julien anecdote about his grandfather reveals more about the bond of trust, an integral part of the Bank for the past ninety years:

20 90 Y ears O f G renada C O - O perative B ank L imited

“Grenada Co-operative Bank Limited has been more responsible than any other financial institution for helping Grenadians to uplift themselves and become genuinely independent people. It operated in an environment of colonialism and circumvented colonialism by establishing trust. Somebody once told me his father went to my grandfather and said ‘I need a loan to build a little shop.’ ‘Okay,’ my grandfather said. ‘Shake my hand. You will start to pay me back six months after your building is complete. Agreed?’ So that’s the way it was done. When somebody comes to you—a woman, or a guy working for the government—and says ‘I need to borrow some money from the Bank’, you know the chances of them not paying you back are almost zero. They will do every single thing in their power to honour their obligation to the institution. And that was not something that the colonial institutions actually thought Grenadians were capable of.”

Willan Edward Julien was a born leader who had taught himself entrepreneurship, and was probably one of the first Grenadian ‘roots’-born millionaires. For all his success, he never forgot his roots, which could have happened once money, property and a status as a member of the Legislative Council were achieved. But like the majority of the founders, Julien was a man of vision, an inclusive vision of the future of Grenada built on trust and a family-like, co-operative spirit: “If we help each other, everyone will do well.”

Like Simeon Francis, W.E. Julien could personally relate to potential GCBL customers—he knew exactly

where they were coming from; they had shared life experiences. All founders—even those who were part of the ‘planter/merchant class’—shared a culture rooted in the soil and its cultural traditions, its village communities, which also fostered trust in prospective Bank customers. As former Managing Director Richard W. Duncan points out:

“The planter/merchant class was not a monolithic group, so within that group, you can see people who had ties to the less well-off segment of the community, whether by marriage or other types of relationship. And therefore, over time, you had people emerging inside that class who had a perspective that was not typically what you’d see from the planter/merchant class.”

“The founders were all smart enough to see how other colonies had developed. If you don’t have a strong working class and emerging middle class, then your future is doomed. You are better off as a merchant if you have a growing base of people to sell to. It’s not in your interest as a merchant to see a society of subsistence wage earners. You have to look at the economic side as well as the social class.”

(An account by Annette Smith about her father W.E. Julien can be found in the Appendices.)

Simeon Augustine Francis

Simeon Francis, better known as ‘Bigs’ or ‘Panama Francis’, is still a legendary figure, whose middle name really should have been ‘Lucky’. What little we know about his life is definitely movie material. Coming from working-class roots, Bigs was a selfmade man several times over. Supposedly, he was a

P art 1: 1932–1950 21

member of the Royal Grenada Police Force before heading to the Panama Canal Zone where, like many other young Grenadian men, he sought his fortune early in the 20th century.

Francis was a confirmed gambler and after winning the jackpot in the Panama lottery relocated to New York, where he continued his lucky run as a legendary banker in the illegal ‘Numbers’ racket in Harlem, before branching out into real estate. After a twentyyear winning streak, he became ‘a person of interest’ to both the IRS (looking for unpaid taxes) and the Jewish mobster ‘Dutch Schultz’, who wanted to muscle in on the lucrative Numbers game. Quitting while still ahead, Francis returned to Grenada in 1932, shipping back a car stashed with, it is said, the then astronomical amount of one million US dollars in ‘solid liquid cash’.

His Midas-like flair was probably noted by Sam Brathwaite and the other founders. It was impossible to ignore someone who loaned the government US$500,000 at 4% interest, purchased the building in St. George’s where the Western Union office was located (the only dedicated facility for international wire transfers) and then leased it at an excessive rate. Bigs must have seen GCBL as yet another sure bet, which would add to his portfolio of real estate and property and possibly offset some of his gambling and horse racing expenses.

The ‘wealthiest man in Grenada’ made a good fit with the movers and shakers of GCBL, who can rightfully be regarded as the first indigenous developers. For many of the Penny Bank’s early customers Bigs must have been something of a hero—someone like them who had come from nowhere but was successful beyond the wildest expectations.

22 90 Y ears O f G renada C O - O perative B ank L imited
An article about Simeon ‘Panama’ Francis ... what a character he was!

Besides the Bank, Francis was also instrumental in establishing the Central Sugar Factory, of which he was the largest shareholder. Among the many stories still circulating is that Bigs won C.F.P. Renwick’s highly desirable Antilles Hotel property from him in a card game.

Lucky enough to be a stranger to thrift, Bigs’ luckiest life-saving break was entirely due to his gambling. Booked on the ill-fated Island Queen excursion to St. Vincent in August 1944, he was on another winning streak in the Antilles Hotel when the boat set sail without him, and he was left behind to live to tell the tale after the vessel’s mysterious disappearance from the face of the earth, most likely having been sunk by a U-Boat.

Arnold Williamson

Arnold Williamson was definitely an early ‘multitasker’, described in the 1941 West Indies Handbook as “businessman, industrialist, legislator and sportsman” and “one of the most prominent sons of Grenada soil”. Besides being active in local politics, both as an elected Legislative Council member and leader of the Grenada Workingmen’s Association, along with W.E. Julien he was a Founder/Director of the Grenada Building and Loan Association (1925). Williamson was also in tune with modernity, aware of the possibilities of developing technology—the man who transitioned Grenada from horse and cart or carriage to the age of the automobile, with his Young Street garage and the island’s first taxis. His ‘automobility’ was to prove invaluable in the push to raise the first share subscriptions for the Bank in the rural areas.

Operating from office space at 16, Young Street (in what is presently the Marketing Board) rented to the Bank at $10 monthly by Arnold Williamson, whose garage was next door at 14, Young Street, the fledgling GCBL officially commenced business early in 1933 after Sam Brathwaite presented the necessary Statement of Shares to the Registrar of Companies. Initially, he was assisted by cashier Muriel Glean and an unnamed messenger.

This would have been a hectic time for Sam, collecting the initial savings deposits and share subscriptions. He called on his cousin ‘Mousey’ Byer to run the Penny Bus service for him, and according to Darryl Brathwaite, the two Penny concerns were run from the same office. Once again Arnold Williamson proved invaluable in getting the Bank literally ‘on the road’. Since most prospective customers—agricultural

P art 1: 1932–1950 23
Arnold Williamson

workers, peasant proprietors and small tenant farmers—were country-based, Williamson motored island-wide in the campaign to sell share subscriptions.

Rolf Hoschtialek, whose advertising company Concept Designs was responsible for branding the Bank in 2002, and whose association with ‘Knocky’ Steele reaches much further back, remembers being told how some of the older employees of the Bank experienced ‘payday’ in the Bank in the 1930s, when the government paymaster would come to the Bank to pay workers:

“The paymaster would know how much he had to pay each of the three or four hundred people and would have the exact change. Government stopped payroll being paid to road workers on the road, and trucked them in to come in the Bank. Fishermen, who would get paid in coins or singles, would come into the booth with the teller to be counted out their money, and the reek of fish alone was enough to put one under!”

It must be remembered, Hoschtialek says, that back in the 1930s a large percentage of Grenada’s population was illiterate.

“We still existed in a semi-barter, semi-paid world. I interviewed a man who was over 100 years old up in Victoria, who used to go up and

work in Cuba and he didn’t get paid in cash but in goods. Black people then would think that only white people ‘did that thing with the Bank’, and that ‘I don’t know what the hell that is, I don’t understand that, when I work I get pay’.”

Up until the 1950s and 60s, the managers of GCBL had their work cut out to convince the population that everybody could come into the Bank, that it was safe to entrust the Bank with their money, and that together we would build Grenada—hence the symbol of the beehive. What usually happened is that when people got paid in coins, they buried them. “Best to have your coins in the ground—it can’t do anything to it,” was the general attitude.

One day, a farmer pulled up in a donkey cart, bringing buckets of coins that had obviously been dug up, and which stank to high heaven, into the Bank. He deposited them and came back the next day to withdraw everything. He wanted to verify how safe the Bank really was, and if this was exactly his money! It is left to the imagination whether the Bank employees cleaned the coins of the muck, and one wonders if the farmer was disappointed when he got shown different, less smelly coins or bills, and was encouraged to redeposit it. Those were the banking stories in the Caribbean of long ago.

90 Y ears O f G renada C O - O perative B ank L imited 24

Date: 1933

Location: St. David.

Williamson on the Road (Dramatisation)


Under a cocoa tree, not far above the main road winding from St. David’s police station down towards Bellevue, tenant farmer John Thornhill straightens his aching spine.

His threadbare clothes hang from his wiry frame like a scarecrow’s, flapping in a welcome breeze. Darkness drops swiftly over the hills and the last streaks of sunset fade to night as Thornhill peeks like a cautious mongoose at the yellow pinpricks of kerosene lamps being lit in his neighbours’ homes. From a sack he pulls a heavy cloth bundle, which clinks and sags as he squats at the base of the tree and rolls back a large boulder. Drawing his cutlass from its sheath, ready to dig, he freezes, hearing footsteps blundering through the bush.

“Whago papa? Doh chop me—is only Benjy. Mama send me fast fast to bring you to meet Mr. Williamson, who drive up in he automobile from town, de same mister from de Workingmen’s Association. Woy woy! Papa, dat is some machine, I go beg him a ride. Make haste nah, dis Williamson done already call meeting in de parish hall, and say how he an Mr. Marryshow an dem starting a penny bank fuh all of we countryfolk, whey we could save we pennies them high faluted bank in town doh want. He say how is waste we wasting burying we coins fuh safety, when they could be safe an saving

in the Bank and making we more money, for more land, tools, house, even school and ting.”

Barefoot Benjy, a skinny six-year-old with most of his front teeth missing and a scalp scraped clean for lice, hops excitedly from one stick foot to the other and pulls at his exhausted father. “An he saying how chirren could be in de bank too, we could save we pennies from chores and picking up cow dung an Mama and sister can join too. Yes papa! I will get a donkey yes and go in Marquis and La Baye an sell. An he say, he say we could even share in de bank buh I eh unnerstan dat part, so come, do fast pappio!”

John Thornhill eases back down into his squat below the cocoa tree, digging out clumps of rich soil with his cutlass. “I not carrying dis load back down tonight,” he wheezes, dropping the bundle of coins with a metallic thud on his existing deposits, repacking the hole and rolling the boulder back into position. Kerosene lamp in one hand, his small son’s hand in the other, father and son make their way down to the parish hall and a meeting with Williamson, which will change both their lives and those of the coming generations of Thornhills.

25 d rama T i S a T io N
Watering cows in Grand Anse Photo courtesy Darryl Brathwaite

The Cast Widens: The Bank’s First Shareholders

The first month of the inaugural share issue resulted in nearly 700 individual purchases: 161 in St. George, 88 in St. David, 112 in St. Andrew, 124 in St. Patrick, 96 in St. Mark and 112 in St. John. Pilton George Hosten, a Board Director and planter of St. Mark, actively encouraged his estate workers to invest in shares and it’s notable that 273 labourers comprised the largest number of the first shareholders; the second-largest group being 64 planters. Other occupations included merchants, proprietors, domestic servants, carpenters, clerks, schoolteachers, shopkeepers, seamstresses, tailors, masons, nurses, hucksters and even four schoolboys from Victoria, St. Mark. Bearing in mind that many early friendly and loan societies and penny banks prioritised encouraging thrift in women and children, it’s significant that these first shareholders numbered some 69 spinsters, 67 married women, 5 housewives and 17 widows along with the schoolboys.

Both the marketing strategy for the inaugural share issue and the enthusiastic response it received demonstrate that the founders’ lack of banking experience was more than compensated for by what we now call ‘marketing’ skills—a term coined much later.

While Grenada had developed and modernised steadily since Emancipation, it must be said that many individuals of the lower strata of society, especially those based in the rural areas, had remained politically and socially excluded while generating considerable

wealth for the colonial authorities, the planters and the rising middle class through their labour and the taxes they paid. For example, a labourer’s wage had remained pretty much the same for nearly 100 years: in 1932 agricultural labourers were paid 1 shilling and 6 pence a day—the same rate that was paid during the Apprenticeship period 1834–38.

These circumstances were what the Penny Bank’s first marketing strategy was focused on. Travelling throughout the island and using the existing Grenada Workingmen’s Association network in the parishes, Williamson was able to sell the idea of the Bank to anyone who bought into ‘thrift as betterment’ and had a penny to open a savings account. Even more impressive was the sale of shares, as a $1 (4 shillings and two pence) share represented a full week’s wages in financial terms, but was almost priceless in the pride and status it gave. Owning a share in the Penny Bank meant finally having an official stake in the colony. Framed share certificates, with one’s name written on it, were proudly displayed on walls in homes, becoming somewhat of a status symbol. Besides the adults’ contributions made from wages or in the case of smallholders from produce sales, children raised funds selling buckets of cow manure or a jar of nine highly destructive cocoa beetles for one cent.

The Penny Bank got off to a flying start, registering $3,738 worth of shares, savings deposits of $7,531, and total assets of $11,527 in its first year of business, for which shareholders were paid a 3% dividend.

26 90 Y ears O f G renada C O - O perative B ank L imited

A 1933 Share Certificate.

Confidence in the new bank was emphatically expressed in 1934 when the initial share capital of $10,000 was increased to $30,000 with the issue of preferential $100 shares. The founders as ‘capitalists and financiers’ had astutely tapped into a rich vein, previously ignored. As W.E. Julien had predicted, it was good for everyone. When the Central Sugar Factory in Woodlands was set up in 1937, C.F.P. Renwick and S.A. Francis were both shareholders and Directors, and it’s hardly surprising that the Bank would give loans of $43,000 and then $28,000 in mortgages to the factory during the 1940s to support the entrepreneurial spirit with which it was established.

Dividend announcement in 1943.

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T.A. Marryshow and C.F.P. Renwick at The Legislative Council (Dramatisation)

Date: February 15, 1933

Location: Renwick Residence and York House, St. George’s.

In the garden of St. Leonards, ‘Jab Neg’ Renwick’s extensive tropical folly perched high in the hills of St. Paul’s, ‘Old Bulldog’ T.A. Marryshow lounges in a rattan chair, crooning to a hummingbird hovering overhead in a cluster of pink orchids: “Miss Dorothy went to bathe and a catfish made a raid. And Miss Dorothy bawl ‘Ah me! Catfish gone with my lignum vitae. Pam te pam pam te pam, pam pam te pam pam bam!’”

Renwick, immaculate in white linen, strides over the manicured lawn toward him, wagging a finger and improvising “Oh no, Oh no, Oh no, Mr. Marryshow, I see you’ ain’t fit to go and speak to no Governor down below. He might revoke your position; he might send you Carriacou on a mission. Even more worse than that he might confiscate your favourite fedora hat!”

Marryshow rolls out of his chair laughing good-naturedly. Stretching full length on the lawn, he props his square head on his hand thoughtfully, elbow dug in the grass. “Too true, Jab, too true. I doh reckon Sir Thomas Alexander Vans Best woulda be impress with no calypso—mere native balderdash. But fear not, my honourable colleague, I will adjust my tone accordingly. So, in the words of that most modern of poets, the enigmatic ‘Tease Alot’: ‘Let us go then you and I, while the evening is spread out against the sky, like a patient etherised upon a table’.” “Yes, yes, Bulldog, I’m also fond of T.S. Eliot—‘I grow old, I grow old, I shall wear the bottom of my trousers rolled’. But Best doesn’t strike me as a man of culture, so you know what they say about casting pearls.”

“Indeed, but I still want to tief he head and see if I can get him to buy a Penny Bank share. Come lewwe ride.”

The two legislators jump into Renwick’s gleaming red Ford convertible and swoop down into town for the Legislative Council meeting at York House. When the official agenda ends, Marryshow cleans his horn-rimmed glasses, smooths

his moustache and addresses the Governor in perfect King’s English:

“Your Excellence, government has always urged cooperation and I hope that it will give whatever assistance it can to the new Co-op Bank. I would like an assurance that government looks with favour on the newly established Bank. The government of Trinidad has given certain concessions to a similar bank there and I hope the same sympathy will be shown by the local government. It would redound to your credit as representative of the British crown if you would show support for our thrifty endeavour on behalf of the lower orders, should you be pleased to purchase one of our $1 shares, a mere four shillings and two pence. The Bank will undoubtedly ease government’s financial burden in poor relief, and by purchasing an inaugural share, you will give an excellent example to those you govern, your Excellence.”

Caught unawares, chubby Vans Best stalls for time, patting his perspiring forehead, rearranging the pile of documents before him. Fabricating a smile, he begins to bluster:

“Splendid! Splendid, we’re umm, umm, we’re delighted to hear of your venture and of course your concern for the welfare of your less fortunate countrymen. I can assure you, government will, umm, assist, most favourably, absolutely.”

Silence fills the chamber, papers rustle, coughs are coughed. Well known for his ‘hard and cynical brilliance and iron determination’, Renwick is in his element. As a razorsharp barrister, he knows how to manipulate such silences to unsettle or even floor adversaries. When the tension has reached snapping point ‘Grenada’s most outstanding public figure’ turns quizzically to Vans Best, and in his most charming manner enquires, “And the share, your Excellence?”

Between Renwick and a rock, Best mops his face. Mistakenly playing for sympathy he mumbles: “The honourable member will know of government’s current

90 Y ears O f G renada C O - O perative B ank L imited D ramatisation 28 1933

financial difficulties, an inevitable result of the worldwide economic depression. Consequently, my salary has been cut and alas, while I am keenly interested in your venture, my reduced condition debars me from taking any shares.”

Renwick and Marryshow exchange amused glances, and Jab Neg comes out to play: “Can it really be that your Excellence is going to deny yourself and deprive the less fortunate of a lustrous paradigm, by failing to give a shining example of thrift and encouraging those who need help most, to help themselves?”

Best is lost for words. Marryshow presses the advantage: “Yes, as public servants we are obligated to show the way to the less fortunate—those who have manfully and in many cases, I might say, manually taken their fates into their own hands, digging the land or breaking boulders to build roads.”

Best turns a fine shade of beetroot and fiddles with his fountain pen, while Renwick in hot pursuit thunders: “Your Excellence— ‘Nothing will come of nothing’ as the great bard of Avon was wont to observe. Therefore, with the good of colony foremost in mind, let us neither negate nor procrastinate but propagate. Your dollar is your bond, a bond of confidence in those whom you rule.”

His summing up complete, Renwick fixes the council members with an eagle eye he usually reserves for undecided juries. All heads turn to the mute Governor, who is saved from further embarrassment by the unctuous Colonial Secretary: “Honourable members, I believe this session may be concluded. We thank you all for your invaluable contributions and good afternoon.”

29 D ramatisation
York House before it was damaged by Hurricane Ivan in 2004 Photo:Michael Jessamy

The West India Royal Commission (Moyne Report)

The Bank was launched into Grenadian history at a time when the general economic climate was bleak. The ill effects of the Great Depression didn’t spare the fortunes of the island. The cocoa industry, so important to Grenada with world cocoa prices peaking in 1919–20, had diminished considerably when large-scale cocoa production in West Africa and South America came onstream. Sugar prices also collapsed after beet production in temperate zones had recovered from the First World War, with prices at their lowest in the early 1920s due to over-production.

These economic conditions led to widespread unemployment. The most vulnerable of the population were those to suffer the most, of course. In 1932, workers’ living conditions in terms of wages, housing and health were appalling. Often violent labour unrest ravaged most of the British West Indies in the 1930s, even though it did not explode in Grenada. Did GCBL’s approach to thrift and savings make a lot of people less desperate, showing those worst affected a way out of poverty and providing a foothold in the national community? This safety valve may well have been one of the reasons that the pressure didn’t build up as strongly as it did in neighbouring Trinidad and Tobago, for example.

In response to the often bloody violence and unrest in other Caribbean colonies, the British set up the West India Royal Commission under Lord Moyne in 1938.

Its damning findings were only published after the war in 1945, but the overall picture of social conditions would also have applied to Grenada:

“The housing of the agricultural labourer is disgraceful...Random that a large proportion of the population is infested with hookworm...The unsatisfactory housing of many of the poor people is one of the main causes of ill health and the general level of low.”

Housing for poor country folk was either a 10ft x 8ft single or double room board house raised on piles— for those who could afford it—or a mud, wattle and daub ‘roseau’ house, with cane straw roof and mud floor. These rudimentary structures might house up to 15 occupants, with six or more to a bedroom. Latrines were rare and the supply of hygienic water inadequate, compounding insanitary conditions and increasing the risk of disease and infection.

The Moyne Commission visited Grenada from January 6-12, 1939 and made endless recommendations covering everything from agriculture, housing, health, education, labour and trade unions to the constitution, public finance and the civil service. Following the 1932 Dominica conference discussion on West Indies Federation, Moyne again called for “closer union” in the British West Indies. However, virtually all these recommendations, including one to finance water supply for “further land settlement and rural

30 90 Y ears O f G renada C O - O perative B ank L imited

regeneration” were put on hold at the outbreak of the Second World War.

Fortunately, one measure was instituted in 1940: a Labour Department with a Labour Commissioner/Land Settlement Officer responsible for ensuring minimum wage payment—long below subsistence level for agricultural workers—and regulating employment for women and children. Workman’s and Tenants Compensation ordinances were also passed, but apart from the Penny Bank, most indigenous initiatives to address issues affecting the lower classes were hampered by a rigid social system controlled by an elite, reluctant to give an inch. The Moyne report had noted what could be described either as “benevolent paternalism” or “enforced subservience”:

“The people affected are conspicuously orderly and patient in their misfortunes. A satisfactory and helpful feature of the situation is the good understanding and mutual esteem prevailing between employers and workers.”

The seven wage increases granted between 1940–1950 were made to forestall the violence that rocked the rest of the BWI during the 1930s, and it would take the advent of Eric Gairy in 1950, combined with universal suffrage in 1951, to radically alter workers’ conditions and their place in society.

The Trade Union movement, which began with the Grenada Teachers Union formed in 1913, operated on a non-confrontational basis with employers until the 1950s. In 1920 Marryshow, George Otway and Marasse

P art 1: 1932–1950 31
Housing of poor country folk Donkeys were a common sight in rural Grenada well into the 20th century. Photos courtesy Darryl Brathwaite

Donovan had formed an association campaigning for ‘Jobs for the Jobless’—men returning from the Panama Canal and the First World War. The following year, attempting to broaden its base, the Grenada Workingmen’s Association (GWA) was formed with Marryshow as President. In reality, this functioned more as a friendly or benefit society rather than a trade union aggressively pursuing workers’ rights and conditions.

The Trades Union Ordinance of 1933, which granted recognition to trade unions, gave impetus to new trade unions, with the St. John’s branch of the GWA in Gouyave breaking away to form the Grenada Labour Party/General Workers Union. This was headed by Daniel Small and the same Charles Grant who signed GCBL’s founding Memorandum of Association in July 1932 and pledged 50 shares but then played no further role. With the demise of the GWA, Marryshow contributed the $1,400 left in the St. John’s GWA account to GCBL, leading some, including Marryshow’s biographer Jill Sheppard, to believe that GCBL was actually founded by the St. John’s Labour Party, rather than by individuals linked to both organisations, as she wrote in her book Marryshow of Grenada. The impact and relevance of these early trade unions can be measured by the total membership of 1,434 in 1948; 517 from the General Workers Union and 917 from the Grenada Workers Union formed by Marryshow et al in 1946, the two unions comprising the Grenada Trade Union Council.

The Tourism Sector was a much-needed diversification of Grenada’s purely agricultural economy. These ads are from 1941.

32 90 Y ears O f G renada C O - O perative B ank L imited

TAnother Drama Unfolds: The Second World War

hings went so well for the early GCBL that by June 1937 it was able to move from the rented office on 16 Young Street to its own premises at 8–10 Church Street, bought for $11,106.47 in a sale organised by one of the Bank’s first Directors, Ronald Oswald Williams. Sterling House was a threestoreyed wooden planter’s townhouse belonging to Pointz Munroe, who had owned Pointzfield Estate in St. Patrick. It must have been one of the few surviving grand wooden structures in town and after suitable alterations creating an office on the ground floor, Sam Brathwaite, Secretary/Manager, his wife Maude and her sister Phyllis Osbourne took up residence ‘above the shop’ as it were. Phyllis and Maude lived there until the 1990s.

During the Second World War, the Bank’s fortunes continued to prosper rapidly, so much so that by 1943 savings and ‘excess liquidity’—too much cash on hand— had become a cause for alarm. At the shareholders’ annual meeting on December 9 that year, the first attended by a female shareholder, renowned social and cultural activist and elected member of the St. George District Board, Pansy Rowley, it was noted:

“As will be gathered from the statements, the business of the Bank has increased very appreciably in all phases of its activities. In the Savings Department, however, this increase has been so to cause us to view the situation with an amount of grave concern.

Social and cultural activist in the 1930s and 40s A 1943 Stamp

Resulting as it has in so large an amount of surplus cash for which we have had to pay interest, it has caused our net income to be considerably reduced...Although the situation may be regarded as temporary due to abnormal existing conditions, we have thought it wise to further reduce, as from 1/1/44, the interest now being paid on balances over $100.00 by 1⁄2 % and allow no interest on balances over $2000.00, sinceourobjectiveisnotreallytoprovideinvestments for large savings.”

P art 1: 1932–1950 33
Pansy Rowley

The ‘Golden Bean’ created a substantial trickle-down economy, with jobs in harvesting, processing, clerking, packaging, and stevedoring. Unlike the sugar economy, cocoa growing was remunerative in small acreages, so many families were able to save their money and especially, to educate their children on the proceeds of their cocoa.

90 Y ears O f G renada C O - O perative B ank L imited 34
y ear S re N ada P era T i V e a N k imi T ed
Photos courtesy Darryl Brathwaite

Within a decade, the Bank had become a victim of its own success! Conducting business as ‘capitalists and financiers’ was second nature for many of the founders, but the primary founding motive had been to promote thrift among the poor by making it easy to save ‘one one’ and the enthusiasm of the ‘penny savers’ had been underestimated. This was why it was necessary to reassure shareholders of its original commitment, to maintain the priceless bond of trust that had propelled its early successes. This upward trajectory continued throughout the war so that by 1944, there were at least 10,000 depositors and all preferential shares had been sold, increasing paid-up capital by over $17,000. In 1945, some of the excess liquidity was invested:

$4,800 in British Defence Bonds and two accounts of approximately $5,000 with the Government Savings Bank. As W.E. Julien had remarked, once you believe in your people, unimaginable things are possible. In retrospect, it’s truly remarkable that the founders with no banking experience invested in a vision that took shape so swiftly, based on a bond of trust and the belief that with determination anything is possible.

War had opened up opportunities for all kinds of Grenadian workers to earn higher wages than they could at home. The Caribbean had become a major theatre of war due to its supplies of oil, gas, bauxite— all crucial to the war effort. In the ‘bases for destroyers’ deal between Britain and America, airfields were set up in Antigua, St. Lucia and at Pearls, Grenada, where a high-powered navigational beam visible from Puerto Rico was installed. Trinidad waters were the meeting point for convoys bound for England, and American military bases were set up on land—the naval base at Chaguaramas and the airfield at Wallerfield. These bases, the Churchill Roosevelt Highway, other major roads and the campaign to grow food all required more labour than Trinidad could supply. Labourers and even some middle-class young men seeking clerking positions flocked to Trinidad and labourers’ savings must have contributed to increasing GCBL’s savings deposits.

Besides Trinidad, the oil refineries of the Dutch islands Aruba and Curaçao as well as Maracaibo in Venezuela attracted workers throughout the Eastern Caribbean. Notable amongst those from Grenada were the young Eric Gairy and Rupert Bishop, father of Maurice, who both went to Aruba.

Grenada suffered shortages as a consequence of the war. All nonessential vehicles were parked up due to

P art 1: 1932–1950 35
1943 Newspaper Notice

petrol scarcity, and the lack of imported food prompted a successful ‘grow and make local substitutes’ initiative.

The greatest loss of life, which devastated the entire national community, happened on August 5, 1944. The Bank, which in 1943 had suffered its own first mortalities with the deaths of Director and solicitor C.F.P. Renwick and Muriel Glean, Chief Cashier and Manager’s Assistant, joined in mourning the loss of 56 passengers and 11 crew when the schooner IslandQueen vanished. Booked along with the Providence Mark for an Emancipation weekend excursion to St. Vincent, and crowded with the cream of bright young people, the Island Queen disappeared—supposedly without trace—somewhere north of Carriacou. Most middleclass families were affected: T.A. Marryshow lost three children, and Bank director Arnold Williamson lost his son Ernest, brother of Alice McIntyre, one of the Bank’s early employees. Cosmo St. Bernard, a future Chairman of the Board, was fortunate to have travelled on the Providence Mark, and director Simeon Francis was too busy winning at cards to bother with boarding. Theories about this tragedy abound, including that the Island Queen was sucked down over the submarine volcano Kick ‘em Jenny, or that a German submarine with Adolf Hitler onboard had captured the passengers and taken them to South America! Given the amount of U-boat activity, it’s highly likely the Island Queen was torpedoed by German or mistakenly by Allied submarines and the truth suppressed to avoid a major scandal. Another possibility could have been that the vessel hit a floating mine that had broken loose from its moorings. Such a mine, mistaken for a barrel, blew up on the beach in Windward, Carriacou on July 6, 1945, killing nine.

The post-war period brought fundamental change to a thriving GCBL. Sam Brathwaite, who had ensured vision became reality, running the Bank with minimal assistance, finally called it a day and retired on the grounds of ill health in 1947 at the age of 71. He more than lived up to the Brathwaite culture of service, ignoring opportunities for personal gain by becoming a major stockholder, and was now facing a pensionless retirement, as to date the Bank had made no provision for pensions, gratuities or even fixed a retirement age. This omission was rectified by a motion at the annual general meeting, proposed by Chairman W.E. Julien who moved “on the subject of the Manager, Mr. S.W. Brathwaite, who had so long and faithfully served the Bank and was unable to carry on due to ill health.” He suggested that Brathwaite be paid a pension. J.B. Renwick and E. Edwards supported the motion. W.A. Knight then moved that a gratuity be paid to Mr. Brathwaite on retirement; this was seconded by J.W. Fletcher and passed by the meeting.

The End of Act I

The first era of the Bank ended with Sam’s retirement. Initially, Clifford Date, nephew of the Renwick brothers, was drafted in as Sam’s replacement, but only lasted a couple of months, daunted by the responsibility and a lack of experience. The appointment of the next Secretary/Manager marked a major step from dedicated amateurism towards professionalism and positioned the Bank for its next phase of development. The journey continued with Kenneth Oswald Williams, son of the Bank’s Vice Chairman Ronald Oswald Williams. Kenneth brought a wealth of banking experience and expertise with him,

36 90 Y ears O f G renada C O - O perative B ank L imited

after working for a number of years at the Royal Bank of Canada in Trinidad. One of the first changes he made dealt with his own position. In June 1949, he informed the Registrar of Companies that “Directors may from time to time appoint a Manager of the Bank and may fix his remuneration either by way of salary or commission or by conferring a right to participate in the profits of the Bank, or by a combination of two or more of these modes. The Manager shall on such appointment be the ex officio Secretary and a Director of the Bank.”

Thus the ‘Secretary/Manager’ became ‘Managing Director/Secretary to the Board’ and as such the

Bank’s first Managing Director. Another change K.O. Williams made was to the number of board directors: “The number of Directors shall be not less than five or more than seven. At least three of the Directors shall be resident in the parish of St. George.”

More changes followed: Bovell and Skeete were appointed as the Bank’s auditors and Lewis & Renwick as its new solicitors—the Renwick in this partnership being John Byron, younger brother of ‘Jab Neg’, both a founder and current Director. Thus the Bank maintained its close-knit, extended family-style structure.

P art 1: 1932–1950 37
Front left: The Bank’s first office at Young Street, St. George’s in the 1930s Photo: Grenada National Trust

First page of the 1941 Notice of Meeting

1946 List of new Shareholders

38 90 Y ears O f G renada C O - O perative B ank L imited




A Formative Time—Not Without Its Turbulences

The two decades leading up to independence were a formative period in Grenada, of which this chapter seeks to give an overview. During this period of transitioning from colony to independent nation, Grenada had to navigate a tsunami of political and social changes that overturned the social order in place since early colonial times and brought the majority of the population into modern times.

Along the rocky constitutional road to independence in 1974 there were several hurdles to clear: the abortive West Indies Federation (1958–62) and the failure of plans for a potential unitary statehood with Trinidad and Tobago, followed by associated statehood with Britain in 1967, which granted Grenada full autonomy over its internal affairs.

Grenada was entering a period of turbulence and violence it hadn’t experienced since the 18th century with the conflicts between early settlers and Kalinago, French and British colonisers and during Fédon’s revolt. Dominated by the figure of Eric Gairy, who in 1950 founded the Grenada United Labour Party, Grenadians vociferously challenged the dominance of the old political order. The island erupted into modernity, forced like the rest of the Caribbean in the post-War decades to come to terms with a different political reality in the old British Empire, and eventually, with its own independence.

GCBL started out in uncertain times and prospered. It not only weathered the man-made and natural storms of this era (Hurricane Janet devastated the island in 1955), but thrived under three able helmsmen: the Managing Directors Kenneth Oswald Williams up to 1954, Charles Ignatius Iri Bain (1954¬66), and then Gordon V. ‘Knocky’ Steele who, from 1967 onwards, steered the Bank all the way into the 21st century.

A quick measure of the Bank’s success can be read in the following statistics:

• 1951 - Savings Deposits of $644,386

• 1954 - Savings Deposits $1 million, Authorised Capital $300,000;

• 1965 - Savings Deposits $1,777,702, Assets close to $2.5 million;

• 1966 - Authorised Capital increased to $1 million by creating 7,000 additional shares of $100 each;

• 1969 - Savings Deposits in excess of $2 million.

40 90 Y ears O f G renada C O - O perative B ank L imited


Memories and reflections give us a picture and feel for the ethos and culture of the Penny Bank in the mid20th century. They feed into the story of Grenada Co-operative Bank Limited, like tributary streams into a river, or the branches of a family tree.

Brenda Williams

One of those older branches is Brenda Oswald Williams of Westerhall Estate, who at age 86 at the time of writing still bubbles with infectious energy and a sunny disposition. She is one of the last living links to the Bank’s founders, early board members and chairmen. A daughter of Keith Wells, of the famous Wells family from St. David, former manager of Hankeys Ltd., she married George Oswald Williams, Chairman of the Board (1976–2000) in 1957. He was the son of founder Ronald Oswald Williams and half-brother of Kenneth Oswald Williams, Secretary/Manager 1947–54. Brenda laughingly explains what seems to be the family’s middle name:

“Ronald Oswald gave the name Oswald to all his children, even the girls. He thought Williams sounded common and one day they might become the Oswald-Williams! R.O. was my father-inlaw; he was a Barbadian, actually he came to open a business here. He and a gentleman from Trinidad, a Mr. McCartney, opened a business called McCartney & Williams, dry goods and insurance, and my husband worked there from the time he left school.”

Brenda remembers those years as a time when everybody knew everybody. Like many young women from the tight-knit middle-class community, she began working life in a bank as a ledger clerk after leaving

Kenneth Oswald Williams Secretary/Manager 1947–54

the Anglican High School at age 17. In 1957, after she married George Oswald Williams, they moved to Grenville for four years, where McCartney & Williams had a branch that was also the agent for Royal Bank— Hankeys in Grenville being agents for Barclays.

Growing up, Brenda knew many members of the extended GCBL family. C.F.P. ‘Jab Neg’ Renwick was one of her neighbours, and his brother, E.C. Renwick, was manager of Royal Bank when she worked there.

P ar T 2: 1951–1974 41

She also remembers Sam Brathwaite, W.E. Julien, T.A. Marryshow, S.A. Francis and Arnold Williamson, and most of their wives and families.

She can still recall some of the staff who worked with her brother-in-law, K.O. Williams, during his relatively short tenure as Secretary/Manager 1947–54, like Leonard Hughes (Chief Clerk), Alice Williamson, Phyllis Osbourne and Erlese Mauricette née Byam. K.O. resigned following the death of his father R.O. to take charge of the family business McCartney & Williams. In addition to the staff Brenda recalls, there is one further noteworthy name: the late Sir Alister McIntyre, leading Caribbean intellectual, who joined the Bank for a brief period in 1948, straight from Grenada Boys’ Secondary School at age 16. There he

met Alice Williamson, his future wife. We can gauge McIntyre’s precocious brilliance from the fact that he successfully interviewed for the position of Chief Clerk when Adrian Mitchell resigned, only to have his appointment rejected by the Board of Directors due to his youth!

Along with Evlyn Joyce Camp (daughter of Iri Bain, who succeeded K.O. Williams as Secretary/Manager in 1954) and Rosamund Dopwell née Commissiong (holder of GCBL passbook No. 9), Brenda is one of the Bank’s oldest surviving customers. “The number of my account is 91, so I was the 91st member. When I go in there, I give trouble! I say ‘Do you know how long I’ve been in this bank? Long before you were born!’”

As owner of Westerhall Estate Ltd., distillers, blenders and bottlers of Westerhall Rums (now run by her son Graham), she was also a corporate customer of the Bank. Her family and the businesses she has been part of represent generations of Grenadians who have grown with the Bank: “Westerhall Estate’s opening account was with Co-op Bank and all my children are clients.”

The story of how her family acquired Westerhall Estate also gives further insight into the socioeconomic dynamics of mid-20th century Grenada and features another local maker and shaker, whose social contacts would also contribute to the Penny Bank’s early successes:

“Westerhall Estate belonged to Johnny Branch, my paternal grandmother’s first cousin. Johnny also owned True Blue. My father was like a protégé of his. When Uncle Johnny was getting old, he encouraged my Daddy to buy it from him. Daddy said ‘I have nothing, I’m just trying to pay

90 Y ears O f G renada C O - O perative B ank L imited 42
Memories y ear S re N ada P era T i V e a N k imi T ed
George Oswald Williams Director 1977–2000

off the property in La Borie.’ However, Uncle Johnny signed for him at the Bank as guarantor, and Daddy ran the estate with an overseer and also continued working at Hankeys. In those days we grew sugarcane, we cut it and ground it. There was a museum there, up until COVID-19, my cousin helped set it up and used to give talks to cruise ship visitors. There were places where we used to boil the cane juice and they would put it into tanks to ferment. And we would distill the rum into very overproof rum—Westerhall Strong Rum.”

Brenda’s retrospective take on the Bank’s origins and development is an endorsement the modern Bank can take pride in:

“I think the Bank came in at the right time, when there was a need for poor people who didn’t have big sums of money to put into Royal or Barclays, both of which were foreign-owned banks. They were not brave people to go into foreign firms, they would feel shy to go into Hankeys or Hubbard’s or any of those places, much less a foreign-owned bank with foreigners.

The people who started Co-op Bank had foresight and it helped Grenada. It was started at a very good time and the people who started it were people of integrity. It has always encouraged local people to deal with them.”

P ar T 2: 1951–1974 43
Brenda Williams, wife of former Chairman George Oswald Williams Photo: Simon Lee Memories

Evlyn Joyce Camp

Evlyn Joyce Camp, daughter of the Bank’s third Secretary/Manager Iri Bain, is another of the rapidly diminishing select society of Co-op Bank seniors. She retains the poise, charming style and elegance which must surely have distinguished her as a beauty in her days, when she was a Carnival Queen. Her recollections of her father’s time at the Bank clearly demonstrate the social networking which was a mark of how the early Bank operated: astute, ambitious Grenadians working together to develop and re-invest in their own sector of the economy. This was essential to building an indigenous base in the run-up to independence, moreso in this post-war period when British colonial authorities had neither the funds nor interest for developing Grenada.

“The Bank had auditors who came once a year to audit the books, to declare a dividend and see if the Bank was making money. My father said they would arrive when the Bank was opened and they were doing their work while business was carried on. When the Bank started and when my Dad was Manager, things were very laid back. He worked from 9.00 am to 3.00 pm, arriving after the staff who came at 8.00 am.

“There were probably about six staff members, definitely not more than 10. There was an office boy attendant who, besides ushering people in, would clear the Bank’s post box, as there was a lot of mail. Everything has changed completely. I can safely say that the only machinery they had in the office were typewriters and adding machines. It was very small accommodation for everybody. The Bank occupied the ground floor of the old

building on Church Street. Dad’s office was at the end of a corridor. The cashiers were on the right, maybe two of them. They really needed the new building, because after I came back in 1999, the queues would go right to the door!”

Evlyn Camp also remembers that there were women who were familiar with all the office work who had been working with Co-op Bank from the start, before her father took up office: Phyllis Osbourne, Erlese Byam and Jessie Commissiong. Her father used to say that he could rely on them, that they knew how to do everything.

“Dad’s job was strictly to interview applicants for loans. He got to know a lot of people by having worked with the government of Grenada. When

90 Y ears O f G renada C O - O perative B ank L imited 44
Memories y ear S re N ada P era T i V e a N k imi T ed
Evlyn Joyce Camp being crowned as Grenada’s Carnival Queen1959

he retired at 56, he was in charge of the Income Tax Department, and he joined the Bank. They needed a bank manager and they couldn’t get a guy who would fit into the job; everybody they thought of had other commitments.”

Like so many stakeholders of Co-op Bank, Evlyn’s family was involved in several small businesses, who all became customers of the Bank.

“The St. Bernards came from St. David’s in Thebaide, where my Dad’s family is from. The Bain family had some small businesses on the same road that we took to go to church. My Aunt Desirée had a shop for sewing items and anything you needed for the home. Her shop was so tiny you couldn’t even have room to sit! She would come down to town to buy her goods at Everybody’s Store owned by Mr. Dudley Slinger. After he died, it became Bryden & Minors.”

The Penny Bank back then was the place where you could go and save a penny: the Bank to do savings with. The Bank didn’t have the range of other banking facilities it now has. It was plain ‘vanilla banking’: savings and cashing cheques, and making small loans. But under Iri Bain’s tenure, mortgages were added to the product mix.

“During my Dad’s time, the Bank was doing a lot of business,” Evlyn Camp remembers. “People were buying a lot of homes and land. He always said they were doing extremely well; they were making a lot of money. I could hear him telling my Mum, ‘So and so came into the Bank today to buy some property’. I think he was doing really well because he had met a lot of people when he was working for the government, where he had

Charles Ignatius Iri Bain Secretary/Manager 1954–1966

started working when he was 17 as a cashier and went up the ranks, even acting as Treasurer.”

This shows again how the Bank was wise in choosing its managers, and in turn quickly became rooted in the coloured middle class of Grenada. Iri Bain was a fantastic choice as a Bank Manager with his prior connections, and in turn he saw Co-op Bank as a place of pride for him to contribute to during his retirement years. In his role as Treasurer, Iri was what was called ‘Government House society’, a position that opened many doors for him and also earned him the confidence of many people on the island. His daughter remembers how she went to parties at the Governor’s Residence as a child:

P ar T 2: 1951–1974 45

“We went to Christmas parties and we were all given a present. They had a huge Christmas tree and a Santa Claus especially for the children of government employees. There were also cocktail parties, to which Mummy and Daddy went all the time.”

Among Bain’s contacts who were good for bank business was the aforementioned Johnny Branch, who owned a lot of land in True Blue. As a child, Evlyn, like Brenda, remembers this Englishman who had lived in Grenada for many years, as short, with straight white hair and blue eyes. Branch lived in a big old house and did not have any neighbours, but he had a monkey and some dogs—it was like a ranch in a Western movie. He did business with Co-op Bank.

“He was one of the guys ‘who had money’,” says Evlyn Camp. “Daddy’s friends ‘who had money’ always invited him, ‘Come down and see me. Come and see what’s going on, come and have a drink!’ So he would take off and I would go with him, and we would go and see Uncle Johnny.”

This informal networking, often on a quasi-extended family basis, between well-positioned Grenadians was a hallmark of Co-op Bank’s style of operating from founding right through to the 1990s, when banking in general became more regulated and less personal. Co-op Bank’s founding fathers were businessmen rather than cautious bankers, and they followed their entrepreneurial instincts and enjoyed risks. This proved to be a blueprint for the Bank’s meteoric success, which went largely unnoticed by the foreign banking sector. It was literally a co-operative venture, mobilising and then reinvesting in a sector of the economy long invisible to the establishment. That momentum, initiated at the humblest of sources, has proved unstoppable. As W.E. Julien knew—if you believe in your people and you trust them and they trust you, you can achieve unimaginable things. Grenadians from all walks of life have honoured that belief and trust to the point that the humble Penny Bank has not only survived foreign and regional competition, but is a dominant player in the Grenadian banking industry. Co-op Bank has always served the Grenadian people; its success is their success. It has never been in the business of making profits for England, Canada, Trinidad or anywhere else. Both charity and prosperity begin at home. Grenadian ingenuity, fortitude, thrift, industry, determination and exceptional talent have combined in the forging of an institution that is an example to larger, more developed countries.

Richardo Keens-Douglas

An endearing picture of the Bank from the 1950s is given by children’s book author, playwright and performer/designer Richardo Keens-Douglas. Born in

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Government House Photo courtesy
Memories y ear S re N ada P era T i V e a N k imi T ed
Darryl Brathwaite

1953, he captures all the excitement and pride of a child’s experience of the Bank, which at the same time was teaching him life lessons about hard work, persistence, focus, thrift, saving, investment, responsibility and independence. Co-op Bank, with its cosy family-like atmosphere, was about much more than just financial transactions. It was and continues to be an agent of individual, community and national development.

“I’ve been banking with Co-operative since I was seven years old,” says KeensDouglas. “That was my first bank account. It was a family tradition—both my Mum and Dad banked with Co-operative, and they insisted that all the kids had an account. As kids in the 1950s, we would go with 10 cents, 2 pennies, and they would accept it as a deposit. It was the only bank account my Mum ever had, till she died when she was 77.”

For the Keens-Douglas family, as for many others, the Penny Bank was a family bank. It was very accommodating to small depositors who didn’t have a lot of money, and it made people feel that they were part of something, no matter how little it was. In fact, a dollar in the 1950s was a lot of money—for some people, it was a day’s wages. The Penny Bank was very important to Grenada, people felt it was their own, that it belonged to them.

“My thing was to save for toys. When I really wanted to have a toy gun, my Mum said, ‘You have to save your money!’ And

P ar T 2: 1951–1974 47
Richardo Keens-Douglas MBE, Author, Actor, Playwright, Theatre Producer Photo: Reynaldo Bernard Memories Photo: Reynaldo Bernard

up to today, I’m a very good saver. So I would do bobby jobs around the house and for the neighbours, clean my Dad’s shoes for 10 cents, and then I would go and I would bank that. Then, when Christmas came, I went to the Bank and took out my $5 and I was so happy! I was very short as a little boy and couldn’t reach the counter, but the cashiers were very accommodating and they respected that here was this little kid and he had his bank account. I also remember buying my red fire truck with yellow ladders and a cap gun and shirts—in those days, if you had a banlon jersey, you were in!

“Mum would send me to deposit money into her account. She wouldn’t want to go into town and go through that hassle, so she would give me the money in an envelope, it was a big thing. Knocky Steele was very close to my sister; they were all very good friends. So I was always part of that too, because they used to live upstairs at the Bank, so I remember going there with my big sister. I would be there in a corner playing with my toys, and they were having drinks and parties.”

For Richardo Keens-Douglas there was a sense of pride to have a bank account as a child. He would watch the clerks closely when they were writing up his passbook, and he would take it home and show it to his parents. “Look Mum, it’s up to $5, it’s up to $10!”

Claudia De Allie

Claudia De Allie, who worked for more than forty years at the old Church Street branch, started in 1969 when Gordon V. Steele had already begun his record-breaking stint as Managing Director. She gives a humorous and humane insight into what was very much the Penny Bank’s style and modus operandi:

“In my early days it was a very simple, simple bank. It was for the lower-class people, from agriculture, and then it started to build up, up.

When I started, there were just two tellers, and in all a staff of maybe eight or nine, including Clairy Bhola, now Rahaman, Phyllis Osbourne, Erlese Mauricette, Mrs. Grant, Miss Commissiong and Mr. Copland. Jessie Commissiong was the accountant, Copland was like a loans officer. When Knocky gave out a loan, Mr. Copland would disburse it by cheque or cash, or it went to the savings account. Mrs. Grant used to be the Secretary, and Mrs. Mauricette used to be around helping with every little thing.

“We used to give loans for as low as ten dollars— you could not deny the people that. All the shareholders in that Bank were more of the poorer class, all the little people who bought their shares for a dollar. It’s only lately that business places come into the Bank with bigger shares.

“We had good fun in the Bank there. We used to call it ‘the western bank’ (like the banks in the western movies). The boy working there used to say ‘Miss, we need to get our horse and tie it up outside.’ It was like a Mom and Pop store, we used to laugh at the Bank because to us, it was so old time-ish!”

90 Y ears O f G renada C O - O perative B ank L imited 48
Memories y ear S re N ada P era T i V e a N k imi T ed

The Stormy 1950s

Politically, Grenada was, during the 1950s, on the path to becoming a part of the British West Indies Federation, which, it had been decided at Montego Bay, Jamaica, in 1947, was to be the successor to the British colonial system in the Caribbean. The Federation was officially established in 1958, with the capital being Port of Spain, Trinidad, and much preparatory work went into it in the years preceding this date to get all the various federated institutions up and running.

For the financial sector, the Federation would have introduced a unified currency, however, this didn’t come to pass because the Federation failed. Vestiges of this financial unification can be found in the Eastern Caribbean dollar which, since the establishment of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank in 1983, is the official currency of Grenada, shared with Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Monserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. So successful was the EC dollar model for the participating island nations that it actually became a model for the European Central Bank when it launched the Euro in 2000.

But even without the Federation, the region sought to unify its currency in circulation. The BWI dollar was issued by the British Caribbean Currency Board, appointed for the first time in 1950 by the Secretary of State for the Colonies, to unify currency usage in Barbados, British Guiana, Trinidad and Tobago, and the

The first elected woman to the Grenada Legislature, 1952

Windward and Leeward Islands. The BWI dollar was linked to the £ sterling at the rate of $4.80 and backed by reserve funds invested in the UK in Commonwealth and Government securities. It might be of interest to note that on January 1, 1955, there was a total of BWI$1,939,100 in cash in circulation in Grenada!

Before the BWI dollar, which was issued for the first time in August 1951, there was actually a plethora of currency in use in the islands, including bank notes issued by the governments of Barbados, British

P ar T 2: 1951–1974 49
Eva Louise Sylvester née Ollivierre
50 90 Y ears O f G renada C O - O perative B ank L imited
BWI Dollar and some coins in usage from circa 1952–1983 with Queen Elizabeth II BWI Dollar in usage from circa 1950–1952 with King George VI EC Dollar and some coins in usage since 1983 when the ECCB was established


and entry in the 1955 “Who, What and Why” of the British

Guiana and Trinidad, and by Barclays Bank DCO and Royal Bank of Canada. British silver and bronze coins (shillings and pennies) were also in circulation, before the Currency Board issued cent pieces in the various islands. Bank notes issued by Barclays and RBC continued as legal tender and making the rounds right through the 1960s, even though the banks were no longer issuing any new notes for a decade or more. British coinage also continued in use, but by the 1960s had been largely replaced by the dollar denominated coins. However, people’s habits changed slowly, and particularly in the rural areas, folks tended to stick to the pennies and shillings that they had saved up for many years. The rapid way with which central banks demonetise old currency nowadays and make existing coins and bank notes no longer legal tender within the

P art 2: 1951–1974 51

span of a year after issuing new designs would have been unthinkable in those days, when the pace of life was much slower.

In terms of the financial scene, GCBL found itself in the company of Barclays Bank DCO with a presence in St. George’s and in Grenville, and later Sauteurs and Carriacou, and Royal Bank of Canada with a branch in St. George’s and an agency at Grenville established in 1913. In 1963, the banking landscape in Grenada was diversified further with two new market entrants: the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and the Bank of Nova Scotia established branch offices on the island, bringing the number of commercial banks operating on the island to five, with GCBL remaining the only indigenous bank.

Economically, Grenada’s mainstay post-World War II continued to be agriculture. While there were a few small hotels and guesthouses around, tourists hadn’t yet discovered the island in any big way, and there was no structured tourism industry to speak of. Hurricanes were of course always a huge threat to the agricultural economy, and throughout the history of Grenada have swept away crops and livelihoods on a regular basis. In fact, the budget made available to the government of Grenada after Hurricane Janet’s devastation in 1955 was £3.5 million or BWI$16.8 million, an enormous sum in those days that almost matched the entire expected budget of the island, showing the magnitude of the rehabilitation programme required.

Grenada also had a cigarette factory that made cigarettes from imported tobacco and was quite successful. A soap and edible fats factory utilised locally grown copra, and a sugar factory produced unrefined sugar for local consumption, and also operated a rum

distillery with pot stills. A lime factory and two lime stills dealt with the lime crop, and on Carriacou, there was a cotton ginnery.

In terms of tax revenue, Grenada’s tax rates were low in the 1950s. Company tax was 3.5% in the mid-1950s. Personal income tax was on a sliding scale, with the lowest rate being 3% for the first 500 dollars, 4% for the next 500, and so on with the highest rate being 50% for income over 17,500 dollars. The total tax collections in 1954-55 in Grenada were just $649,000—to put this into perspective, the colony’s spend on medical and sanitary services in that year alone was over $700,000.

Against this background emerged Eric Gairy, born in 1922, who rose to political influence and remains a controversial figure to this day. Having been exposed to militant trade unionism in Trinidad and in Aruba, from where he and fellow countryman Gascoigne Blaize were deported for union activism in 1949, the ambitious 27-year-old returned to Grenada and found a situation worthy of Grenada’s volcanic origins, an explosion waiting to happen. The prosperity of the war years had evaporated and all workers, both urban and rural, were in desperate poverty. The observation that former Prime Minister George Brizan made in his book Grenada – Island of Conflict that “the Grenadian worker neither clenched a fist, brandished a cutlass nor threw a stone” during the 1930s was about to be shattered.

By early 1950, Gairy had founded the Grenada Manual and Mental Workers Union (GMMWU) and in March 1951 a political party, the Grenada People’s Party, which would become the Grenada United Labour Party (GULP). The GMMWU was, after a riotous path marked by strikes, demonstrations, looting and violence, able to come to an agreement with the Grenada Agricultural

52 90 Y ears O f G renada C O - O perative B ank L imited

Some interesting statistics in Grenada in 1954:

• 315 policemen, 1 superintendent, 2 officers, with a volunteer force of 2 officers and 199 men

• 1 post office in St. George with 6 district post offices and 22 rural postal stations

• Population was 83,000, with 20,832 persons residing in St. George’s

• 52 primary schools, of which 12 were government schools and the rest denominational, and 6 secondary schools

• 2 hospitals in Grenada and 1 in Carriacou, 21 District Medical Visiting Stations and 3 health centres. There were about 20 doctors in all. Malaria was still prevalent in the 1950s.

• Livestock population was 8,000 cattle, 6,400 horses, mules and donkeys, 10,000 sheep and goats, 8,500 pigs and 84,000 chickens.

• 8,719 persons were employed in the major services of the colony, of whom 5,340 were agricultural field workers, 1,600 in public and government employ, 1,097 in business, 617 in nutmeg curing, and 250 in the sugar industry. The majority of the working population, 22,000, were engaged in peasant farming.

• Grenada had four newspapers: the West Indian, the Commentator, the Government Gazette and the Torchlight.

Some export statistics in Grenada in 1954:

• Cocoa: 3,042 tons

• Nutmeg: 37,082 cwts

• Mace: 7,505 cwts

• Copra: 9,000 tons

• Cotton and Cotton Seeds: 7,364 cwts

• Lime juice: 83,280 gallons

• Lime oil: 7,068 lbs

• Nutmeg oil: 3,400 lbs

• Bananas: 30,089 stems

• Sugar cane production: 2,108 tons

• Rum production: 68,831 gallons Grenada was becoming more modern in the 1950s!

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Photos courtesy Darryl Brathwaite

Some of the business concerns of the founders of the Bank. They played a significant role in providing employment in their businesses, while driving improvements in the standard of living by providing access to reasonably priced goods and services.

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Photo: Simon Lee
Life & Sport 1941
P art 2: 1951–1974 55
T.E. Noble Smith with his wife and daughter Vivian. The façade of the business establishment still exists today.
Public Life & Sport 1941
Photo: Simon Lee Photo: Noble Smith Family Photo: Noble Smith Family
56 90 Y ears O f G renada C O - O perative B ank L imited
Church Street with its famous sedan porches. The Head Office of the Bank at #8 Church Street. This building of Co-op Bank at #7 Church Street is owned by the Staff Pension Scheme and leased by the Bank. The historic office of Lewis & Renwick where Co-op Bank was formed—still open for business today. Photos: Simon Lee Photo courtesy GCBL

Sky Red (Dramatisation)

Date: February 21, 1951

Location: St. George’s

Gairy initiated a wave of strikes during February 1951, and staged a mass demonstration at York House on the 21st. In the absence of Governor Sir Robert Arundell, the Colonial Administrator George Green had both Gairy and Blaize detained on the British warship HMS Devonshire off Carriacou in 1951 and police reinforcements were called in from St. Lucia.

Gairy’s detainment sparked the ‘Sky Red’ eruption of rioting, looting and violence. Buildings, medical health centres, schools and private residences were burnt. Three rioters were killed at La Tante when police fired at a hostile crowd en route to the St. David’s Courthouse to demand the release of eight prisoners arrested for picking cocoa on the Marlmount Estate—which incidentally then belonged to Coop Bank Director J.B. Renwick.

When the Governor returned from England on March 5, he was accompanied by Labour Adviser E.W. Barltrop, sent by the Secretary of State for the Colonies to help mediate and restore order. Gairy and Blaize were released and the general strike was over by March 19, with Gairy pledging peace and holding public meetings urging workers to return to work.

From the slopes of Belmont we can see flames leaping into the dark sky, silhouetting the spires and forts of St. George’s, showers of sparks falling on sleeping rooftops. Mesmerised

by the flickering fires I almost jump out of my skin when an enraged roar, like a pack of wild wounded animals bursts the night’s stillness, rising from the junction down in Springs. I gather my three small children close to me like an anxious hen with her brood of chicks; their eyes big with questions I can’t answer, especially—where is their father? Acrid fumes float up from the angry shadows; we cough, choke and splutter, and try to dab the stinging tears from our eyes.

We hear the running tramp of many feet, like a horde of Vieux Corps in their studded clogs, pounding the road in rhythm to a bellowed chant: “Bun dem! Bun dem! Bun dem! We go bun dem! Bun dem! Bun dem! Bun dem! We go bun dem!” The children huddle closer, hands clamped over ears, the little one shaking with terrified sobs. I swoop them all inside, cover them with their bundle of sleeping rags, hushing them as I crane my neck outside round the door.

Now the night crackles and snaps, snarls like a furious dragon breathing sheets of fire goaded by the mob I can now see dancing in a frenzy around the bonfire of the schoolhouse. Like a diabolical call and response a panic-stricken cacophony of braying donkeys, howling dogs and shrieking goats answer the crowd’s crescendo “Bun dem! Bun dem! Bun dem! We go bun dem!” “Bondié! Papa God save we,” I hear myself whimpering, “lead us from these fires of hell.”

57 d rama T i S a T io N

Employers Association that resulted in wage increases of up to 35% and the introduction of paid leave. It seems that GCBL benefitted from the wage increases, with remarkable increases all round in assets, savings, investments and profits throughout the 1950s and into the 1960s, which makes it likely that the workers both in the factory and on the estates that supplied the sugarcane were GCBL customers and shareholders.

However, the social situation remained volatile. A social revolution had taken place: many felt threatened by the rumbling masses. T.E. Noble Smith, GCBL founder and Director, told the Governor he always travelled with two guns and would use them if necessary! The Bank’s Chairman W.E. Julien warned:

“Instead of a strike we find in every direction bitter class hatred, the haves against the havenots. Some of the biggest estates are abandoned today and gangsters are reaping the produce.”

W.E. Julien, who by then was a leading merchant, President of the Chamber of Commerce, member of the Legislative Council and for all intents and purposes an established figure, spoke with the lived experience of a former ‘have-not’. This had been a fundamental motivation in founding GCBL—to give the small man and woman the chance of improving their lives. However, Julien was a bit of an exception; most people lacked both his experience and empathy. As he remarked,

“I am one of the men in Grenada who feel that there would never have been a Gairy if what I call the ‘plantocracy’ and other employers of labour in Grenada had forgotten their selfishness and had got down to making some arrangement whereby the labourers would receive some of

the benefits which war and the aftermath of war have brought to the owners of the land. Some of them have definitely brought it on themselves.”

Julien was probably in a minority in recognising that the balance of power had irreversibly shifted:

“Gairy has come to the people as a sort of saviour from heaven and they have accepted him. When he says ‘burn’ it is burn and when he says ‘beat’ it is beat.”

In the words of Barltrop, the Labour Adviser who viewed the disturbances as part of a social revolution and was aware of an unfolding dilemma:

“Whether you like it or not this man has to be reckoned with. He is a powerful force. He has a powerful following. There will be no peace until he is recognised. You have refused to recognise him.”

The British colonial setup categorically refused to recognise Eric Gairy, and this exclusion would follow him until independence. But for the time being, improvements in quality of life, as well as Gairy’s showmanship and charisma, earned him the masses’ devotion and loyalty, which in many cases remained unshaken by either his authoritative excesses in the 1970s or even the subsequent Revolution. The GULP won six out of eight seats in the elections in 1951 and 1954, but in the 1957 elections, Gairy faced a fiveyear ban from political activity for leading a steelband through a rival candidate’s campaign meeting.

Eric Gairy also got pressure from below. The GMMWU was only the first of a number of trade unions that emerged in the 1950s: the Seamen and Waterfront Workers Union (SWWU) broke away from the Grenada Workers Union in 1952; followed by the Commercial

58 90 Y ears O f G renada C O - O perative B ank L imited

and Industrial Workers in 1956; the Technical and Allied Workers Union in 1958; the Grenada Civil Service Association in 1959 and the Grenada Teachers Union in 1960. In the arena of party politics, the landscape also swiftly changed: the Grenada National Party (GNP), formed in 1954 by dentist Dr. John Watts and fronted by low-key lawyer Herbert Blaize from Carriacou, pushed for modernisation, education and constitutional reform. A coalition of the GNP with Independents won the 1957 elections. With an eye to the coming West Indian Federation, an advisory committee system was adopted in government, followed by a revised constitution in 1959 placing authority in the hands of a Chief Minister and majority party representatives in a legislature of ten elected and two nominated members. The British Crown was now to be represented by an Administrator.

GCBL’s customers accumulated a truly impressive increase in savings deposits in the early 1950s. Between 1949 and 1951, saving deposits increased from just over $500,000 to $664,386, and by 1953 to $853,186, no doubt at least partly due to the wage increases that the GMMWU settlement had effected, which put disposable income into the hands of the Bank’s customers. The Bank’s emblem of the beehive was befitting to the situation: the worker bees whose industry and production had built the Grenadian economy for over 200 years, now shared in the honey; no longer was the hive completely emptied by the beekeepers! Increased income resulted in more savings, more loans, more shares and, most significantly, more opportunities for a better life for the present and future generations.

Education was key to generational upliftment and empowerment and now a broader section of society could access and service small loans from GCBL to fund their children’s education: to buy the uniforms, shoes and books, the lack of which had prevented their own schooling and that of their parents. Loans also facilitated tertiary education for some students who qualified to study abroad to gain professional qualifications in law, medicine or other branches of academia. In these last years of colonial rule, before Grenada achieved independence in 1974, the Bank played a vital role in developing future leaders, a role which has become one of the central pillars of the modern Bank’s policy. The Bank, which had been founded on the vision of a future that would be good for everybody, had established a bond of trust with Grenadians of all walks of life, unlocking dreams and improving the quality of life of many who, through small loans, were now able to buy convenient household items like a fridge to store food for longer, maybe even luxuries like a radio to keep informed, or in the case of small farmers and fishermen, necessary equipment and tools.

P art 2: 1951–1974 59
School children arriving at a jetty on Grand Anse. Photo courtesy Darryl Brathwaite

Date: August 1952

Location: Gouyave

Is Book an Book Alone! (Dramatisation)

Flavius Chandler, a tall lanky fisherman, pauses on the burning sand to listen to bells of the Catholic church tolling out high noon and smiles to himself.

He’s just left his crew mate Bertie Noel to unload the rest of their morning catch of jacks from The Bountiful Deep to hurry along the beach to his driftwood and palm-thatched shack, where he knows his two eldest children, the sevenyear-old twins Elijah and Emmanuel are eagerly awaiting his return. He pauses again, shifting the sack of jacks, the family supper, on his shoulder, as the last echoes of the pealing bells bounce over the waters of the bay. The echoes carry him back to his own childhood, to days like this when his father would shake him from sleep in the dark before dawn; back to many dawns when no older than the twins he’d be helping haul The Bountiful Deep into the chilly sea in the hope of a catch that would curb the family’s hunger pangs. There had been no carefree schooldays for Flavius. The eldest of 12 siblings, his father couldn’t spare him and besides there was no money for shoes, let alone books or a uniform. Then his father was gone, drowned in a sudden November storm and as the man in the house he and the sea were left to fend for his family.

Now many years later, he’s going to change that cycle; that’s why he’s smiling. He blesses the day Bertie Noel told him about the Penny Bank, where for the past few years he’s been accumulating pennies and then shillings in savings. Since the strikes of ‘51, with Uncle Gairy securing wage rises for all workers, there’s been more cash and some has flowed his way. That nice lady in the Bank—how they call she? Miss Phil? Yes Tanty Phil had told him it didn’t matter that he couldn’t sign for the loan, he could make his mark. Now he was going to make sure Elijah and Emmanuel could more than sign their names, they could read and write and...

The twins are waiting outside the shack, sitting on old saltfish crates. Elijah leaps up and unloads the jack sack from


his father, grinning broadly. “Pappi yuh reach man! Whey -plenty fish here, not so?” Emmanuel peeps shyly from under his long lashes, “What it is Pappi? Whey de surprise? What it is?” Flavius pauses again, savouring the moment. He beckons the twins to follow him inside and reaches inside a frayed hammock for two brown paper parcels, hidden in a bundle of rags. Proudly he pats his boys’ heads, pulls them to him in a big fishy hug, and hands each a parcel. At first they pick at the string knots, then tear away the paper like hungry pups. Eyes grow large at the sight of starched white shirts and navy shorts with razor pleats. The twins are catching flies in astonishment, and Flavius bursts into laughter “Boys! Boys! Allyuh goin school. No more seine or hook for you, is book an book alone!”

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Photo courtesy Darryl Brathwaite

After the 1957 general elections, Federal elections followed in February 1958 across all ten member islands of the West Indies Federation. GULP candidates T.J. Gibbs and Dr. Alban Radix were elected as Grenada’s representatives in the 45-member House of Representatives, while GCBL founder T.A. Marryshow and Founder/Director J.B. Renwick were nominated as senators. Tragically, within months Marryshow, long considered the ‘Father of Federation’, was dead. At least he was spared witnessing the Federation’s swift implosion.

Member states were reluctant to surrender power to the Federal government. Jamaica, riding an economic boom, was even more reluctant to share its new-found wealth with the smaller islands. Following a 1961 referendum, Jamaica pulled out of the Federation, prompting Trinidad’s Prime Minister Eric Williams’ famous quip: “One from ten leaves nought” and the Federation was officially dissolved in May 1962.

After GULP’s overwhelming victory in the 1961 election (winning eight out of ten seats), in which Gairy’s wife Cynthia was elected to the legislature, Gairy’s ban was lifted and he became Chief Minister. Gairy adopted an approach much closer in style to the ‘caudillo’ or strongman leader of Latin American and Spanish Caribbean politics than adhering to the British democratic process with its stringent checks and balances. Gairy set about replacing civil servants with his supporters, awarding contracts to the party faithful, and lavishing unauthorised government funds on improvements to his residence. After a year, Administrator, Jamaican Jimmy Lloyd, suspended the constitution and assumed control pending a Commission of Inquiry into GULP’s financial irregularities.

The ensuing 1962 elections were won by the GNP, capitalising on Gairy’s disgrace and the promise of unitary statehood with Trinidad. However, by 1967 when Grenada became an Associated State of Britain, disenchantment with the GNP led to Gairy’s return in the first election under a new constitution, granting self-government except for issues of defence and foreign policy. This would mark a watershed for both Gairy and Grenada, ushering in a lengthy, turbulent period of violence, oppression and regression, which would only settle in the aftermath of the Revolution.

In spite of all of this, GCBL continued to thrive throughout the 1950s and 1960s in defiance of economic slumps, Hurricane Janet, political and constitutional problems. By 1954 it had registered $1 million worth of business. In 1965 assets reached close to $2.5 million and in 1966, Authorised Capital was increased to $1 million with the issue of 7,000 additional shares at $100 each. The Bank could no longer be dismissed as ‘one of two peasant banks’ but was fast assuming the position of a force to be reckoned with in local banking. Among the Bank’s thousands of shareholders, special mention must be made of one in particular, who would shortly appear on the national stage as a leading actor.

In December 1946, Agatha La Grenade, descendant of the famous Louis La Grenade, patriarch of one of Grenada’s oldest free coloured families, purchased five shares for her nephew, Maurice Rupert Bishop, then only two years old and living in Aruba with his parents.

In 1960, by which time he was a student at Presentation Brothers College, she purchased five more, making Maurice Bishop, who was later to become the second Prime Minister of Grenada, a GCBL shareholder.

P art 2: 1951–1974 61

Date: September 22–23, 1955

The Ravages of Hurricane Janet (Dramatisation)

Location: The Furious Skies over Grenada 12.00 pm, September 22. A pleasant good afternoon to all our listeners. This is the Windward Islands Broadcasting Service reporting from St. George’s, Grenada, with an urgent hurricane alert.

We have received several bulletins from the Weather Bureau of the Caribbean warning of the approach of Hurricane Janet, currently a Category Three tropical storm, along with reports from Barbados of extensive damage and an unconfirmed number of fatalities. The Weather Bureau has indicated that Grenada, Carriacou and Petit Martinique lie in the direct path of the hurricane, which is expected to make landfall by early evening. I repeat—this is an urgent warning of the approach of Hurricane Janet, which has already devastated Barbados and is heading our way, with winds in excess of 100mph. The Governor and Chief of Police are calling on all citizens to secure their homes, families and livestock, ensure they have sufficient supplies of water, food and other necessary items, and urge you to remain inside or in designated shelters until further notice. Please pass this information on to all in your community and then take shelter. Stay tuned for updates.

A police siren wails down Market Hill in St. George’s, barely attracting the attention of housewives busy bartering for fish from a string of Carriacou fishing boats bobbing quayside. Porters, resting in between loads, lounge against the walls of Hubbard’s and W.E. Julien. Convent schoolgirls and GBSS schoolboys continue their lunchtime games. The police van swings around the Young Street corner onto the seafront, cutting its siren in favour of a loudhailer announcement: “This is an urgent hurricane warning! An urgent hurricane warning! You are instructed to go home immediately, gather supplies and secure your families and homes. Remain inside until the all-clear is given. This is an urgent hurricane warning...”

The announcement tails off into the distance as a battered old fisherman, sprawled in the bow of the Divine Grace,


spits contemptuously into the water now slapping hard at the harbour walls. “Hurricane mi tanty! Fifty years I sailin these waters an no storm en take me down yet yunnerstan. Dem only try an scare we yes!” he brags as the cannon at Fort George fires two ear-splitting volleys, echoes booming between the surrounding hills while the red hurricane flag is hoisted. Overhead, purple-bruised clouds congregate; the harbour waters chop, tossing small boats at their moorings. A straggle of gossiping shopgirls, quizzical clerks and pin-striped civil servants join coal-faced stevedores, dusty draymen and waistcoated store proprietors strung out along the quay. The pleas of a bent-back Catholic priest in a faded black-green soutane are ignored, drowned out by the excited screams of the gathering of gapers, until the heavens open and every man jack, woman and child scamper away from the deluge.

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Regrouping after the storm. Photo: Paria Publishing

On a hillside in Gouyave, Victor Jones, his wife and their six children are buried alive in a massive landslide, their bodies only found five days later. Leonard Peters, his wife and child are all lost when their house is swept away by a river bursting its banks.

Darkness drops on Raeburn’s shop in St. Patrick, where 13 unfortunates huddle, unable to hear themselves above the ferocious pounding of rain on the shingles, the wind’s eerie blasts and screaming rage, the agonising wrench of trees tearing from their roots, the whistling whoosh of airborne rooves. In a split second, the maniacal wind strips off the shutters. A blinding bolt of lightning momentarily lights up terror-stricken faces. The shop staggers sideways, boards splitting like snapped bones, disintegrating in the furious La Fortune River, which swallows all occupants in a mad muddy debris rushing seaward. Only Raeburn, tossed into a stool of bluggoes and skinny Mathura, who grabs a breadfruit branch, survive.

Tanty Agatha and Ma Radix cling to the rafters of their house sucked into the Paradise river; they’re luckier than old Jimmy Peters and a relative whose house disappears in the Post Royal river.

In La Sagesse, another fortunate survivor is flung into a coconut tree, while his family perishes in the flood.

Carriacou and Petit Martinique are laid bare. The Carenage pier and warehouses with millions of dollars of goods sink below the waterline. Forests are destroyed along with nutmeg and cocoa trees, the banana crop wiped out. Bridges and coast roads have collapsed, telephone and electricity lines ripped up. One hundred and twenty die, many more are permanently injured. Yet, as we know, Grenada has reserves of fortitude and rises battered but resilient.

The Penny Bank’s Church Street wooden building amazingly survived the ferocious Janet, with flood damage to the ground floor and to the Bank’s records stored there.

63 D ramatisation
The incredibly destructive force of a hurricane. Photo: Paria Publishing

The Ups and Downs of the 1960s

By the mid-1960s, Grenada’s population had grown to about 88,000, with just over 7,300 people living in the capital. School attendance was around 28,000, but only 1,700 children attended secondary schools—a dearth of basic education that made it very difficult for commercial establishments and banks to source employees. Banks specifically would generally look for secondary-school level skills in English and Math. It was also during this period that a much-needed teacher training finally came to Grenada, with the opening of the Teachers’ Training College in 1963.

With the Federation having failed in the West Indies, Grenada was governed by its own administration. Since 1960, the post of Governor had been officially abolished and an Administrator with considerably reduced powers was appointed. No longer was Grenada referred to as a “Colony” but as a “Territory”, and it continued to be governed by an Executive Council and Legislative Council under a Chief Minister, who was elected by the population.

Taxes had risen quite sharply from the 1950s, and were now at 40% tax for companies and a minimum tax rate of 7.69% for individuals. Public revenue had doubled to about BWI$8.6 million in 1964 from a decade before, but the island continued to receive substantial grant aid from Great Britain. Even ten years after, the destructive effects of Hurricane Janet in 1955 were still being felt—nutmeg trees did take some time to

recover! Exports continued to be agricultural products from bananas to cocoa, coconuts, limes and nutmeg, with some added-value manufactured products like coconut-derived oil, copra and laundry soap, lime oil and juice, and nutmeg oil in the mix.

Similar to other British West Indian territories, Grenada had high unemployment and underemployment. Of the working population of about 25,000, almost half were employed less than ten months a year. Agriculture only gave full employment to about 4,500 people, business to 1,400, with a total permanently employed labour force of just over 7,000. It is interesting that even though this labour force was so small, there were 12 registered trade unions in Grenada. The Caribbean islands were no exception to the rise of the trade union movement worldwide in the second half of the 20th century.

Tourism was not yet a significant leg for the economy to stand on in the 1960s; however, things were changing and a Tourist Board was now advertising the “Isle of Spice” as breathtakingly beautiful. There were several hotels in Grand Anse and St. George’s, and a number of beach cottages in other areas of the island. Beach and sporting clubs were still very much de rigueur in those days, where locals found employment but didn’t necessarily frequent as guests. There was even the first souvenir shop, Tikal, opened in 1959. But mass tourism was definitely not an option, as very little of the necessary infrastructure existed. Pearls Airport in

64 90 Y ears O f G renada C O - O perative B ank L imited

the north-eastern part of the island was quite remote and serviced by BWIA with small propeller planes about five or six times a week. St. Vincent Government Airways also provided a shuttle service. Travelling to Europe or the US was usually done by passenger ships, which were in those days often overbooked because of the steady stream of emigration from the British West Indies to the UK. Grenadians left in search of a better life and for a degree of certainty which they believed was being eroded by the political turmoil in the Caribbean.

Grenada pre-independence was still an almost completely agricultural island. People were deeply connected to the land, the weather, the produce that grew in the earth, the care for farm animals and livestock, small-scale fishing with its fresh daily catch, and the delicious and wholesome food that could be derived thanks to a “sweet han’” cook using woodburning or pitch oil stoves. This agricultural rootedness went back as far as anyone could remember, and created a population bound together by extended family, marriage, land and cultural ties. While there was not much money or education making the rounds, there was a connectedness between people. It was safe to be a pedestrian, safe to have your children go anywhere, safe to go outside on a moonlit night to enjoy the stars and the sounds of the forest and the sea.

It is no wonder that against this backdrop of agriculture, which requires hard work and a community spirit to flourish, the co-operative concept had become ingrained in Grenadians. Grenada Co-operative Bank Limited, celebrating its 30th anniversary in 1962, continued promoting the co-operative spirit’s approach to develop trade, commerce, small-scale industry and

Co-operatives in Grenada in this period:

Besides the older Grenada Building & Loan Association incorporated in 1925, and the Grenada Co-operative Nutmeg Association established in 1947, some of the cooperative structures put into place in the 1950s were:

• a government-operated Central Marketing Organisation founded in 1951 for the purchase, sale and storage of food crops

• the Grenada Agriculturist Union established in 1952

• one farmer’s society and eight fishermen’s unions registered under the friendly societies Ordinance in 1954

• the Grenada Banana Co-operative Society, established in 1955

• a Co-operative Department established in 1957

agriculture in its steady supply of loans and promotion of savings.

The Bank was, in fact, part of a whole network of cooperativism of 14 marketing societies, 16 credit unions with a total membership of 1200, a school savings union, a credit union league and the Farmers Club Council. Important community work was also done by social welfare organisations like the Foresters Social Welfare League (Breakfast Shed), the Day Nurseries Association, the Veterans Association, Boy Scouts and Girl Guides, the Grenada Art Club, the Maternity Welfare League, the Women’s Council, Boys Brigade and the St. John Citizens Association. These touched hundreds of lives and gave meaning and structure to a society where much of day-to-day living had to rely on self-help in the absence of a substantial nationwide welfare system that was put in place later on.

P art 2: 1951–1974 65

Gordon V. Steele Comes on the Scene

The Bank’s progress had not been without some hiccups, like having to deal with some bad debts in the early 1950s, but this was more a feature of the unregulated corporate governance culture in Grenada at the time. Promissory notes for loans could be signed by two Directors on behalf of other Directors in financial difficulties due to accumulated taxes or failing business ventures. Nonproductive loans attracted the Registrar of Companies’ attention, along with a casual approach to filing annual reports, neither of which was unique to the Bank, but symptomatic of an ‘old time-ish’ style of banking. This would persist until the radical overhaul of operations effected by Gordon V. Steele, the man promoted through the Bank’s ranks in 1967, following the sudden unexpected demise of MD Iri Bain.

Gordon V. Steele, later awarded the Order of the British Empire (O.B.E.), had come to the Bank in 1952, straight from secondary school. His career of 56 years was beyond record breaking; for many today, even after his death in 2021 as this book was being written, Mr. Steele, or ‘Knocky’ as he was known throughout the island, embodied the spirit of GCBL. He guided the transition from the ‘Mom and Pop’ style Penny Bank of the 1930s, to the modern digitalised GCBL of the 21st century. He gladly took over the founders’ visionary baton, running with it beyond all expectations, before handing it on to the new generation of technocrats and

banking specialists who are now on the trajectory for which he set the course.

Knocky Steele was truly a man of the people, with a Grenadian heart and innate empathy that has left an indelible mark on the lives of many. He had been nurtured and then matured in the culture of GCBL, which was then a family-like operation for both employees and customers. With the same astuteness as the founding fathers, he began acquiring shares shortly

66 90 Y ears O f G renada C O - O perative B ank L imited
Gordon V. Steele, O.B.E. Managing

Gordon V. Steele in conversation with Sir Daniel Charles Williams GCMG, Governor-General of Grenada from 1996 to 2008, on the occasion of the Bank’s 75th anniversary. In the background is Julia Lawrence, Chief Audit Executive.

Gordon V. Steele with his wife, Valerie, and daughter, Lorraine.

P art 2: 1951–1974 67 Photos courtesy Steele Family
Left-right: Dhannyram Lalsee (Director), Richard McIntyre (Director), R.M. Bhola (Director), Cosmo A. St. Bernard (Deputy Chairman), George O. Williams (Chairman), Gordon V. Steele (General Manager) and Derick Steele (Director).

after joining the Bank as a teller. He set about learning as much as possible about the banking industry and it was his commitment to continued learning and developing that would be a major impetus behind the Bank’s transition in the 1990s.

In Mr. Steele we find the link between the ‘ancient and modern’ if you like, and the continuation of the founding spirit of the Bank. Without him, an avid sportsman with a modern approach to management, there might well not have been any modern bank; Grenada Co-operative Bank Limited could have easily gone the way of the Trinidad Co-operative Bank, which stumbled and fell in the 1980s. During Mr. Steele’s early years, he was supported by the old brigade of Founders/Directors. When W.E. Julien retired as first Chairman in 1969, he was succeeded by fellow founders J.B. Renwick as Chairman, T.E. Noble Smith as Vice Chairman, with P.G. Hosten and several founders’ relatives as Directors. So the Co-op Bank family spread its roots into the future.

In the increasingly volatile social and political environment following his appointment, Gordon V. Steele learnt to navigate troubled waters by focusing on the Bank’s unadulterated core mandate. In the early 1970s, a takeover bid by the American Pennsylvania Bank was the first to be rejected by GCBL, which was never amenable to the idea of selling out to a foreignowned entity.

On the political front, Eric Gairy continued to rapidly morph into a totalitarian despot, using intimidation and violence with his infamous Mongoose Gang. Both people and the land itself, so fundamental to the economy, suffered. Infrastructure, roads, schools,

Board of Directors in the mid-1960s:

Willan Edward Julien, D.C.M (Chairman)

John Byron Renwick, C.B.E. (Vice Chairman), Solicitor, born Grenada 1896

Kenneth Oswald Williams (Managing Director of McCartney & Williams Ltd., Commission Agents, born in Barbados in 1920. He was an accountant and had a financial background with RBC, Trinidad Leaseholds and other companies and was a former president of the Grenada Chamber of Commerce)

Arnold Williamson, O.B.E., J.P. born Grenada 1884 (Managing Director Williamson’s Ltd., Co-Founder of the Bank)

Thomas Egbert Noble Smith, O.B.E., J.P. (Managing Director of T.E. Noble Smith & Co. Ltd., Commission Agents, born Grenada 1885, proprietor of nutmeg, banana and cocoa plantations Nianganfoix and Pachier, served on the Legislative Council and many public boards)

Pilton George Hosten (Secretary/Manager)

Charles Ignatius Iri Bain, Manager of the Bank, former Comptroller of Income Tax, born Grenada 1896

William Adrian Date, Puisne Judge, born Grenada 1908

A. D. R. Taylor

G. O. Williams

C.A. St. Bernard, born Grenada 1924

Gordon V. Steele, O.B.E., born Grenada 1935, Deputy Chairman, career banker

(We included wherever possible the years of their birth to show that some of the decision-makers in the 1960s were born in the 19th century. When looking at the history of an institution, one must never judge from today’s viewpoint—it is important to realise what kind of upbringing and socialisation they would have had in the 1900s and 1910s, or in the case of Williamson, in the 1880s and 1890s.

68 90 Y ears O f G renada C O - O perative B ank L imited
P art 2: 1951–1974 69
A last photo of the surviving founders of Grenada Co-operative Bank Limited. Seated are W.E. Julien and T.E. Noble Smith. Standing L-R are Kenneth Oswald Williams, Sandy Taylor, Adrian Date and the young Gordon V. Steele.

education and hospitals all deteriorated, resulting in the Nurses Strike of 1970, which was brutally suppressed. His ‘Land for the Landless’ campaign was turned into a political weapon, seizing the working estates of opponents, which when turned over to supporters with no agricultural experience, became unproductive. Ironically, those same agricultural workers who had helped launch him, became victims of a policy that deprived them of estate wages. Turning his attention to the agricultural co-operatives established in the 1940s, he replaced elected boards with government-nominated boards, thus removing the relative independence of many farmers. Similarly with his control of the Public Service Commission, he hired and fired civil servants at will, frequently making appointments dependent on personal favours.

Following temporary mood raisers like the CARIFTA EXPO 69, held in Grenada, and Jennifer Hosten, a daughter of the soil and the first black woman to win Miss World in 1970, daily life in Grenada in the years to follow was marked by increasing tensions and violence. Gairy tightened his stranglehold in the face of gathering opposition, which now took shape in the New Jewel Movement (NJM), spearheaded by young radicals Maurice Bishop, Kendrick Radix and Unison Whiteman. The NJM was part of youth culture and radical political ideologies current in the 1960s and 70s, some of them imported into Grenada by the NJM intellectuals, many of whom had studied abroad. The NJM positioned itself to a new generation as an agent of social justice, ‘Power to the People’ and of course real opposition to Gairy’s dictatorial regime.

With the countdown to Grenada’s independence on February 7, 1974 underway, confrontation was

inevitable. Violence quickly escalated, with the police and Mongoose Gangs causing many deaths and injuries in 1973. On the eve of independence, in January 1974, hundreds were injured in marches and confrontations between the NJM and Gairy. The country was shut down, but despite the national trauma and a general strike underway, the ceremony went ahead on February 7 and Grenada entered the world of independent nations.

Throughout this 24-year period, from 1950 to independence in 1974, the business of GCBL remained ‘vanilla banking’, making loans and taking deposits, with its ‘small man’ customer base. GCBL was as such not really in competition with the foreign-owned commercial banks. Due to the unrest in the 1970s, combined with prohibitive overheads and the overall slowing down of the economy, the rural branches of the Canadian banks were closed in 1976. When GCBL established itself in Grenville in 1977, Grenville being the heart of the old estates and the old families who resided in that area, it began attracting more substantial customers.

With the progressive localisation process of the foreign-owned banks in neighbouring Trinidad and Tobago from 1972 onwards, and the budding computerisation of the banking sector (Barclays DCO introduced its first ‘computer’ in 1959, and its first automatic banking machine in 1974), GCBL also saw the writing on the wall and had to prepare itself for the coming major shifts in the banking industry through new technology and generational change in its customer base.

70 90 Y ears O f G renada C O - O perative B ank L imited

Date: January 21, 1974

Location: St. George’s

Bloody Monday (Dramatisation)


Supreme Leader Gairy is not a happy man. He stalks the hardwood floors of his Mount Royal residence in simmering fury; truculently waving away his wife Cynthia’s timid enquiry as to whether she can bring him anything.

As her footsteps fade, he swivels jerkily on his heel; muscles, ligaments and sinews taut and jaw clenching mechanically, he heads for his obeah shrine where his trembling fingers light black candles. Attempting to pour a libation, the bottle of brandy slips from his grasp, shatters in countless shards, the dark liquid, oozing like blood from a fresh wound, seeps into the wood grain at his feet. He’s transfixed on the spot, rooted to the floor, incapable of motion.

The squelch of tires braking harshly on gravel and the low growl of drunk male voices release his freeze. Molten fear is replaced with a mask of grim determination as he hurries to fling open the front door and muster the truckload of thugs, whose snarls and bickering are immediately silenced. This vicious dogs pack cowers, scenting their master’s incipient rage. The Boss motions them to follow him to an outbuilding, where he delivers a manic tirade:

“Who? Who is de leader here? I not asking yuh chupidees, I tellin yuh. Listen good—I, Eric Matthew Gairy, is the legally elected Democratic Leader of this beautiful little island, our Grenada. That rabble down on de Carenage down dey, what

71 D ramatisation
Rally to mark Gairy’s return to Grenada after independence talks in England in 1973. Photo: Paria Publishing

Belmar tell me bout, is dem trying tuh mash up we Grenada, is all dem who is traitor an Communist an damn revolutionary! Lemme tell yuh someting—if dis doh stop now and I mean now for now, allyuh arse is grass. Dem people down dey go eat yuh like shark yunnerstan? Like shark I tell you! Who is you, eh? Who is blasted you? One set a chupid, ignorant, ingrate roughneck an villain who I pull outta allyuh misery an feed yuh belly an drunken yuh head, not so? Well lemme tell yuh someting, is dem or we yes. Dem—or we. Not me, not me, I not weak an foolish. I now go show allyuh who runnin dis island an who go be runnin yes! So catch yuhself an get down dey an mash up dat meeting! Me eh want to see allyuh ugly face till it over, over over over! Finish with dat yunnerstan. Now haul yuh backside! Go!Go!Go! An watch, yuh see all dem bottles of soft drink dey? Yuh go carry dem tuh pelt when yuh reach. Talk done, now is action!”

Gairy storms off leaving the stupefied Mongoose Gang gaping. Then ‘Beast’, the pack leader, a solid, scarred 400lbs of distilled malice and babash, breaks the spell and directs the lifting of crates of soft drinks onto the truck, which screams off down towards Lucas Street, the gang onboard fingering pickaxe handles, sucking greedily from rum flasks, loading bulbous handguns.

The Carenage is more packed than J’ouvert morning. It seems like the whole of Grenada is squeezed up here: school children in uniform, old spinsters in their Sunday best, Seamen and Waterfront Workers under their union banners, New Jewellers handing out flyers, church groups flocked around their pastors and priests, muddy peasants from country, a smattering of smart-suited businessmen, blind men with their sticks, amputees on crutches, even babes in young mothers’ arms.

In front of Otway House, various group and community leaders take turns to address the mass audience from a makeshift rostrum. A stout matron in a floral dress, who wouldn’t look out of place at a parish meeting, is in full flight:

“My dear fellow citizens, Grenadians one and all, let us pray for the recovery of our boys who were so savagely beaten in Grenville and let us call for divine retribution to fall on the head of that monster from the jaws of hellfire, who holds us all prisoner in our own land in servitude worse than the days of slavery. He has trampled our rights, reduced us once again to poverty, destroyed our hospitals and schools, stolen our lands and livelihood, terrorised young and old, made a mockery of democracy with his dictatorship and turned our island into his own private estate. He’s no leader, he’s a destroyer of his own people, those same people who gave him their loyalty in the belief he was their saviour. But he has revealed himself as the enemy of truth and justice and equality; he steals from us and rules with bullets and bullies. We cannot, dear citizens, allow this devastation to continue, we cannot meekly surrender like so many lambs to the slaughter. We must call for Gairy, his henchmen and stooges, to resign, step down...”

The crowd is so intent on this fiery madam it initially fails to register the gunshots recoiling from Lucas and Tyrrel Streets, but is thrown into contortions of panic as a volley of glass bottles arcs overhead, some landing on unprotected heads, others detonating on the flagstones to send splinters flying into fleeing bodies. The crowd stampedes, twisting, jumping, diving, crawling, trampling bloody bodies underfoot in the scramble to escape the berserk Mongoose Gang which, maddened by the scent of blood and terror, lashes, shoots, batters and chops with fiendish fervour.

The rostrum in front of Otway House has emptied, but a gaggle of schoolchildren too small to brave the stampede, along with some women who have gathered protectively around them, huddle beneath, praying to vanish. As Beast bursts into sight, gun in one hand, pickaxe handle in the other, a middle-aged man dashes out of the melee and herds the schoolchildren and women through the doors of Otway House. Beast registers this act of humanity like a terminal insult, storming into the building with his gun blazing. The screams and wails that follow are muffled by the smashing of shop fronts, the sudden roar of flames ignited by looters. St. George’s is an inferno.

90 Y ears O f G renada C O - O perative B ank L imited D ramatisation 72





Having firmly established itself in the local banking landscape over the previous 40-odd years, during the period 1975–95, with Gordon V. Steele leading, the Penny Bank picked up momentum and began spreading its roots, opening branches in Grenville in 1977 and Sauteurs in 1979.

Despite the political turmoil following Independence, Gairy’s increasing dictatorship, the Revolution that ousted him only to implode in 1983 and the subsequent American invasion, Gordon V. Steele and the Bank kept their heads down, not merely surviving but thriving and coming up for air in the mid1980s in preparation for the transition into a mature bank, ready for the challenges of modernity.

The first generation of GCBL bankers was passing away. Founder and first Chairman of the Board W.E. Julien died in 1974; his fellow founders J.B. Renwick and T.E. Noble Smith both in 1977, bringing the early chapters of the Bank’s history to a close.

However, there was continuity and a link to new beginnings, as Chairman George Oswald Williams was son of Founder/Director Ronald Oswald Williams and half-brother of K.O. Williams, Secretary/Manager 1948–54, maintaining the generational, extended family-style running of the Bank. While the Bank retained and even enhanced its reputation and image as ‘the Penny Bank’, particularly in the rural communities

of St. Andrew and St. Patrick, by the late 1970s the customer base expanded to include many upwardly mobile public servants—teachers, nurses and postal workers—and the Bank’s operations underwent their own revolution with the beginnings of computerisation in 1987.

Rudolf ‘Rolf’ Hoschtialek, who had been taken by his grandfather to open a Penny Bank account as a five-yearold in 1972, knew Gordon V. Steele’s son well, and much later, towards the end of the 1990s, was contracted by GCBL to give the Bank its distinctive modern branding. He provides some interesting insights into the culture and operating style of Grenadian banking during this period:

“I’ll give you an example of how business was conducted during Gordon V. Steele’s era. My family ran a restaurant many moons ago. My dad Rudolf would call his account manager at Barclays and say, ‘Denby, look, we’re going to go through a dry period for a couple of months, can you extend my overdraft?’ ‘Sure.’ That was it. The Bank Manager of that era had a sort of omnipotent handle on the Bank’s finances; checks and balances were far and few between. Any local bank was reliant on the skill set of the Manager. This has been the rise and fall of many smaller indigenous banks throughout the region. Co-op Bank is a member of the Caribbean Association

74 90 Y ears O f G renada C O - O perative B ank L imited

In 1972, confident in its progress despite the gathering political storm clouds, the Bank’s distinctive beehive logo first appeared on official stationery. The emblem had been used from early days as an embosser for the Bank’s official seal to stamp documents and share certificates before taking its place in public consciousness, asserting a profile and identity which would survive and thrive come what may.

Depicted here are various letterheads used by the Bank before and after the introduction of the beehive.

P art 3: 1975–1995 75
1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s
The Bank’s Annual Reports in 1965, 1969, 1973, 1987 and 1993

of Banks (formerly the Caribbean Association of Indigenous Banks), which has about 80 members, but there may be another 40 banks which have collapsed along the way purely because of the same level of omnipotence that the Bank Manager had, which led to some of them considering finances as ‘their own’ and frittering away the profits.”

Gordon V. Steele, however, was not one of those who lacked basic banking skills and prudent credit policies. He had the right banker’s instincts, conducting business along the same social networking lines as his counterparts at the foreign banks. His allegiance was strictly to his Grenadian shareholders and customers, a priceless investment that strengthened the long-term bond of trust between the Bank and ordinary Grenadians, cementing the solid foundation of future growth. As Hoschtialek observes:

“Gordon V. Steele was a businessman. If someone approached him for a loan, he would assess the character of the individual, maybe the family name and their association with the Bank, whether they showed good saving habits etc. Steele was a hands-on problem solver, and would typically say, ‘Yeah yeah, no problem, we’ll have that sorted out in the morning.’ Grenadians have nothing but praises for him. Knocky could do no wrong, and when he opened the branches in Grenville and in Sauteurs in ’77 and ’79, you felt the communities embrace him and the Bank.”

76 90 Y ears O f G renada C O - O perative B ank L imited
Grenada in the 1970s was rejuvenating itself, with women increasingly claiming their rightful voice in all areas of society. The Bank had to change in order to stay relevant to a new generation. Photo: Paria Publishing

Establishment of the Grenville and Sauteurs Branches

Politically, financially and economically, Grenada continued to experience worrying, volatile times. Gairy’s virtual one-man rule resulted in total neglect of the state infrastructure, while he escalated repression and violence. However, the deteriorating political and economic situation in the run-up to the Revolution of 1979 may have actually benefitted GCBL, as by 1976 the Canadian banks: RBC, CIBC and the Bank of Nova Scotia, along with British Barclays, were beginning a strategic withdrawal from their rural branches, leaving the people of St. Patrick and St. Andrew with no convenient access to financial services.

It was largely due to the persistence of Ralph Bhola, a prominent Grenville businessman, GCBL shareholder and Director of the Board, that the Bank opened its Grenville branch in 1977. This was followed by the opening of the Sauteurs branch (in the former offices of CIBC) on the eve of the Revolution on March 12, 1979, an astute move worthy of the founding fathers. It reconnected the Bank with its ‘small man’ base of customers, attracting many new ones, especially small farmers who were now able to access loans more easily and contributed to the Bank’s development, relieving pressure on operations in St. George’s while opening new streams of revenue.

Opening branches was also a signal that GCBL was not leaving the field to the new indigenous entities, like

the National Commercial Bank, which started in the former CIBC office in Grenville in 1979 and expanded to St. George’s in 1980, taking over the CIBC branch there for one dollar.

The foreign banks’ withdrawal from the rural scene created the same kind of vacuum GCBL had capitalised on back in 1932. Long before ‘customercentricity’ became the Bank’s official documented policy, it responded to the needs of its fellow country folk, precisely because it was an indigenous bank, answerable to local shareholders, rather than to a head office in Montreal or London. Moving to branchbanking proved a giant step, setting the Bank on course for its metamorphosis from being a cosy, family-style organisation which operated like an amateur 19th century institution to its current, consummately professional, digitalised incarnation, commanding the heights of local banking, after many foreign and regional competitors have come and gone. True to form, it demonstrated fortitude in adverse economic circumstances. True to the founders’ entrepreneurial spirit and relish for risk, the Bank found riches where others could only see losses. To repeat W.E. Julien’s mantra: if you believe in your people and you trust them, unimaginable things are possible.

This push into the outer parishes was anticipated in a memo to the Registrar of Companies dated August 9, 1977, giving notice of changes to the Memorandum of

P art 3: 1975–1995 77
78 90 y ear S o f G re N ada c o - o P era T i V e b a N k l imi T ed
Photo: Reynaldo Bernard Grenville Branch
P ar T 3: 1975–1995 79
Sauteurs Branch Photo: Reynaldo Bernard


Association to bring it in line with Grenada’s status as an independent state rather than the colony it had been until 1967 followed by a brief period as Associated State until 1974. Apart from replacing ‘the Colony’ with ‘Grenada’ and changing currency quotes from Pound Sterling to Eastern Caribbean dollars, the memo requested that the figure for Authorised Capital be amended to “$1,500,000.00 divided into 300 Preference Shares of $100.00 each, 120,000 Ordinary Shares of $1.00 each, 100,000 Ordinary Shares of $5.00 each, and 8,500 Ordinary Shares of $100.00 each”, and that “the Articles of Association be amended by the deletion of the heading ‘Managing Director’ appearing between Article 58 and Article 59 and by substituting thereof the heading ‘Director/Manager and Branch Managers’.”

Gordon V. Steele, whose commitment to growing and modernising the Bank had been evident even before he became General Manager, recognised and seized the opportunity the foreign banks’ withdrawal offered. Given the volatile state of affairs, a rapidly deteriorating infrastructure and economy as Gairy scaled new despotic heights, it is understandable that foreign banks, burdened with top-heavy management and many overhead costs, relinquished rural branches. The foreign banks answered to head offices and shareholders in the metropoles and could cut their losses and run, leaving Grenadian customers in the rural heartland without convenient local financial services. A trip to town was time-consuming or just not feasible, particularly for the type of lowincome customer for whom GCBL had been

80 90 Y ears O f G renada C O - O perative B ank L imited
The police barracks on Melville Street in St. George’s in the 1980s. the national flag of Grenada flies the party flag of the New Joint Endeavour for Welfare, Education, and Liberation, or New JEWEL Movement. In the background is the tower of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church that was devastated during Hurricane Ivan in September 2004. Photo: Ludo Kuipers

founded. Steele responded at the right time and in the right places to his countrymen’s call—the rest is history.

Jerome Thomas, who was Acting Manager in both Grenville and Sauteurs in the early days, explains how and why they were so successful:

“The Bank was the lifeblood for the people in the countryside. The way the Bank operated in terms of lending was—you come in the Bank, you take a loan and so long as you pay your interest every month, the Bank was happy. If you wanted to pay off a $10 on the principal, fine. But there was no set period to pay off the loan. In those days, the agricultural sector was strong, so the farmers used to assign their bonuses. They would take a loan for $5,000 or a $10,000, pay interest every month, and when the bonus came in, pay a big portion of it towards the principal.

So this was very, very convenient for the poor man. And that name—the Penny Bank—was very applicable to that kind of facility they gave the farmers.

“The poor man could have approached this Bank and get what he wanted without much trouble. The poor man could not have faced the foreign-owned banks at the time, like Barclays. Co-op Bank’s modus operandi was very simple: once you had a good relationship with the loan manager, it was comfortable doing business there.”

Pastor Gerard Keens-Douglas, former employee and now a Bishop of the Evangelical Churches of the West Indies, motivational speaker and marriage

P art 3: 1975–1995 81
Pastor Gerard Keens-Douglas, former employee Photo: Reynaldo Bernard

Date: March 13, 1979

Location: St. George’s

Revolution by Radio (Dramatisation)

On March 12, 1979, Gordon ‘Knocky’ Steele and the new Chairman of the Board, George O. Williams, drove up from town for the official launch of the Sauteurs branch. They overnighted in St. Patrick, returning to St. George’s the next morning.

‘Knocky’ Steele swings gratefully into the parking lot at 10 Church Street, St. George’s. It’s been a long drive back down the east coast from Sauteurs; he’s tired and hungry and doesn’t register the commotion rising up from the Market Square. Stretching his stiff legs and playing an imaginary backhand with an equally imaginary tennis racquet to get his circulation going, he lets himself into the still sleeping Bank and climbs the stairs to his family apartment. He’s happy to see his wife Valerie busy brewing coffee in the kitchen—he’ll need more than one cup to be ready for the coming day’s work down below. “Hi Val, everything good?” “Yes, yes thanks, Knocky. How was it in Sauteurs?” “Well, another branch, more work, but that’s progress.”

Sinking into his favourite living room sofa, Knocky kicks off his shoes, closes his eyes and begins drifting off. The telephone’s strident call cuts through his reverie.

“Knocky boy! Go turn on the radio!” “George? George? Whappen? I now catching meself boy. I not going back Sauteurs in a hurry.” “Boy doh study Sauteurs, listen to the radio man!”

The line goes dead and Knocky grumpily shakes his head. He turns on his old radio set nestled in its mahogany case; it crackles to life:

“This is Maurice Bishop speaking. At 4.15 this morning, the People’s Revolutionary Army seized control of the army barracks at True Blue. The barracks were burned to the ground. After half an hour struggle, the forces of Gairy’s army were completely defeated and surrendered and not a single member of the revolutionary forces was injured. The radio station was captured without a shot being fired. Several cabinet ministers were captured in their beds. Police stations have already put up the white flag of surrender. The criminal dictator Eric Gairy has fled the country. I call on all

Grenadians and foreigners to remain calm. The Revolution guarantees your safety and will work to bring employment, food, decent housing, health services and a bright future for your children and great grand-children. All democratic freedoms, including elections, religious and political opinion will soon be restored. The personal safety and property of individuals will be protected. Long live the people of Grenada. Long live freedom and democracy. Let us together build a just Grenada.”

“Woy girl! Val yuh hear this? Them ‘sweaty boys’ Bishop and dem, done run Gairy, it’s Revolution in little Grenada? But what I really hearing? Lard! I only hope is not out the frying pan an straight in de fire, after one beast spare us a next!”

Knocky’s muttering gets lost in a wild chorus from below as the townspeople take to the streets, chanting deliriously: “Freedom come! Gairy go! Gairy gone with UFO! Freedom come! Gairy go! Gairy gone with UFO!” It’s like J’ouvert morning suddenly bursting into life; years of suppression, violence, fear and hardship transformed by the rising sun into relief, joy and ecstasy all mingling in the spontaneous roadmarch: “Freedom come! Gairy go! Gairy gone with UFO! Freedom come! Gairy go! Gairy gone with UFO!” St. George’s dances in the streets, as son of the soil Mighty Sparrow would sing:

The rule of the tyrants decline

The year 1979

From Uganda to Nicaragua

It’s bombs and bullets all the time

So they corrupt, so they vile

So it’s coup after coup all the while

Human rights they violate

They thought they were so great

So in disgrace now they live in exile

Gairy is a wanted man

Idi Amin is a wanted man

Shah of Iran tried so hard to survive

He too is wanted dead or alive.

90 Y ears O f G renada C O - O perative B ank L imited D ramatisation 1979

counsellor, began his working career as a Co-op Bank teller in 1978. Born and raised in Grenville, after a short stint in St. George’s, he was transferred to the newly opened Grenville branch. He recalls growing up during the turbulent 1970s:

“It was a very tumultuous time in our nation’s history, and the revolutionaries were making their pitch for power, so there were a lot of political meetings, a lot of violence against them, a lot of upheavals. One good thing that Eric Gairy is credited for is the push for people of darker skin colour to work in places like banks. Previously, you only saw fairer-coloured people in banks.”

Pastor Gerry has fond memories of the co-operative spirit that prevailed in the early days of the Grenville branch, originally located in a small building that is now a fast-food outlet:

“We had a small staff, including Verna Marshall, who was also instrumental in the start-up of the Sauteurs branch before moving to another bank, Gloria Depradine, Patrick Thomas, the first Branch Manager, Lady Clare Noel, Allan St. Cyr, Mariette Alfred, Annette Coxall, Rhonda Bhola and myself.

I got to work in the Loans Department initially, but because it wasn’t always busy in Loans, we had to learn to do everything else. You had to know everything, so you could take over if someone couldn’t make it on the counter as a teller, if someone was sick, if the Manager had to go out, or if the person doing the accounts in the evening couldn’t balance the Bank’s accounts. It wasn’t computerised then, it was all old-time accounting, and I was taught that as well. So as

much as possible, everybody became rounded in learning the different aspects of the Bank’s life. You had to multi-task, which was the beautiful experience of a small branch. However, it went through a lot of changes. Finding a solid Branch Manager was one of the problems. They moved some people from the St. George’s branch who lived in the parish to work there, and then they went through a series of short-stop Managers to get the branch off the ground. Phyllis Osbourne, who was the main accountant in St. George’s, came up; Mrs Mauricette would come up and hold the fort for a while, as did Hesketh Jacques—he was a good accountant and loans person.”

About the establishment of the Sauteurs branch, Pastor Gerry acknowledges:

“I’ve got to give Knocky credit, as he had the vision to expand. He will go down as the most significant man for expansion. He really did a good job in that respect, you’ve got to give him that. Knocky was the Father of the Bank, so to speak, I’ll give him that title. He put the Bank out there.”

Kenny Lalsingh, a prominent St. Patrick businessman at that time, testified to the impact the Bank had:

“We deeply appreciated the Bank coming at the time it did. It has really lived up to its name in terms of dealing with customers. It educated a lot of people in the area of banking and so it played a vital role in the social and economic development of St. Patrick.”

What Mr. Lalsingh had to say about the Bank educating people in banking applies not just to St.

P art 3: 1975–1995 83

Patrick. Many of the Bank’s early customers had little or no experience of banking or finance; many were educated only up to primary school level, and some were illiterate and/or innumerate. Banking was unfamiliar territory and, as such, intimidating. Alice McIntyre, daughter of founder Arnold Williamson, who worked at Church Street in the early days, recalls that Bank staff took it upon themselves to give advice and information to customers, effectively providing an early, informal public financial literacy programme

for those at sea in what would have been the mysteries of banking. Demystification grants access, and just as the Bank had given access to the culture of thrift and savings to ordinary Grenadians, so it also made them feel welcome and familiar with some of the basic banking operations. This further strengthened the bond of trust and loyalty between the Penny Bank and its customers, inculcating a family-like atmosphere for all involved. This aspect cannot be emphasised enough and up to the present day, accounts for GCBL being proudly regarded as ‘we own’.

Like all the obstacles it has encountered in its ninety-year history, GCBL not only survived the Revolution, but continued to thrive. The fact that it was a Grenadian financial institution specifically designed to improve the life of Grenadians of all walks of life, and that many of the revolutionaries were themselves customers or even shareholders, including their leader Maurice Bishop himself, allowed the Bank to ‘pass under the radar’, as Pastor Gerry puts it. Long-serving former employee Claudia De Allie emphasises:

“We never had problems with the Revolution. We all went to school together with Maurice Bishop. He lived not very far from us in St. Paul’s; his parents and my parents were very good friends. I knew Maurice very well, as a matter of fact he used to be up in St. Paul’s with the boys very often.”

While the foreign banks came under scrutiny by the People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG), GCBL was allowed to continue business as normally as possible. Although staff at the other banks became unionised, GCBL staff members, then as now, have never been

84 90 Y ears O f G renada C O - O perative B ank L imited
A revolutionary banner on a house in Gouyave. Photo: Ludo Kuipers

unionised, as the Bank always took care of its staff as well as of its customers.

Grenville branch positively blossomed, with an estimated 6-7,000 satisfied loan recipients. Pastor Gerry remembers:

“The perception of the Bank was that it was the farmers’ bank. It was the Bank for the poorer people in the rural communities, and Manager Ann Williams recognised the potential here. In that period, cocoa, nutmeg and bananas

were doing well. The People’s Revolutionary Government was very agrocentric; they really spent a lot in agriculture. There were a lot of cocoa, nutmeg and banana farmers who needed loans, both short-term and long-term. And who gave them? Ann Williams! That bank was the place to go. What also helped the Grenville branch was that Gordon V. Steele transferred a lot of accounts there and lightened the load in St. George’s, so he could take on more of the traffic

P art 3: 1975–1995 85
Grenville branch before and after it was renovated.

in the city. So the Bank really took off with those who were transferred and secondly with the new policy that was implemented under Managers Margaret Robertson and Ann Williams. Margaret was really good at working with the farming community, Ann basically inherited all these farmers and built on that relationship. Another Manager, Jerome Thomas, consolidated that work with the farmers and the local business community, small businesses, and really grew the Bank and kept it solid.”

Pastor Gerry’s observations about the crucial role that female Grenville branch managers Margaret Robertson and Ann Williams played in the success of the Bank’s first rural branch highlights the fact that from the founding days, women have been integral to the Bank’s development. It’s hard to imagine how Sam Brathwaite could have run the first Young Street office without the help of his sister-in-law Phyllis Osbourne and the assistance of Muriel Glean and Erlese Mauricette. It’s also highly likely that when Sam went to St. Lucia in 1937 to help establish the Co-operative Bank there, it was Phyllis who held the fort as in those early days the other founders had neither the time nor the banking experience to fill the breach. Into the 1960s, Iri Bain commented that he’d left the daily running of the Bank to Phyllis and Mrs. Mauricette, both of whom were to give invaluable assistance in establishing the Grenville branch. These pioneers, including the many female shareholders who helped launch the Bank, would be succeeded by women with professional banking experience from the late 1970s. Initially, the People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG) fulfilled some of its promises and life for many

Grenadians noticeably improved. Driven by a ‘socialistoriented path of development’, all education was made free, secondary school places tripled, books and uniform assistance were provided, and a national literacy campaign mounted. PRG supporters were eligible for scholarships to attend the University of the West Indies and to seek higher education in Cuba, the Soviet Union and East Germany, demonstrating the ideological alignment of the Government. Health care was also made free and the health system enhanced with input from Cuban doctors and dentists. Training programmes were initiated to revitalise and develop agriculture— the National Co-operative Land Development Agency provided young farmers with land, loans and equipment, while the Marketing and National Importing Board co-ordinated sales of produce and controlled import prices. Programmes for low-cost houses and repair grants were enthusiastically welcomed. In an effort to diversify the economy, various export industries were set up: clothing and furniture manufacturers, a flourmill and Grenada Agro Industries, exporting fruit and vegetables. A World Bank report from 1981 noted that “After three years, Grenada has been one of the few countries in the Western Hemisphere that has continued to experience per capita growth”. According to the report, the economy grew by 2.1% in 1979, 3% in 1980/1 and 5.5% in 1982.

The construction of the Point Salines International Airport was the most important infrastructure project begun under Prime Minister Maurice Bishop (after whom the airport was named in 2009). Unlike the small Pearls Airport on the Atlantic coast, Point Salines gave Grenada a functioning portal to the outside world after it was completed in 1984. Able to accommodate

86 90 Y ears O f G renada C O - O perative B ank L imited

modern jets, it was vital not only for tourism but every aspect of the economy. Ironically, the land acquired for its construction, along with the houses that stood on it, belonged to the Julien family! Back in the 1930s, the Bank’s first Chairman W.E. Julien had won 400 acres from fellow Assemblyman Henry Pantin in a game of cards. The Bank of the early 1980s invested some $100,000 in the airport ($75,000 in government debentures and $25,000 in airport bonds).

As Pastor Gerry observed, GCBL passed under the PRG radar, and it was allowed to continue business as normally as possible.

While GCBL remained untouched, the commercial banking landscape changed, first with the PRG’s acquisitions of the abandoned CIBC Grenville branch in October 1979, followed by the St. George’s head office in January 1980 for the nominal sum of EC$1. CIBC became the National Commercial Bank and by November 1980, RBC had offered Government its Grenville branch for another $1, followed by its St. George’s head office more than a year later. By 1983, RBC was rebranded as the Grenada Bank of Commerce. Along with Barclays’ tiny Gouyave branch (another $1 bargain), the PRG now controlled 50% of total bank deposits, but pursued a deliberate policy of fostering competition between the state-owned and foreignowned banks with a view to increasing interest on deposits, and loans at lower interest rates. This policy

was in line with the PRG’s overall economic strategy, as Minister of Finance Bernard Coard explained:

“Our model is not intended to replace private sector monopolies...with state monopoly, but rather to compete with private merchants.”

There were no enforced nationalisations of private companies and apart from the state lands appropriated by Gairy under his failed ‘Land for the Landless’ scheme, the majority of land remained privately owned. Effectively, the agriculturally dominated economy was largely controlled by a relatively small number of local concerns, with foreign ownership restricted to banking, insurance, GRENTEL and GRENLEC (the telephone and electricity companies). Like CIBC and RBC, GRENTEL and GRENLEC were happy to offload their antiquated plants on the state.

National pride may initially have resulted in GCBL’s loss of some new business to the newly formed local banks, but it did not affect the estimated 6-7,000 satisfied loan recipients at the Grenville branch of the original ‘People’s Bank’, which would ultimately reclaim its position as the sole indigenous bank. Gordon V. Steele may have preferred not to remember the revolutionary period, particularly in its later stages when power outages disrupted business hours and gunfire disturbed the night, but the Bank would remain relatively unscathed, quietly soldiering on.

P art 3: 1975–1995 87
88 90 Y ears O f G renada C O - O perative B ank L imited
Interiors of Grenville (above) and Sauteurs (below) branches today. Photos: Reynaldo Bernard

Penny Bank Tales

Beside the ongoing national drama of the PRG, daily life still provided those melodramatic and comical interludes which feature so prominently in Grenadian storytelling culture.

Pastor Gerry has several anecdotes from his Grenville days that conclusively demonstrate how truth can indeed be stranger than fiction.

“We were just going through a normal Wednesday evening, having a good time, when all of a sudden a high level team from St. George’s burst into the Grenville branch: Mr. Jacques, Mr. Bishop, Mr. Steele, the who’s who of the St. George’s branch, bringing with them the auditors from Coopers and Lyburn. They shut down some of the tellers and started to count our cash. I had the combination of the vault, and we had to bring out the money held in the vault. We were wondering what’s happening? The customers in the branch also wondered what’s going on? You guys are all thieves or what? We started to tremble, when you see three auditors who weren’t smiling. And they counted everything physically. Later we learnt there had been a robbery from the vault in St. George’s by one of the staff members. So they decided maybe we’ve all been robbed, so they spot-checked every vault. Another team headed up to Sauteurs—it was chaos that day! The good news was that the other branches didn’t have any problem, and everybody kept their jobs.”

It was an uneasy and even scary time working in a bank in Grenada, with the People’s Revolutionary Army, like the Mongoose Gang before, intimidating the population. Pastor Gerry remembers how one day, a revolutionary leader, Major Ronnie Bubb, came into the Bank in full military regalia, armed with a Russian AK47 and Makarov pistol. He asked for a meeting with the Manager, so the branch was cleared to give Ronnie an immediate hearing. All other customers had to be put on hold.

“We then discovered that he wanted a loan. Collateral, he said, was not a problem, the only two questions were: how much and when. While he was on the chair, he rested the Kalashnikov on the side; then he said the Makarov was hurting his side so he had to move it very pointedly across the table and put it on the other side.”

Not surprisingly, Bubb’s collateral wasn’t there, except for the ‘hardware’ he had come with. After the Revolution came to an end with the US-led invasion, Bubb got away with $30,000, quite a substantial sum in the early 1980s.

And just as there can be no bank story without a bank robbery, here is one that Jerome Thomas experienced in Sauteurs in those years:

“Whilst I was in Grenville, I had to come back to the Sauteurs branch because they had a major robbery there around 1982. The robbers got

P ar T 3: 1975–1995 89

In spite of all the politics, life in rural Grenada in the 1980s continued to be in step with nature.

90 90 Y ears O f G renada C O - O perative B ank L imited
Photos: Ludo Kuipers

Penny Bank Tales

away with half a million dollars. They caught the guys—a guy called Eldon from Chantimelle. We got back some of the cash, he had buried it by some old house, but the rest had to be written off.”

The investigation into that robbery actually revealed that the then manager had been careless in locking the vault with the proper combination. It had been left open, so Eldon was able to get in there and had free access to the cash.

From Dream to Nightmare

The initial euphoria at being freed from Gairy’s reign of repression evaporated by degrees, driven by economic realities and a shift in the PRG itself, as it became increasingly authoritarian in its attempts to turn the ‘People’s Revolution’ into a hardline MarxistLeninist regime run by a small Central Committee.

The lowest nutmeg and cocoa prices in years strained an economy servicing the EC$100 million plus cost of airport construction. There were frequent power cuts and conflicts with the trade unions, and roads and infrastructure deteriorated.

As prices rose and incomes fell the people who had greeted the Revolution so enthusiastically became more and more alienated by an all too familiar pattern of detainments and repression to stifle ‘counterrevolutionaries’. It’s not hard to see similarities

between the Revo’s brief trajectory and the outcomes of George Orwell’s famous satire Animal Farm. Eventually ideological conflict wrecked the Revolution from within. With the murder of the people’s champion Maurice Bishop at the hands of the Central Committee, the Revolution aborted itself. As the crowds who gathered to free Bishop from house arrest on October 19, 1983 roared defiantly: “No Bishop, no Revo!” Claudette Sylvester-Forteau, who was a young teller at the St. George’s main branch, sadly recalls that day in 1983:

“I remember the day Maurice Bishop was killed. People were withdrawing money; they were afraid accounts were going to be frozen. There was a rumour of an American battleship offshore. There was a line all the way up Market Hill. The Bank closed early. There was an outpouring of people in St. George’s. I was sitting on the steps of Barclays, waiting for Bishop to speak. I was about to go back to the Bank when I heard an explosion. Everyone was in a panic. There was a five-day curfew and later people started to redeposit and some got money from the Americans for damage to property. It was a sad moment for us all. But people are resilient, you just have to hold your head. After the invasion we were able to meet the demands of the customers.”

P ar T 3: 1975–1995 91

Invasion, Readjustment and Reconstruction

Operation ‘Urgent Fury’, spearheaded by American marines along with some East Caribbean Defence Force personnel, terminated the rule of the People’s Revolutionary Army. In the aftermath of the invasion, an Advisory Council, appointed by Governor-General Sir Paul Scoon and headed by Nicholas Brathwaite, took over the reins of governance until general elections were held at the end of 1984. The National Party, led by Herbert Blaize, was elected, although Gairy’s GULP still managed to poll 37% of votes. Following Blaize’s death in 1989, a merger between Nicholas Brathwaite’s National Democratic Party and the National Party put the NDC in power at the 1990 elections, with Brathwaite as Prime Minister. His term of office marked a period of recovery, both psychological and economic. Grenada was catching itself once again and with the general election of 1995, which brought Keith Mitchell’s New National Party to office, the modern era had begun.

In the readjustment that followed, economic restructuring was undertaken to facilitate Grenada’s re-entry into a free enterprise, capitalist system. Most pressingly, public debt service, which outstripped GDP, required the privatisation of former state enterprises. This took multiple forms: from full divestment, to sale and conversion to statutory bodies, to liquidation. While GCBL played no active or consultative role in restructuring, it benefitted from growth in private sector employment in the industrial south and the hotel belt, which along with trade union-won wage rises increased the Bank’s deposits. However, the path

taken also sucked the juice out of agricultural labour, as workers drifted into state-sponsored civil works such as road construction, repairs and maintenance.

Catching up with the Times

Since 1932, GCBL had unobtrusively charted a course, weathering all storms, which it actually seemed to thrive on, while foreign banks had come and gone. Into the 1980s it still retained both its Penny Bank persona (promoting thrift, combatting usury; assisting the peasantry, the small tradesman and businessman) and style of operations.

The expansion to Grenville and Sauteurs had consolidated perceptions of GCBL being the bank for the ‘Small Man and Woman’, yet by the early 1980s, this customer base was augmented by more middle-class customers and public servants who had their salaries paid directly into their accounts. The nutmeg farmers may have provided the Bank’s backbone, requiring and servicing loan facilities, but these new customers were looking for other services, such as cheque books and access to foreign exchange. However, customers who wanted to cash cheques still had to have them cleared at Barclays, something that had irked Gordon V. Steele since the days he had been working under Iri Bain. Back in 1966, and anxious to start modernising the Bank, the young Knocky suggested to Bain that the Bank should issue its own cheques. He was firmly put in place by the Managing Director, who rebuffed him and told him to wait until he was in a position to effect such changes. Well, that day had come!

With the advent of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) in 1983, along with a period of opening of the economy and internal and later IMF-led structural

92 90 Y ears O f G renada C O - O perative B ank L imited

and fiscal readjustment in Grenada, the entire banking sector was about to undergo major structural changes. The old ways of conducting banking would soon be made obsolete by a combination of stringent regulations and applied technology. Banks in neighbouring Trinidad had already committed to computerisation; Barclays in St. George’s had introduced its first automated teller machine in 1974. GCBL, which had founded its success on meeting challenges, was now faced with the challenge of re-inventing itself, moving with the trajectory of the times. It would be a slow process but, once embraced, thoroughly successful.

Restructuring Eastern Caribbean Banking

The banking industry, which had operated throughout the Anglophone Caribbean since colonial times with minimal regulation, would come under increasing scrutiny in the aftermath of the collapse of the West Indies Federation in 1962. Various regional organisations were established to replace the federal financial division with a view to promoting economic integration, harmonising economic policy and creating a single currency.

First came the Caribbean Free Trade Association (CARIFTA), which only survived from 1968–72 and failed in its mission to develop regional labour and capital policies. It was succeeded by the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM), established by the Treaty of Chaguaramas in 1973.

The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), essentially a successor to the ‘Little Eight’ Eastern Caribbean territories that had formed the West Indies Associated States (WISA) in 1967, was created as an autonomous sub-region within the

regional body CARICOM in 1981. Now that member states had become independent, the OECS sought to harmonise policies for foreign affairs, defence, security, economics, and develop solidarity. Many WISA institutions, including the Supreme Court, the Directorate of Civil Aviation and the Eastern Caribbean Currency Authority, were rebranded.

In terms of finance, the most significant OECS innovation was establishing the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) in 1983. The ECCB, which replaced the Eastern Caribbean Currency Authority, became the monetary authority for OECS members, with a remit to maintain both currency stability and, more significantly, the integrity of the banking and entire financial system. Viewed historically, the ECCB represents another stage in the process of integrating the Anglophone Caribbean’s fiscal and monetary policies, which began in 1935 with the British Caribbean Currency Board and the 1949 West Indies Currency Conference that created a unified currency based on the West Indian dollar.

One of Maurice Bishop’s last official acts, in addition to approaching the IMF about a structural readjustment programme, was signing the ECCB agreement on July 5, 1983. While many of the Revo’s enlightened policies and programmes were reversed following Bishop’s tragic demise on October 19, 1983, the ECCB agreement remained in place. The full implications of this historic signing would only become apparent for Grenadian banking in general and for GCBL in particular, some ten years later, when the Banking Act of 1994 placed all banking activities in Grenada under the control of the ECCB. In the interim, the loosely regulated Penny Bank continued its personal, old time-

P art 3: 1975–1995 93

ish style of operations. It was only in the late 1980s that major shifts, prompted by a rapidly modernising world, occurred.

Floyd Dowden, Executive Manager Operations & Administration at the time of writing, who joined the Bank in 1984 straight from school, has an overview of the metamorphosis from Penny to Super Bank: “I came here in 1984 and worked as a teller until 1987. Up to that point, the Bank was

entirely manual. The Computer Department was started in 1988, and I was one of the persons to pioneer it. Once it was set up properly, I became the Department’s Junior Supervisor under the stewardship of Deanne Munroe-Martin (then Deanne Munroe), until 1998 when I became its Head. I was the Senior IT Officer until 2004.”

94 90 Y ears O f G renada C O - O perative B ank L imited
Some stylish Co-op Bankers. Left-right: Gloria Jean Depradine, Verna Marshall, R.M. Bhola, G.O. Williams, Gordon V. Steele, Patrick Thomas (first Manager of Grenville branch)

Claudette Sylvester-Forteau recalls the difference computerisation made:

“During computerisation, we were all trained in the systems. Before that we were totally manual— everything, the general ledger, the cash books, the loans cards. Then we started to enter all our customer data into the computer: the savings accounts, the chequing accounts and the loans cards; those were the three modules. It definitely was a big improvement. Previously, at the end of the month, everything had to balance with what was in the ledger, calculating the interest was done manually. Once computerised, you just went to the system and printed everything out: what is the balance in this account? What is the balance in that ledger?”

Computerisation marked the beginning of the modern bank, with the transition from manual to technological as revolutionary as that from horseand-carriage to automobile had been at the turn of the century. The Bank’s acquisition of data processing equipment in 1987 at a cost of $350,999 not only represented the largest portion of the Bank’s Fixed Assets but was also a statement of intent—a commitment to the future. Even in slow Grenada, life was moving faster and the Bank adapted and began to move in time.

Directors who came to serve on the Board in the 1970s–2000s:

R.M. Bhola, businessman

Dhan H. Lalsee, attorney-at-law at Renwick & Payne

Derick Steele, Chairman, businessman, Managing Director of Steele’s Auto Supplies

Richard W. Duncan (B.Sc., M.A., CGA, AICB), Managing Director, accountant and economist, career banker

Richard McIntyre, businessman, Managing Director of Richard McIntyre Insurance Company

Lethon Henry, teacher, career banker, religious elder

Leslie Ramdhanny (B.Sc.), businessman, Director and Manager of L.L. Ramdhanny & Co. Ltd

Darryl Brathwaite, businessman, Managing Director of Hi-Tech Printery Limited

Cosmo St. Bernard C.B.E., Q.C., attorney-at-law

Lisa Taylor (B.A. (Hons.), LL.B (Hons.)), Deputy Chairman, attorney-at-law

Ambrose Phillip (B.Sc., M.Sc.), Chairman, CourtConnected Mediator of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, served on many public boards

Alfred Logie (Lic.)

Samantha Hossle (B.Sc.)

Dr. Spencer Thomas (B.A., M.Sc. PhD)

Dr. Anthony Andall (B.Sc., M.Sc. PhD)

Benedict Brathwaite (B.Sc., FCCA)

Claudia Francis (CA, FCA, CPA, CMA, ACIS/ACG)

Larry N. Lawrence (MBA) Managing Director, career banker

P art 3: 1975–1995 95

From Savings and Loans Institution to Commercial Bank

Putting the beehive logo on the cover of the 1987 Annual Report for the first time (see page 75) was both a statement of intent and a mark of confidence. The Penny Bank had been content to keep a low profile for over 50 years, while steadily increasing profits, assets and deposits. Unlike the foreign banks it rarely advertised in the press, unless to announce new share subscriptions, and there were many Grenadians outside of its loyal base who were simply unaware of its existence.

Gordon V. Steele had a mission along with the vision he had inherited from the founding fathers. The original objectives of the founders to give those on the lowest rungs of society access to loans, improving every aspect of life and promote national development, had been met and surpassed. Gordon V. Steele’s mission was modernisation and as a highly competitive sportsman, first in tennis and later in golf, he relished competition and the taste of victory. He had succeeded in expanding the Bank in uncertain times and in weathering the Revolution. He now embraced computerisation and was readying the Bank to compete in the financial marketplace. The beehive logo, derived from the old embossing seal used to stamp bank documents, was both an affirmation of the Bank’s core values and the unveiling of a future champion—look me here!

Another significant change in 1987, which nudged the Bank towards commercial bank status rather than a Savings and Loans Association, was the decision

to pay income tax, which was legally required when loans were given to the general public rather than to only members or shareholders. This step signalled an extension of the services the Bank offered, which since the 1960s had been granting mortgages. It also signalled an important development in the Bank’s participation in the national economy. From now on, in addition to direct investment into government projects, GCBL was also directly contributing to the national economy through taxation.

Founded to service a previously neglected sector of the national economy, a niche market as it were, the Bank’s growth and expansion had been built on the consistent savings and loyalty of the small man and woman, and on the entrepreneurial skills of the founders and early Manager/Secretaries, who capitalised on their social and commercial connections to bring in business.

While the Bank, in terms of market share and profits, may have been bottom of the local banking pecking order at this stage, its solid local base was an invaluable asset that drew the attention and approval of a regional banking expert, Harold Russell, and boded well for future development. An offer to purchase from the Bank of Belize, which had acquired the abandoned Royal Bank of Canada branch in Belize in 1987/8 prompted Gordon V. Steele to commission Russell, a Barbadian banking consultant, to conduct a study to determine the needs for and feasibility of a capital

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The Beehive Symbol

“The bee is more honoured than other animals not because she labours, but because she labours for others.”

Saint John Chrysostom

The Bank’s beehive logo visually encapsulates concepts and motivations, drawn from the co-operative movement and 19th century ideas about poverty relief, selfimprovement and worker solidarity—all achieved by ‘thrift and industry’. The riches that the hive produces are the results of the combined efforts of thousands of individual worker bees, whose hard work and cooperation is essential for all stages of honey production, from building the honeycomb to nectar collection and processing by ‘house’ bees.

As a symbol for an indigenous bank, founded in an era when the economy was based on the products of the land, the beehive was particularly apt. Its relevance still resonates today in the riches accrued by the modern Bank after 90 years of sustained industry and determination. The Bank itself, like the honeycomb where ‘deposits’ of eggs are laid, larvae hatched and honey stored, has been built on worker bees’ individual deposits and loyalty to the swarm guided by the queen bee’s judicious leadership.

Besides making a home for itself in the hive and producing its own food, the swarm also makes a vital contribution to the environment and communities far beyond the boundaries of any apiary. We couldn’t live without bees, as their collection of pollen directly contributes to the pollination of endless plant species, in addition to being an essential ingredient in the beeswax from which the honeycomb is constructed. Like the bees, the Bank has ‘pollinated’ many aspects of Grenada’s development—in infrastructure, education, health, heritage, sport, culture and the arts.

The bee has long been revered not just for its exemplary industry (‘busy as a bee’), but precisely because it labours with and for others in the hive, its own home and community, benefitting the wider community and environment beyond. Honey, for all its sweetness and medicinal properties, has long been associated with wisdom—“Eat thou honey, because it is shall the knowledge of wisdom be unto thy soul”—and divine abundance.

P art 3: 1975–1995 97

injection into the Bank from a foreign commercial bank.

Another motivating factor for approaching Russell may well have been the fate of the Trinidad Cooperative Bank. In 1986, after failing to adapt to a rapidly changing banking market and to regularise and modernise its operations, the Eastern Caribbean’s first co-operative bank had to be rescued by the Trinidad Central Bank, eventually being amalgamated with two other ailing local banks, the Workers Bank and National Commercial Bank, to form First Citizens Bank in 1993.

This was an outcome Gordon V. Steele was not prepared to entertain for Grenada. Unlike its Trinidadian cousin, Grenada Co-operative Bank Limited had proved remarkably robust: it had expanded into branches in the late 1970s, computerised operations in 1987, and in 1988 refurbished its St. George’s branch, which would be completely renovated in 1993 at a total cost of $859,000. GCBL had survived and grown precisely due to what renowned development economist Arthur Lewis called ‘an eye to the economy’ and the entrepreneurial skills of its founding fathers and early Managers. Gordon V. Steele had already expanded the Bank and was committed to its further development and modernisation, but maintaining its Grenadian roots and identity were integral to its growth.

Although many of the feasibility study’s recommendations were not acted on or implemented immediately, the very fact that Mr. Steele had commissioned the report demonstrates his prescient mindset and the realisation that to continue surviving and thriving in a rapidly changing fiscal environment, experts as well as technology were needed.

Russell’s study comprehensively addressed the options for growth and progress; its title succinctly summarising his advice: Grenada Co-operative Bank Limited Expansion of Services Study. Basically, there were two options: capital injection by a foreign bank or expansion of existing services. As Russell pointed out, capital injection by a foreign bank would almost certainly jeopardise the Bank’s autonomy. Once shares were sold to a foreign entity, it would be difficult to limit further transfers. Furthermore, such an approach would stand the risk of alienating existing shareholders.

A foreign-owned bank might have had policies that would conflict with GCBL’s stated policy of servicing low-income savers and small borrowers. Russell noted that

“The use of foreign loan funds carry risk which the Bank may not wish to assume or even pass on to customers. It would appear that historically, the Bank has drawn much of its support from the grassroots people. Their tolerance for increases in debt servicing would be marginal, and they would be the most affected by any change in

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The Trinidad Co-operative Bank did not survive into its eightieth year. Photo: Paria Publishing

exchange of the E.C. dollar. The Bank could ultimately be affected both in customer goodwill and the value of its own portfolio.”

Examining growth alternatives to foreign investment, Russell proposed expanding operations to include foreign trade transactions and a range of other services, in line with the current trend for ‘One Stop Banking’. He pointed out

“There is a wide range of services which the Bank does not offer, where the speed of growth may well be quite different and which may affect the Bank positively, depending on the particular areas in which the Bank may expand: buying and selling foreign currency; negotiating foreign bills, travellers’ cheques and personal cheques; sale of drafts and travellers’ cheques; electronic and telephone foreign transactions; hypothecation and discounting of trade bills; inward and outward documentary credits; maintenance of foreign accounts and customer foreign currency accounts in United States currency. Additionally, there are such complementary services as current accounts and overdrafts; night safe wallets; safety deposit boxes; wage packaging and distribution of wages and salaries; consumer lendings and, expansion of accepted securities for loans.”

Russell was convinced that the Bank could grow from its own operations, but suggested that in order to do so it first “analyse the local market before offering either foreign trade services or any of the complementary services”. He pointed out that the proposed market analysis would not only “provide justification for the new services, but it would indicate the intensity of the demand,

the public perception of the services of the competitor institutions, the kind of services which may be needed but which are not being offered in Grenada by the other banks, and the area which the G.C.B. may wish to target first.”

Any expansion of services would involve training existing staff for delivery and the hiring of senior personnel with the necessary expertise and experience in those services identified. Again, Russell was confident that whatever resources were required could be sourced locally:

“Except for trained staff, most of the major resources are already available to the Bank. The acquisition of trained personnel at the senior level should not present a problem. The Bank’s accountant is experienced in foreign transactions, and the Bank needs only to find one or two experienced persons... The resources for training staff and for implementing the systems can be found locally and at reasonable rates.”

Russell’s study was more than food for thought—it was a veritable feast for the future giving an overview of what we might call ‘the science of banking’ in the Information Age, when rapidly developing communications swept away many of the traditional features of organising business in place since the Industrial Revolution, replacing them with models based on current information. Analysing market demand became the metric for responding quickly, encouraging entrepreneurship and an ‘eye to the economy’, all of which had been the hallmarks of Grenada Co-operative Bank Limited since its inception. The study also highlighted the imperative for education and training if the Bank wanted to be able to deliver

P art 3: 1975–1995 99

new services identified by market analysis. Most significantly, Russell gave the vote of confidence in the development of indigenous banking in the Eastern Caribbean at a crucial period when an entirely different model was emerging in neighbouring Trinidad and Tobago.

Battle of the Banks

Trinidad and Tobago’s post-independence banking industry, fuelled like other areas of the economy by the twin-island nation’s oil (and increasingly natural gas) sector, was intensely competitive. In the early 1970s and into the 1980s, most of the foreign-owned banks had to localise, which means divesting at least 51% of their shareholding in the Trinidad and Tobago branches to nationals, which prompted a change in name: for example, Barclays Bank D.C.O. became Republic Bank; Royal Bank Canada became RBTT.

When revised legislation allowed these Trinidad and Tobago banks to operate throughout the Eastern Caribbean, they immediately saw an opportunity for growth in acquiring local banks in the other islands—an important move for T&T banks as their fortunes were too tightly linked to the volatile international energy markets, and they wanted to diversify their economic customer base and mitigate their risks. As RBTT’s CEO Peter July said in 1988:

“If at the turn of the century, Royal Bank of Trinidad and Tobago remains just a local bank, it will be half its size and quite probably will be swallowed up by someone else. The only way forward for RBTT is to go outside of Trinidad and Tobago, and to become Caribbean.”

Republic and RBTT, fierce competitors in T&T, began their regional rivalry in the Dutch Caribbean and then set their sights on Grenada. Round One went to Republic, which, taking advantage of Grenadian state enterprise divestment, outbid RBTT for the National Commercial Bank of Grenada in 1992. Now both the Grenada Bank of Commerce and GCBL became targets.

RBTT’s overture to GCBL neglected to factor in staunch Grenadian pride and GCBL’s equally proud track record of fortitude, entrepreneurial eye to economic opportunities, and ability to thrive in adverse conditions. One can imagine how the dignified Board of GCBL might have reacted to its description in RBTT’s 1992 written offer, which they perceived as arrogant and condescending:

“Grenada Co-operative Bank Limited, as with all small indigenous banks, is severely disadvantaged in competing with other commercial banks for the following main reasons:

1. It provides limited banking services

2. It cannot access banking technology except at considerable expense

3. It cannot easily provide continuous training to its staff without considerable expense, thereby preventing their full professional growth and development

4. It cannot provide a comprehensive career path to enable deserving employees promotional opportunities to very high levels of responsibility

5. It cannot develop national or international bankers

6. It cannot take full advantage of regional developments which would eventually bring the entire CARICOM region closer together, e.g., currency, trade, travel, workers, etc.

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7. It cannot fully participate in development projects and financing to aid in National development.”

This preamble was hardly likely to endear any reader to the thinly disguised take-over bid, masquerading as a “partnership”, that followed. The Board of Directors sat on the offer until 1993, when it answered with a curt refusal signed by Gordon V. Steele:

“With reference to the proposal contained in your fax to Mr. G.O. Williams, I have been requested by the Board of Directors to inform you that the matter, after having been given due consideration, cannot be entertained.” (Images of thecorrespondencecanbefoundintheAppendices).

Subsequently, RBTT acquired the Grenada Bank of Commerce in 1997, leaving GCBL the sole indigenous bank in the island that would forge forward and upward, not only disproving all of RBTT’s ‘cannots’, but also commanding those same heights coveted by the Royal Bank of Canada, which at the time of writing no longer has a local presence in Grenada.

At the end of the 1980s, as Gordon V. Steele readied GCBL to meet the challenges of regional competitors and a changing local economy, we should pause for an emblematic vignette, which captures the spirit of the Penny Bank, the Spice Isle’s indigenous bank, so firmly rooted in the sons and daughters of the soil that it would soon grow beyond recognition. As Claudia De Allie recalls:

“When Christmastime came around and the nutmeg bonuses were being paid Co-op Bank had the biggest clientele. The line used to be all the way up to where they have the Tower Hive. All of these people used to be indebted to our bank. They had loans so all their nutmeg bonuses used

to pass through our bank. We took out what was for us and we gave them the difference.”

Another vignette recalling the earlier sleepy slow style of the Bank before it burst from its chrysalis is given by Floyd Dowden:

“One of the two older heads in the Bank in the early days, was the Bank Secretary, doing bank statements and letters to customers etc. She was very slow and would sometimes fall asleep on the typewriter. You would hear the typewriter going at a speed, then it got slower and slower, came to an eventual stop, and then picked back up again sometime after, when she woke up. One day, when it had stopped, and she was obviously asleep at it, Mr. Steele came out of the office and saw her, hand on the typewriter, eyes closed but nothing being typed. He called her out by name and asked ‘What you are typing?’ She jumped out of the sleep and started typing again at full speed. He just looked at her and laughed and said, ‘I think you better check that letter thoroughly before continuing because you might just have to start over.’”

Tightening the Belt

Besides agriculture, tourism was becoming an important foreign exchange earner in the 1980s, an industry sensitive to disruption (e.g. by the US-led invasion in 1983, falling commodity prices on the world market, environmental and infrastructural problems). In the late 1980s, stayover arrivals were around 60,000 per annum, and cruiseship visitor arrivals around 130,000. In 1984, the new Point Salines International

P art 3: 1975–1995 101

Airport was opened, which was able to accommodate large commercial jets. With the country becoming more closely linked to the US, American Airlines started to service Grenada from its hub in Puerto Rico, which linked it to dozens of US destinations—a great boon to the island and its inhabitants.

Aid flowed into Grenada post-1983, and under the stability of a pro-business and conservative government, the hotel and restaurant sector expanded rapidly, from 643 rooms in 1986 to 1,019 in 1988 alone. Agriculture also flourished, with the main crops, bananas, nutmeg and mace, being export staples and finding ready markets. A small manufacturing sector also stabilised with the opening up of the economy, including a rice mill, which started in 1989.

St. George’s University, established in 1977 as St. George’s Medical School, also made a major impact on Grenada’s economy. From construction to the provision of services and opportunities for local employment both on staff and in catering and groceries: the university has been a major driver of the economy. In tandem with related housing and hotel development in the emerging southwest coast tourist belt, it brings in substantial foreign exchange from its mainly North American student body, which began at 800 and now numbers 3,200.

However, Grenada continued to feel stagnant. Unemployment remained stubbornly high, at 26% in the late 1980s. Government had major cash flow problems. The introduction of VAT in 1986 was hampered by Government’s inability to actually collect

the added revenue. Recurrent revenue vanished in wages to a too-large public sector and in servicing of the considerable external debt. In 1989, a large part of the Government’s shareholding in telecommunications company GRENTEL was sold to the private sector in order to finance public sector expenditure. Grenada, like several of its Caribbean neighbours, was facing a typical scenario, as Dr. Thomson Fontaine, economist at the International Monetary Fund, describes in his paper Caribbean Country Experiences with IMF StabilizationProgramsWithintheContextofGlobilization:

“A typical scenario is where large public sector borrowing requirements had led to combinations of heavy domestic and foreign indebtedness, unmanageable external current account deficits, crowding out of private sector activity, reliance on arrears, and high inflation. External financing difficulties may come about as a result of a combination of factors such as a shift in the terms of trade and large domestic spending programmes. Many Caribbean countries are susceptible to these conditions because of a heavy reliance on one or a few export crops or minerals, and on large amounts of external financing through grants or loans.”

As such, an IMF-led economic adjustment programme was put in place to assist Grenada in the necessary economic restructuring after its turbulent political past. Fiscal reform, privatisation and reduction of the number of public servants had to be undertaken to reduce the deficit burden and improve the country’s debt position. This also saw privatisations in the banking sector.

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SGU Commemorative Stamp

IMF Balance of Payments Support Accessed by Grenada (US$ millions)

Selected Indicators of Economic Performance 1982–2000

Source: Thomson Fontaine, Caribbean Country Experiences

Like other English-speaking Caribbean territories that had experimented with ‘national democratic, socialist development’ in the 1970s and 80s, Grenada struggled to adjust and put its fiscal management on a more sustainable footing. After certain measures to restructure internally, e.g. through the divestment of the local banks and state sector enterprises mentioned above, the Grenadian Government had to turn to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to access the funds of a Stand-By Arrangement and Extended Fund Facility to provide short- and longer-term assistance. Grenada had to tighten its belt through a period of IMF-guided structural readjustment, and implement austerity measures that were very difficult for a population to endure, but necessary to reduce the country’s debt and restructure its economy and public sector to become more sustainable.

Government divestment of many of the remaining state enterprises included entities like the Grenada Resort Corporation and the National Transport Service. Majority shares in Grenada Electricity Services (GRENLEC) were sold to WRB Enterprises headquartered in Tampa, Florida, in 1994. Grenada Telephone Company was sold to Cable & Wireless. Grenada Bank of Commerce and National Commercial Bank were acquired by Trinidad-owned RBTT and Republic Bank respectively, as described earlier.

An interesting detail in the structural adjustment was that, unlike Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Barbados or Guyana, which have their own Central Banks and currencies, Grenada’s membership in the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank meant that it was not in a position to utilise currency devaluation as an instrument of structural adjustment. Monetary policy

P art 3: 1975–1995 103
Type of Arrangement Approval date Expiration date Amount approved Amount drawn Stand By Nov 6, 1979 Dec 31, 1980 0.62 0.62 Stand By May 11, 1981 May 10, 1982 2.96 2.50 Extended Fund Facility Aug 24, 1983 Jan 23, 1984 13 1.1
1982 1985 1988 1991 1994 1997 2000 Reserves (US$) 9.22 20.8 16.92 17.47 31.2 42.66 57.66 Current account balance -17.71 2.22 -27.77 -48.07 -26.93 -67.15 -79.1 Public sector balance (EC$) -12.23 -7.86 Inflation (%) 7.8 2.5 4.0 2.6 3.8 1.2 1.0

had to be harmonised across the members of the ECCU, and the E.C. dollar has been pegged to the US dollar at the rate of EC$2.70 to US$1 since July 1976.

Even though the population hated the IMF, and in many cases did not understand its role and blamed it for the situation, the bitter medicine had to be swallowed and, as the numbers on the previous page show, Grenada was subsequently put on a much better footing, which benefitted all Grenadians.

However, as calypsonian Black Wizard expressed, the population was deeply wounded by how things could have reached to such a state of empty treasuries and foreign debt in the Caribbean, not even sparing oilrich Trinidad and Tobago. Here is an excerpt from his calypso, “The I.M.F.”:

“All you third world countries really feeling the squeeze, only empty treasuries and bankrupt economies

You can’t balance your budget, you riddled with foreign debt

But ah doh mind, any loan I’ll give to you

Once you keep in line and do as I say to do.

Any thing you nationalise, just be prepared to privatise

If you really want my money remove all the subsidies

Like Grenada government institute retrenchment

And to your cries for mercy I am deaf

Because I am the I.M.F.

Look what ah do Guyana and also Jamaica

Now ah have you, Trinidad, ah go really hit you hard

You had so much oil money, now you running to me

Anything ah tell you obey like to cut public workers pay

If you really want my money devalue the currency

You could kill one another like in Venezuela

And to your cries for mercy I am deaf

Because I am the I.M.F.

For your economic ills you just swallow my pills

You got to cut your social programmes

You got to manners dem Trade Unions

In the United Nations watch your voting patterns

And to your cries for mercy I am deaf

Because I am the I.M.F.”

(excerpt reproduced with the kind permission of the artist)

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Elwyn McQuilkin “Black Wizard” Photo: Reynaldo Bernard

Date: December 1988

Location: Church Street, St. George’s

Nutmeg Bonus (Dramatisation)

It’s not yet eight in the morning, but already a ragged, shuffling, buzzing line of expectant nutmeg farmers snakes uphill from the firmly locked doors of Co-op Bank at 8 Church Street, all the way to Simmons Alley.

Overhead is a bright blue sky, but the hint of December nights’ chill lingers in the air. With Christmas only a few weeks away, there’s the festive smell of fresh paint on the morning breeze, decorations hanging over front doors and in windows; a few farmers—the advance guard of Santa’s elves— sport bright stocking caps trimmed in white, adding to the festive spirit. A year of heavy toil in the soil is ready to give up its gifts and a glow of satisfaction at a job well done mingles with the anticipation etched on the farmers’ faces. They’re as excited as their own children will be, come Christmas Eve. Ivan Radix, a gnarled stick of man from Mirabeau, St. Andrew, makes himself comfortable on the porch of the Building and Loan Association. He wipes the crumbs of bake from his mouth and reaches into his backpack to rummage for a bottle of sorrel and a flask of Jack Iron. He was up at 3.00 am to ensure a good spot in the line and, having secured it, feels ready for a well-deserved ease up— “becor he done know it have plenty wait to wait, so he taking he time and a shot for the weather and a sorrel chaser for the season, woyo!”

Feeling to share the excitement bubbling up inside at the prospect of the long-awaited bonus, Ivan calls out to the next man in line: “Season’s greetings, brother! Come nah man and tek a lil ting for de Christmas.” Urias Lewis all the way from La Fortune, St. Patrick, and massive as Ivan is diminutive, adjusts his clean shirt, ironed before dawn in honour of the occasion. He gratefully accepts Ivan’s welcome offer. “Here’s to de bonus, brother! It can’t come soon enough, yes. Me roof fly off wit de last storm, de kids demanding TV, the madam insiss she eh washin no more clothes by hand and Ah owin de bank me loan.” “Ah hearin yuh, man, money scarce like snow,” commiserates Ivan. “Me big dotter gwan study doctor in Englan and Ah hadda buy she passage oui.”

Up and down the raucous line, now heated by the morning sun, entire bonuses are being spent in advance: this one

has promised his children bikes; a next wants to build a pig pen; that one has his eye on a plot of land; another needs to fund his big son studying for an Economics & Business Management degree in Trinidad, yet another must cover his elderly mother’s medical expenses.

The clock of the Anglican church chimes eight and as the Bank’s doors creak open, the nutmeg farmers’ cheers echo down Church Street. Urias Lewis, with well-lubricated vocal chords and a marathon runner’s lungs, launches into a spontaneous improvisation to the tune of “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town”:

“All we nutmeg farmers comin in town, comin fuh bonus so doh lewwe down, we comin fuh we Christmas cheer, so move along fast Christmas is here!’

105 D ramatisation
The Bank’s Church Street Office in 2005

Commercial Bank Status

Restructuring proved to be a keyword in Grenada’s economic and banking culture in the 1990s. Besides the IMF, local banking was now being regulated by the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank Act, which had come into force in 1983 and was amended in 1994 to include more sweeping regulatory powers for the ECCB.

Gordon V. Steele had been building momentum for the Penny Bank to enter mainstream banking since opening the Grenville branch in 1977. Computerisation in 1987 rendered the Bank competent to function Information Age style. The 1987/8 Russell study’s prognosis for growth of the Bank from its own resources rather than through injection of foreign capital had provided both a roadmap and vote of confidence in the Bank’s ability.

By 1994/5, Mr. Steele was ready to take the plunge into the future. An audit by the ECCB recommended that the Bank become ‘fully fledged’. Claudia De Allie still remembers the audit’s impact:

“The ECCB only came into being when I was in my late 30s. That was when we got the first call that the ECCB was coming in to do an audit. And it’s from then that the Bank really started to move forward, because they gave us guidelines we had to follow and certain things we had to do. That’s when Mr. Steele was bringing in different people to work on projects and that’s when you

see Richard W. Duncan and all of them came on board.”

Grenada Co-operative Bank Limited officially assumed commercial bank status in 1996, when it was accepted as a member of the ECCB Clearing House and began issuing cheques drawn on its own account at the ECCB. The Bank also entered the international commercial banking business when it established foreign correspondent banking relationships and began issuing US-dollar bank drafts drawn on its account at Amtrade International Bank in the United States. This seismic shift in status launched the modern GCBL. As Floyd Dowden who was in the thick of the transition recalls:

“After ECCB’s recommendations and directives, we had to go fully-fledged. So we had to bring in a certain cadre of people to help the General Manager run the Bank. Previously he was basically the Loans Manager, he was Human Resources, he was everything. One of the ECCB’s directives was to have an Operations Manager, a Financial Controller and someone to oversee the Loans Department.”

There were many, many challenges. A complete overhaul was required, but Knocky was up for it and swiftly assembled a team with the expertise and experience to make ‘unimaginable things possible’.

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Commercial Bank Status, introduced in 1996, had an immediate positive effect on the results of Grenada Co-operative Bank Limited, as these graphs show. Looking back, in the first decade of the Bank’s existence, the late 1930s and early 1940s, Loans and Advances ranged between $100,000 and $300,000, Deposits grew from $80,000 to $300,000, and Profit after Tax was just around $10,000. In the 1960s, Profit after Tax grew to $50,000 and in the 1970s, to $80,000. (Note that prior to 1983, these were British West Indian Dollars, see specimens on page 50).

P art 3: 1975–1995 107 0 100 200 300 400 500 600 Loans and Advances 1986–2020 (EC$’000) 1996: Commercial Bank Status 0 200 400 600 800 1000 1200 Deposits 1986–2020 (EC$’000) 1996: Commercial Bank Status 0 300 600 900 1200 1500 Assets 1986–2020 (EC$’000) 1996: Commercial Bank Status 2008 Financial Crisis -12 -10 -8 -6 -4 -2 0 2 4 6 8 10 Profit After Tax (EC$’000) 1996: Commercial Bank Status 2011 Investment Impairment 2013 Loan Impairment

It is good to remember the true reason for our efforts in serving the people of Grenada: our children.

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Photo: Ludo Kuipers




Transition - Preparing the New Hive

This and the following era (2008–2022) of GCBL’s history concludes its ‘rags to riches’ saga, fulfilling and surpassing founding father

W.E. Julien’s prediction of ‘unimaginable things’ happening.

In the course of 90 years, the Penny Bank has quite literally moved up the hill: from its shoe-string temporary office on Young Street to the commanding heights of the Church Street state-of-the-art Tower Hive flagship Retail Banking Unit, a prominent feature on the St. George’s skyline, befitting Grenada Co-operative Bank Limited’s position as leader of the Grenadian banking industry. On this final stretch, the Bank has leapt from relative obscurity to both local and regional visibility. Like its brand ambassador, the sprinter Kirani James who won gold at the 2012 London Olympic Games, it has emphatically outstripped competitors, set new records, becoming an icon of Grenadian fortitude, determination and success.

Built on the solid foundation of belief in its own people and their ability to improve themselves and their nation through access to finance, housing, education and healthcare, the Bank symbolises true Grenadian independence. Its success is proudly rooted in the soil and the toil of Grenada’s sons and daughters, their loyalty, thrift and industry combined with the Bank’s culture of ingenuity, entrepreneurship, calculated risks and adaptability. Embracing the ‘trajectory of the times’ as Richard W. Duncan puts it, the Bank’s own trajectory

over the past 20 years has been meteoric, virtually as steep as a vertical take-off. Assets rose from a modest $66 million in 1993, to $261 million in 2004, the year of Ivan the Terrible. GCBL became the first Grenadian bank with Assets in excess of $1 billion in 2018. In the same period, it leapfrogged from last to first in the local banking hierarchy. Most recently, the Bank crowned its victorious ascent, when as a member of a consortium of Eastern Caribbean indigenous banks, it signed a definitive agreement (subject to regulatory approval) to acquire local and regional FCIB branches. Not only was this a major financial coup but also a vindication of the Penny Bank itself—FCIB’s predecessor was the same Barclays Bank whose refusal to give W.E. Julien a loan in the 1930s was one of the catalysts in the founding of the Penny Bank.

This metamorphosis in such a short space of time is remarkable given the challenges the Bank faced. First was the total transformation of its operations, policies and product range, fulfilling the requirements set by the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank in its 1994/5 audit and recommendations, which the Bank actually welcomed, realising compliance with ECCB regulations was necessary to build a strong, profitable, healthy bank. Then there were the ravages of Hurricanes Ivan and Emily in 2004/05, and then the global downturn that began in 2008, and its longlasting after waves. True to form and spirit, GCBL thrived on hard times, overcoming obstacles and adapting to the times with an

110 90 Y ears O f G renada C O - O perative B ank L imited

eye for economic opportunity. The 2008 downturn of the global economy, with its echoes of the 1930s Great Depression, hit GCBL with its first and only year of loss in 2012—but it bounced back, resuming its track record of consistent annual profits and payments of shareholders’ dividends.

Recovering and crossing the billion-dollar Assets mark by 2018 attest to the successful re-engineering of the Bank’s operations, which began 20 years prior, in 1996. The Bank’s confidence and determination were further evidenced by the decision to push ahead with the construction of Tower Hive, despite the unfavourable economic conditions. “We were already committed,” Richard W. Duncan affirms. Momentum, market research and analysis, planning, adaptability, confidence and operational competence enhanced by experts and a wide network of partners, have all allowed the Bank to adjust to the latest challenge in the market place, the Coronavirus pandemic that has ravaged the world since 2020, and demonstrate its firm belief in progress with the FCIB acquisition in 2022.

GCBL’s meteoric rise and phenomenal success can be attributed to the leadership of two staunch Grenadians,

as different as lambie and lime. On one hand there was Gordon V. Steele, the ‘island man’ with his social network that covered ‘the Greens’ in its entirety from Governor General, tennis club member and landowner to nutmeg farmer, fisherman and vendor. Succeeding him was Richard W. Duncan, one of the most highly qualified bankers in Grenada’s history and a technocrat whose rigorous planning, strategising and vision of empowering his people and their development has reaped such riches. Both men’s leadership confirmed another of W.E. Julien’s predictions that the Bank “will be good for everyone”.

P art 4: 1996–2007 111
Two staunch Grenadians: outgoing Managing Director Gordon V. Steele and his successor Richard W. Duncan.

Political & Economic Background

After the turbulent 1970s and ‘80s, Grenadian politics have remained stable since 1995, largely dominated by two moderate parties, the New National Party (NNP) and the National Democratic Congress (NDC). Following the narrow NNP victory over the NDC in the 1995 general elections, the NNP won all 15 seats in 1999 and once again narrowly defeated the NDC in 2003, giving Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell 13 consecutive years in power. Under Tillman Thomas, the NDC won a seven-seat majority in 2008, but lost in the 2013 NNP landslide victory, which returned Keith Mitchell and the NNP to office, which it has subsequently retained after another clean sweep in the 2018 elections. With NNP control of all seats in parliament, there has been no official opposition since 2013.

Grenada’s economy took some heavy blows in the period 1995–2022, being “vulnerable to external shocks and natural disasters” as the World Bank noted. External shocks included the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre in New York, the global recession starting in 2008 and most recently the COVID-19 pandemic from 2020. These shocks, along with Hurricanes Ivan and Emily 2004/5, directly contributed to rising Public Debt, which during the upturn in the late 1990s stood at 50% of GDP, rising sharply to 110% of GDP by 2003. Ivan alone caused damage in excess of twice the GDP. From US$0.4 billion in 1995, GDP reached US$1 billion in 2015 and has remained around that figure since.

Since the late 1990s, the mainstay of the economy shifted from agriculture to services (education and tourism) and manufacturing/industry. In 2011 agriculture contributed 5.5% of GDP, industry 16.6% and services 77.9%; by 2017 the figures read: agriculture 11%, manufacturing/industry 20% and services 69%. Local industries include clothing, rum, sugar milling, food canning and copra processing, while export goods (which earned $43.8 million in 2015) include nutmeg, mace, bananas, cocoa, fruit, vegetables and clothing.

The most recent World Bank country report from February 2022 gives some cause for optimism: “The Grenadian economy is gradually recovering from the pandemic. The recovery has been led by construction and agriculture, supporting an expected expansion of real output by around 5% in 2022. Following a slow recovery, tourism initially responded positively to the lifting of domestic quarantine requirements in late 2021. Food, fuel, and transport prices are expected to continue pushing up inflation, also reflecting the impact of strained global supply chains. The current account deficit has widened, as weak tourism receipts, higher fuel prices and import demand from construction offset the recovery in agricultural exports. Public debt is estimated to have declined to 68.9% of GDP in 2021 (from 71.7% in 2020) and expected to continue declining supported by the economic recovery.”

With shoes, in socks, or barefoot: the millennials are in the starting blocks and the Bank has to adapt to their changing needs.

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We’re going to Pump It Up!

Moving on from the Penny Bank paradigm, which we could summarise as “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it”, there was a recognition that an infusion of ‘new blood’ was necessary. Gordon V. Steele, after 44 years at the Bank, the last 30 as Managing Director, became “the old dog that learnt new tricks,” as Rolf Hoschtialek notes bluntly but accurately. He emphasises Steele’s grasp of the opportunities offered by change:

“There were many older players who could not change as society changed. Gordon V. Steele changed, he adapted to societal changes. And I think his hiring of Richard W. Duncan was opportunistic, he understood succession.”

Again, it seems likely that Steele’s sporting skills directly contributed to his adaptability. On the tennis court, you have to think on your feet, adapt your game to your opponent’s, look for openings, constantly revise strategy. If you’re a doubles champion like Steele, you’ll play to your partner’s strengths, particularly in your weak areas. Steele, quick-witted as well as -footed, called on his ‘island man’ social network to go headhunting and develop the Penny Bank nuclear family into the extended family of the modern Bank.

In 1995, Steele secured the services of Florence Williams, formerly of the Grenada Development Bank. The first GCBL employee with a university degree, she proved instrumental in establishing the Credit department. She was followed in March 1996 by

Richard Wayne Duncan Managing Director 2008–2021

Richard Wayne Duncan, a man whose reputation and credentials preceded him and who epitomised the cadre of young techno-/meritocrats whose energy, expertise and experience would be harnessed in transitioning the Bank. Besides embodying the ‘industry’ invoked in the Bank’s motto, Duncan represented the spirit of the founding fathers and can be thought of as a role model and stellar example of their vision of self-improvement and betterment. Like many of the early Bank’s customers and shareholders he came from humble beginnings.

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His father was a taxi driver while his mother started off as a hotel maid, before rising to supervisor at the Coyaba Beach Resort. He capitalised on his education at Presentation Brothers College and the Institute of Further Education, entering the Public Service in the Ministry of Planning as Data Centre Manager at the National Computer Centre in 1983, before studying at UWI Cave Hill (‘84–‘87) for a B.Sc. in Economics and Accounting. Returning to the Public Service in 1987, he became Director of Budget and Planning, and later acting Accountant General and then from 1994 Deputy Director General of Budget and Fiscal Policy.

Richard W. Duncan’s example of self-improvement and continuing education must have been an inspiration to young employees. To keep on the ball, move with the times, become more efficient and competitive in a rapidly changing banking industry demanded a new mindset and awareness. How did the sector as a whole operate, and what were the market dynamics and opportunities? There’s no such thing as an ‘untrained professional’, nor does education ever stop—to live is to learn and the modern Bank’s culture of training and professional qualification owes much to Duncan’s efforts and example. Throughout his Public Service career and then into his tenure at GCBL, he continued both his academic and professional studies. His many credentials include an M.A. in Public Administration (Carleton University), B.Sc., Certified General Accountants Association, Fellow of the Chartered Professional Accountants of British Columbia, Fellow Chartered Governance Professional—Chartered Secretary and Accredited Director of Chartered Governance Institute of Canada.

There was a double benefit in appointing Richard W. Duncan Head of Finance and Corporate Affairs. His expertise had not been appreciated in the Public Service, where an inefficient, largely untrained bureaucracy and top appointments were still dominated by partisan political interests rather than merit—a trend inherited from the Gairy era. But it was precisely this expertise, combined with academic rigour, that the Bank needed at this point in order to embark on its forward and upward journey. If anyone knew about the value of training and professional qualifications, identified in both the Russell Report and ECCB recommendations as fundamental to the Bank’s development, it was Richard W. Duncan. He was heavily engaged in the science and sociology of banking and was well placed to spearhead the necessary organisational restructuring.

Walking the Straight and Narrow, his analysis of the Ministry of Finance’s effectiveness and recommendations for change in the Accountant General’s Department, written in the interim between leaving the Public Service and recruitment to GCBL, gives us clear insight into his grasp of the failings of institutional governance at the time and his suggested remedies. All of which were more than pertinent to the case of GCBL. Initially, he makes the point that organisational effectiveness results “when an organisation is adapting to its environment, accessing resources and meeting its goals and objectives”. Planning, communication and leadership—“the process of creating a vision of the future”—are fundamentals.

Significantly, he contends that effectiveness can be improved “even in turbulent environments”—already a characteristic of the Bank’s success to date. New talent and training along with a staff incentive structure which

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rewards learning and exposure to “extra-organisational ideas” all facilitate change. But central to lasting change is a clearly defined mission, which inspires all staff and a culture that rewards “pursuing goals vigorously; diligence...and initiative—seizing opportunity and taking responsibility without hesitation”. Career planning, which offers staff long-term perspectives on progression, is also vital to retaining highly trained and experienced personnel. Much of this theory would be successfully implemented at GCBL in the coming years.

Some of the Penny Bank ‘Old Brigade’ may have bridled at the young technocrat, like the older head who quipped “You may have a whole alphabet after your name, Richard W. Duncan, but you don’t fool me!” However, Duncan was really a modern version of the Bank’s founders, and an example of what’s known as ‘an organic intellectual’—someone who puts his knowledge to the practical purpose of benefitting all. Many employees, both former and current, attest to the opportunities and betterment for themselves and their families that the Bank’s commitment to training and education provided.

Floyd Dowden, current Executive Manager Operations and Administration, who entered the Bank straight from school in 1984 as a clerk, can now boast a string of credentials and “six pages of conferences and workshops” he has attended. He recalls:

“When I became Senior IT Officer in 1998, I trained on the job. I went to the United States on several occasions, went to Barbados on several occasions, then when we got things started, every year I went to do different training upgrades, seminars, conferences, workshops, meetings and work attachments in all ECCB territories,

other CARICOM territories and numerous states across the USA.”

Claudette Sylvester-Forteau, who began work as a teller straight from school in 1981 and who retired in 2013 from a senior post in Audit, is proud of and immensely grateful for her GCBL experience:

“We were given the opportunity to study, to do our degree...I have learned a lot, I was educated in so many different areas. The training that was afforded to me, not only locally but internationally—because I was sent to London, to other Caribbean countries, the ECCB—I am very grateful for the contributions they made to my life.”

Most importantly, training and further education and training at home or abroad were funded by the Bank.

“You didn’t have to pay for it and that is why today Co-op staff are well trained, they’re very capable.”

Starting from Scratch

The ECCB audit of 1994/5 marked the watershed between the Penny and the Billion Dollar Bank. The relationship with the ECCB provided the platform from which to launch the modern Bank; its expertise and network were essential in guiding and supporting Coop Bank through the transformation to a strong modern financial institution fully capable of success and which complied with international banking regulations. A Memorandum of Understanding was signed with the ECCB, relating to the thorny issue of non-performing loans, which stood at $20 million. Recommendations were also made to appoint an Operations Manager,

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a Financial Controller and a Loans Manager. These directives kickstarted the accelerated growth, beginning with staff. The days of the dedicated amateur were over; what the ECCB required went far beyond a ‘makeover’. The complete overhaul and subsequent rebranding could only be achieved by drafting trained professionals for organisational re-structuring, followed by further staff expansion, in-house training, banking studies, technological re-tooling and the development of policies and procedures derived from market analysis and strategic planning.

Needless to say, some of this came as a bit of a culture shock to Penny Bank faithful. Floyd Dowden, who was then a Junior Supervisor in the IT Department, remembers the time vividly:

“It required that kind of shifting and changing with people coming on board, establishing a management structure, a hierarchy, that was not in the Bank before. There were no formal job titles like we have now; the tellers were the tellers; I don’t know what Miss Osbourne was, but she used to do all the accounting, so we

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Phyllis Osbourne, Claudia De Allie and Floyd Dowden

When the bees of the beehive needed new wings: after the ECCB Audit of 1994/5, the Bank required a complete overhaul and subsequent rebranding and embarked on a strategic restructuring programme.

called her ‘the accountant’. Today, we have the Executive Manager of this and Manager of that, and everybody has a job title, but back then, it was more like a little family something: we called Miss Osbourne (sister to Maude OsbourneBrathwaite, the wife of founder Sam Brathwaite) ‘Auntie Phil’, that’s how it was! It moved from that to a structured organisation, with tiers in management. You knew who was your manager, your supervisor, who was in charge of what portfolio. So that was a major shift. I wouldn’t say it wasn’t without its teething problems, but people understood what we were trying to do. We got past it and things started to move along quite nicely. Having the Bank fully computerised was a big help; we didn’t have to use the old general ledger books. Those of us who were younger then naturally gravitated to it. But there were some older people at the Bank for whom it was a big culture shock. All they had known was that Mr. Steele was the Manager, somebody was the secretary, somebody was doing the accounting books, and then there were the tellers. Now all of a sudden you had a Manager of Finance, a Manager of Operations, a Manager of Credit and all these people—too many big fishes in a small pond! That shift in culture moved us rapidly towards operating as a commercial bank. But of course it had an impact on certain people. The two older ladies at the time, Ms. Osbourne and Mrs. Mauricette (Aunty Phil and Aunty Erlese), were called upon to retire as they were in their seventies. However, the Bank gave them time

and a graceful path towards their retirement, and ultimately a nice send off.”

To get the new style Bank firing on all cylinders, Knocky Steele also recruited some highly experienced older banking heads in addition to the younger professionals, adding muscle to operations. Floyd Dowden remembers:

“Leonard Jacques came as Operations Manager. Alan Bishop came from Barclays as an Operations Consultant. So we brought in experts in various fields to assist us. Mr. Ian Fraser, who was versed in Operations and IT aspects, helped us to develop procedures and policies, which we didn’t have before—it used to be more like ‘You know what you’re supposed to do? Do what you’re supposed to do!’”

1997 proved a momentous year for ushering in the new. A new, purpose-built branch was opened in Grenville on Victoria Street in June at a cost of $1.5 million. In July, the first management strategic planning retreat was held at the Coyaba Beach Resort in Grand Anse, to coincide with the 65th anniversary of the Bank’s founding. As we’ll see, the genesis of the modern Bank, its campaign of development based on strategic planning and a shift of focus from products and services to customers, was formulated in all its details at that retreat, all with a view to stay competitive in the changing marketplace of banking and finance. By that time, Trinidadian banks Royal Bank of Trinidad & Tobago; and Republic Bank Limited had acquired the majority shareholding of the two other Grenadian banks from the government, leaving GCBL the last indigenous bank standing. With the advent

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of these modern, large competitors, who brought new technology and convenient banking products to Grenada, GCBL realised that it too had to “step up its game” in order to remain attractive to its customers. Since then, strategic planning led the advance and continues to do so to this day.

For Gordon V. Steele and his new, young team it was a matter of pride not simply to survive, but to thrive, as the Mission Statement adopted at the retreat boldly states:

“To be the leading Grenadian provider of high quality financial and related services to individuals and organisations in the local and international markets, maximising benefits for all stakeholders.”

The Bank eminently succeeded with this approach. Through adherence to a clearly formulated strategy, and thanks to the hard work, long hours, and dedication to the organisation that the staff and management invested into the Bank in the late 1990s and early 2000s, all the benefits that the Bank had been offered in 1992 by RBTT in its overture to buy the Bank were achieved and then surpassed in collaboration with regional experts, the ECCB network, and the Caribbean Association of Indigenous Banks. Grenada Co-operative Bank Limited now offered a full range of commercial banking and other financial services. It was a part of a Caribbeanwide banking network and therefore benefitted from regional and international developments. It was in a position to compete at least equally, if not better, than the international-based banks. It provided state-ofthe-art services and technology. It participated fully in financial matters affecting national development.

The Y2K working group, preparing the Bank’s computers for the changeover from 1999 to 2000. In the photo are representatives from Antigua, St. Vincent, St. Kitts, Dominica and Floyd Dowden, representing Grenada. This was a threeweek mission, hosted at the St. Kitts, Nevis, Anguilla National Bank HQ, with daily oversight by, and reports submitted to, a supervisory team from the ECCB.

It provided comprehensive training and career opportunities to its staff and developed bankers with a Caribbean-style perspective and it increased the value of the investment of the shareholders of the Bank.

Carlton Peter Antoine joined GCBL in June 1997, coming from the Grenada Development Bank, a state-owned enterprise. He had become disenchanted with the public sector and, like Richard W. Duncan, he was deeply rooted in the agricultural heartland, hailing from Vincennes, St. David. Returning from UWI St. Augustine, Trinidad in 1984 with a B.Sc. in Management Studies, Antoine put both his ‘country’ experience and academic training to good effect, firstly

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at the Ministry of Agriculture, then with the Agency for Rural Transformation and the Grenada Cane Farmers Association, before joining the Development Bank in 1991. He brought valuable experience to GCBL in an area where the Bank acutely needed—loans recovery. Antoine became one of the pillars of the modern Bank, right up to his retirement in 2018. In his previous role, he had been at the forefront of strategic planning, possessed by an ability to implement projects from conceptualisation to completion with a meticulous eye for detail. He recalls the synchronicity of his arrival at Co-op Bank:

“Richard W. Duncan and Gordon V. Steele had just come back from a meeting of the Caribbean Association of Indigenous Banks where they met Dr. Basil Springer, St. Anthony (Tony) Proute and Freddie Harding, principals of a company called Systems Caribbean Ltd. They were charged with assisting the Bank in writing its first strategic plan. I had just come from the Development Bank where we had done a similar exercise with St. Anthony (Tony) Proute and Freddie Harding, so I had that experience and I was able to play a critical role in presenting some of the statistics, matters relating to the quality of credit portfolio and justifying the formation of the Recoveries Unit.

The Development Bank also did a transformative activity in relation to its operations with lead consultant Osbourne Nurse (of Trinidad’s First Citizens Bank). I was one of the leaders in the transformation of the Development Bank in terms of its systems, so I was able to draw on that experience in my new job and help Co-op Bank to modernise its processes and procedures, not just

in Recoveries, but to strengthen the Bank’s overall credit culture. Our thinking and documentation became forward-thinking and that made all the difference.”

Retreating to Advance

There’s resonance in the choice of location for the Strategic Planning Retreat of July 1997. Coyaba Beach Resort, established on the iconic Grand Anse beach in 1987 in the heart of the southwest tourist zone (which became a major contributor to GDP with the downturn in agriculture in the 1990s), took its name from the Arawak word for ‘heaven’ or ‘paradise’. So, it was fitting that an indigenous bank looking to re-invent itself and plan for its future should invoke the spirit of Grenada’s indigenous heritage as a foundation; innovation invigorates tradition, keeping it alive and relevant. In planning ahead, the Bank wanted to maintain its own tradition of betterment for all, which could be best achieved by adapting to the times, embracing the benefits of the Information Age, re-tooling and restructuring its operations and credit policies, and offering new financial products to its customers.

The retreat brought members of the new management team (MD Gordon V. Steele, Richard W. Duncan—Finance, Florence Williams—Credit, Leonard Jacques—Operations, Lethon Henry and Ann Williams—Branch Managers, Carlton Peter Antoine— Recoveries and Deanne Munroe—IT) together with the Systems Caribbean Ltd. consultants Dr. Basil Springer, St. Anthony (Tony) Proute and Freddie Harding to focus on clearly defined objectives, starting with building team spirit. Besides developing the new

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Above: The participants of the Strategic Retreat (1997).

Standing L-R: Dr. Basil Springer of Systems Caribbean Limited (SCL), Gordon V. Steele, Lethon Henry, Leonard Jacques, Carlton Peter Antoine, Richard W. Duncan, St. Anthony B. Proute.

Seated L-R: Raydeen Hunt (SCL), Ann Williams, Deanne Munroe, Florence Williams

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In the Boardroom (1997): L-R: Richard W. Duncan, Leonard Jacques, Gordon V. Steele, Dr. Basil Springer and St. Anthony B. Proute.

Mission Statement, which gave notice of the Bank’s commitment to becoming ‘the leader’, a SWOT review identified organisational strengths and weaknesses, and external opportunities and threats.

Among the weaknesses identified was the need to increasingly professionalise the staff through transparent recruitment policies, training programmes and on-the-job training. Management and administration required a better loans monitoring system, more adequate physical facilities and equipment, and thoroughly documented operating systems in order to successfully discharge its responsibilities. It was felt that the Bank back then was still slow in meeting changing needs, like access to foreign exchange services, or providing overdraft facilities and administering travellers’ cheques. Marketing was done not through a coherent plan, but with ad hoc promotion, the Bank had still a very limited product range and no automatic teller machines.

However, GCBL proposed to leverage its many strengths to remedy this situation: courteous and friendly staff; strategically located branches; low service charges; strong risk/asset, capital/asset and liquidity ratios; modern equipment and staff trained in the Access banking system, with the Bank already being a member of The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT). Most important in terms of marketing was the Bank’s reputation, customer base and number of shareholders, echoing the Russell Report’s vote of confidence that the Bank “could grow from its own operations”. There were plenty of opportunities for growing new business. An expanding young middle class and the

current fiscal order of indirect taxation meant more disposable income while the OECS single market, and deregulation in Europe and North America offered possibilities for new markets and products.

Most significant in all the discussion and planning that followed was the decision to switch from a product- and service-oriented to a customer-centric focus. Besides organisational restructuring, indepth analysis was needed to inform decisions about customer service requirements, innovative products and enhancing the public image of a customer-focused institution. While such long-term objectives like a fully integrated IT system, a comprehensive Human Resource development programme and increased profitability and market share were also registered, the retreat cemented a conviction that strategic planning was the way forward. And so it has been ever since, becoming an integral part of the modern Bank’s DNA. As Antoine observes:

“Every year after that first strategic plan, we rolled over the plan, so we got into an annual sequence of discipline: seeing where we were, what we needed to change. This is how we generated the projects for transformation.”

The conclusions reached at the retreat, and the first ten-year strategic plan which followed in 1998, provided a working blueprint, much like the Russell Report had done previously. But now there was a sense of urgency, it was time for action, and the Bank’s ‘New Brigade’ was raring to go. The changes that followed in the next decade or so would render the Penny Bank almost unrecognisable—except for its bond with the Grenadian people, a bond which grew rhizomes,

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horizontal ‘roots’ that blossomed into innovations.

The new ‘branches’ of the Penny Bank tree invigorated national development in education, health, sports and culture.


Of immediate concern in aligning itself with ECCB regulations was the issue of non-performing loans, which by 1997 represented 21% of the loans portfolio

and a sum of $20 million. Natural attrition, migration, natural disasters, fluctuating finances and the absence of a loan monitoring system had all contributed to this shortfall, but the ECCB required that NPLs be reduced to less than 10%. Based in Grenville, the full staff at the launch of the Recoveries Unit (March/April 1998) was Peter Antoine, Roger Duncan, Rupert Blache and Donna Charles. By 2001, the ECCB target had been reached. The Recoveries Unit was never disbanded; instead, the emphasis on recoveries was not as

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The Loan Recoveries Team: In the front are Rupert Blache, Lloydris Beggs and Carlton Peter Antoine, with Roger Duncan and Glen Canhigh standing behind.

robust until 2013, in the wake of the global economic meltdown of 2008, which is the story of the ‘Treaty of Tower Hive’ told later in this book.

Recoveries work could be stressful, so Peter Antoine used humour and psychology to inspire his team:

“I challenged Recovery Officers: ‘Our role is to fire ourselves!’ Recoveries work could be depressing, so we found a way to inspire ourselves and to develop people under our stewardship.”

His tactics succeeded and even with the stress, comic episodes contributed to team spirit and bonding as the Recoveries Unit made its way across the island in a green van. Antoine recalls one occasion:

“One time we went to a community in Birch Grove looking for a particular customer. We stopped the van and asked a man by the roadside, ‘Do you know where this person lives?’ He gave us directions, ‘Go up the road, and when you see those guys by the bridge up there, ask them.’

When we drove up and stopped and asked them, they said ‘But that was the man allyuh were just talking to!’”

Roger Duncan, another new recruit who had previous loan recovery experience with Courts and National Commercial Bank, laughingly remembers some unorthodox but effective tactics employed with his LRU team:

“Peter has always been a very strategic and tactful manager. The husbands/male partners in joint loan accounts that were delinquent, often never responded to our request to regularize their loans. So, we employed the tactic of calling the wife/ female partner who was party to their loan. There

was this one time, a husband failed to answer our calls, so we reached out to the wife who was party to the loan. We told her that her husband was not answering our calls in relation to paying off his loan. The wife was unaware that the loan was unpaid as she was always made to believe that he was servicing the loan as arranged. One day, she told him let’s go “make a lime” (a date) in Grenville. The husband was well delighted and made sure he dressed nicely and smelt good, only to discover to his surprise later on that his “lime” was with me at the Bank! By that evening it was a rather unhappy chap who bellowed “You could have told me we coming to the Bank.” To which his wife responded “So that I risk you looking any way different? I would not have done that.” We often employed new tactics as time was not on our side. We even visited the Court Registry to see who had applied for marriage licences. Surely this created business opportunities for the Bank, as such persons are candidates for consumer loans: apartment furnishings, wedding loan, debt consolidation, etc. but we were also particularly interested in obtaining updated residential addresses where the customer could be reached. There was one instance I could never have imagined, when I was lucky enough to catch up on two customers who were avoiding my calls. Yes, they were the pending bride and groom with a notice of Marriage affixed to the Court Registry Notice Board, and neither was aware of the other’s debt to the Bank! But there was a good conclusion—we assisted in the rehabilitation of

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their loans and the green loan recovery van was part of the wedding procession.”

Whatever the circumstances, Carlton Peter Antoine and the Recoveries Unit carried out their duties with compassion and respect, reflecting the Bank’s core values. Antoine remembers:

“We developed quite a reputation in the community. One of the philosophies we developed in terms of the culture was that Recoveries was everybody’s business, and that every customer, even delinquent customers, had to be treated with respect and dignity. We developed that as a mantra for doing our work and there are many customers who have lauded us for being very understanding. None of our customers wanted to beat us up! There was, however, one incident when a customer confronted Richard W. Duncan, then Manager Finance & Corporate, in Blue Danube Shop, Lowthers Lane in St. George’s, mistaking him for Peter Antoine who had tried to collect from him. Richard was able to deflect the impending planass by saying ‘You getting confused with the bald heads!’”

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Roger Duncan Carlton Peter Antoine

Date: August 1999

Location: Grenville

A-hunting We Will Go (Dramatisation)


On a bright August Monday morning, the Recovery Unit’s green van comfortably cruises the few miles to La Digue, passing schoolchildren in their freshly starched uniforms in Grand Bras. It soon pulls off the main road and navigates a potholed track lined with volcanic boulders up a steep slope.

Just below the wind-torn ridge above and partly hidden by trees, a wooden two-storey house perches on sturdy pillars. A decrepit blue Bedford truck languishes against a bristling hedge of brilliant purple, scarlet and mauve bougainvillea. Parking the van and scrambling up from the track Peter Antoine and Roger Duncan pause for breath, exchange a silent thumbs up and mount the steps to the house. By now the yard’s inhabitants have registered the strangers’ arrival. A sleepy-eyed Rottweiler shakes himself awake, barking frenziedly but fortunately restrained from leaping at them by a heavy chain. Goats stammer, ducks fluster and quack in waddling indignation.

So much for the element of surprise. Roger raises his hands in a wordless ‘Wha yuh go do?’ gesture but Peter, jaw set with determination, pounds on the door. In contrast to the commotion in the yard, the house remains utterly silent. The dauntless duo retreat down the steps and raise their voices over the animals, calling manfully on the owner to show

himself. A floral print curtain twitches above and then falls still. Roger winks at Peter, whispering for him to wait in front while he scopes out the back... nothing doing. After another round of useless ‘Good mornings’ and frustrated ‘We know yuh deys!’ Peter motions for Roger to follow him back to the van, talking loud enough for anyone to hear on the other side of the ridge. Roger revs the engine up to screaming point before driving back down the track, but only far enough to be hidden from the house by a convenient bend.

Now, like commandos on a covert mission, they creep and crawl their way back up. Fortune favours the brave, and by the time they reach, the Rottie has resumed his slumber, the goats ignore them and the ducks are preoccupied in the mud. The Recoveries Men take up position under the house, barely stifling their giggles. Ten minutes pass uneventfully; then twenty. Peter shoots Roger an admonitory glare when his stomach announces lunchtime, but still nothing and nobody is stirring above. On the point of resignation comes a shuffling and then muffled footsteps overhead. A door creaks open and the Recoveries Men jump out from under the house in time to catch a wary face peering over the half door. The face freezes in shock, and the delinquent is turned to stone. “And a wonderful Monday to you sir!” smiles Peter. “So good to see you again,” adds Roger for triumphant good measure.

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Date: July 2000

Location: Gouyave


We’ll Find a Way, Family (Dramatisation)

Clarry Joseph rests her weary iron-grey head on the worn wooden counter of her small parlour, which squats in the front of her yard in Gouyave. The uncaring storm clouds above weigh down on her heavy soul, mocking her loneliness and grief. It’s more than a year since ‘Shark’, her soulmate since childhood sweetheart days, has passed. Their children are big, all living abroad, making lives for themselves, so she doesn’t even have the consolation or company of ‘grands’.

A car horn raises her head. Through tear-clouded vision she makes out a small green van parked by her gate. Two smartlooking men emerge, consulting a clipboard. The older raises his hand in greeting; “Good morning, Madam, wonder if you can help us? We are looking for Mr. Ambrose Joseph.” At the mention of her beloved Shark, Clarry bursts into loud sobs, pulling her headscarf off to cover her embarrassment and to stifle her weeping. Consternation creases both the strangers’ faces. “Don’t cry, family, don’t cry now. Whappen? Can we help? Yuh feelin sick?” Wordless Clarry shakes her head, clasps her heaving bosom, and as her sobs subside, comforted by this stranger’s concern, she dabs away her tears and manages a tremulous, “Yuh really lookin fuh me Shark? Ah sorry, Mister, meh husband passed this last year self.”

Shock now registers on the strangers’ faces. “Oh gosh, Miss Lady, so sorry to hear that, so sorry fuh yuh loss. We didn’t know, we didn’t mean to upset yuh so,” stutters the younger. Clarry nods, and welcoming the opportunity to talk more about her dear departed, asks what it is they wanted with him. There’s an electric pause while the strangers exchange a brief glance. The older man gently asks if they can come in as they have something private to discuss. Clarry ties up her portly retriever, opens her gate and motions the men to follow her to a small house with peeling paint at the back of the yard.

Once seated on faded plastic chairs at the kitchen table, the men introduce themselves. “Now doh fret yuhself, Mrs. Joseph, we’re here to help, we go work tings out.” They’re from Co-op Bank and they’ve been trying to find Mr. Ambrose Joseph, as it seems he stopped making mortgage payments a while back, now they know why. Clarry slumps forward “Oh my crosses!” The younger man soothes her “Doh worry Mrs. Joseph, it’ll be alright you’ll see. We is family yes? We have tuh help each other. Doh cry no more, we come tuh help, not harass.” Clarry gives a half-brave smile. “The Good Lard save me an you for yuh kindness. Buh Ah never know bout dis mortgage ting—my Mr. Shark always insist house an bank is man business. He out dey driving bus and providing fuh we long years even after de sugar take him, so Ah never want tuh push meself in he business.”

“We unnerstan Mrs. Joseph, we unnerstan. Muss be hard now—yuh all alone?” Clarry nods despondently “All we chirren away.” “Well, hear what we go do. Doh worry wit no mortgage right now; yuh safe here in yuh own home. Maybe we can organise some company for you. Ah sure Mr. Joseph would want to see yuh busy and about and smiling again, not so?” Clarry nods gratefully, her eyes lighting up for the first time. “So we’ll see what we can organise and when yuh feelin better, we’ll visit again. Look, here’s my card, give me a call whenever you feel to.”

When they’re back in the van heading for Grenville, the Co-op Bank men exhale a mutual sigh, ruefully shaking their heads. “Whey boy, life hard when it ready,” one of them murmurs. “No way we can repossess that lady house, she come like me own gran, we cyar do she dat. We’ll find another way.”

“Agreed,” responds his colleague, “compassion is we business too an it’s people like Mr. an Mrs. Shark who made the Bank, they’re family. We’ll find a way.”

127 D ramatisation


Amongst all the internal changes within the Bank, and in line with the first strategic plan’s objective of a co-ordinated marketing plan, Rolf Hoschtialek was approached to create a new image for the new Bank. If you wanted to be seen you had to have a brand, so Rolf’s brief was rebranding the Penny Bank for the 21st century. Hoschtialek was another good fit for the new style of the Bank, a highly creative young mover and shaker with a passion for IT and a degree in Electronics, who had started his own advertising company, Concept Designs Inc., in his bedroom in the early 1990s. Hoschtialek was also already very familiar with GCBL, as he had been taken by his grandfather to open a savings account when he was five and had grown up in the same social circles as Gordon V. Steele, whose son was a good friend. He relates the story of his professional association with the Bank:

“One day in the late 1990s, Richard W. Duncan invited me to do a presentation to the Bank. One of the first things that Richard told me when we eventually signed a contract was, ‘Rolf, I know accounting, you know advertising. You do what you do well and I’ll do what I do well.’ I liked the confidence that was placed in me at the time. It was a strong note of professional respect from Richard W. Duncan in hiring us, a very small local team. The media for advertising back then was four or five radio stations, one TV station

and three newspapers. But the Bank had never advertised before. What may have happened was that when anything needed to be announced, they went to the three newspapers, took a quarter page, or had it announced on radio or television. But now, the Bank wanted to formalise some form of structured advertising. Serious bank advertising campaigns were coming out of Trinidad or Barbados, where there were branches of international advertising agencies. We were the local guys with the local Bank. What I hoped for was that we could take the Bank from nothing to a unified brand, so that the public would be able to recognise Co-op Bank with their eyes closed. We started an advertising department within the Bank, and success was almost immediate.”

The branding project astutely combined innovation and tradition, appealing to the existing base of customers by referencing the beehive logo and all its associations of thrift and industry, while re-positioning the Bank for a new generation of customers, corporate as well as individual, with the new sleekly designed version, whose colours evoked the Grenadian landscape. The logo had never previously been featured publicly, beyond use for stamping documents, or as a letterhead or on the cover of annual reports; it had largely remained under the radar much like the Penny Bank itself. The beehive was a potent symbol and since one of the first rules of marketing is that you can’t sell

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what people don’t know about and what they can’t see, launching the logo put the Bank directly in the public eye. The branding that introduced the new Bank on the foundations of the old emerged.

Of course, there were challenges, just as there were in all the other transformations happening with dizzying speed within the Bank. The old often resists change, as Hoschtialek explains:

“Standardising the Bank’s visual appearance was a lot harder than it actually looked! Gordon had given a certain level of autonomy to the two branches. I knew both Managers well, but they each had their own subcontractors. Even when it came to painting the Bank’s premises in the new colour scheme, they preferred to use their own subcontractors. I installed a modern, backlit plexi glass sign, and six months later there was a wooden sign up, looking like hell bent twice over, badly put up, halfway painted, wrong font.

This was a fight I had to fight over and over. So the sign painter would start off painting and realise he is running out of space, so you would see letters jamming up near the end. Or when we were repainting with the new colour scheme, it was ‘But Mr. Strickland’s been painting signs here forever. He had two cans of paint left over from last time.’ Never mind that this was a completely different green!”

It is telling that beside his professional pride in making the Bank a modern, colourful and immediately recognisable presence, Hoschtialek considers a series of large-format wall calendars that he produced from the late 1990s through to 2012 as one of his most significant projects for the Bank. “I’m proudest of

the calendars—historical, cultural, traditional. We celebrated the best of Grenada in those calendars. They were amazing works of talented creatives.” The calendars were ‘Knocky’s baby’; another stroke of inspiration from ‘the father’ of the modern GCBL. In transitioning, it was vital to retain the spirit of the Penny Bank, to incorporate its proud past with its achievements in its modern image, positioning it as part of, and contributor to, both national heritage and future development.

The calendars anticipated and led the way for the comprehensive community outreach initiatives that have given the Bank its commanding presence in Grenada’s public eye. At the threshold of the Digital Age, the wall calendars proved an incredibly successful marketing strategy, as Hoschtialek points out.

“Grenada is not a big digital market, it’s still a very simplistic market. Take my mother, she picks the best calendar for her kitchen wall. We’ve got 30,000 households in Grenada, so if you get 8,000 calendars into homes and another 2,000 in corporate settings, you have the most controlling presence in advertising. A calendar is a utilitarian device—it’s the single best form of advertising that exists in Grenada, particularly in the digital era. Nowadays, you’ve got so many moving visuals around you; you need to have one that still grabs. And a calendar is there 365 days of the year.”

Rebranding the Bank also included replacing the black and white annual reports with glossy, full colour, illustrated, reader-friendly magazine-type reports, which were a standard for about two decades in the financial industry, to be slowly replaced with digital-

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only reports, returning to the stark functionality of those documents of yesteryear. Hoschtialek experienced some nostalgia for the old Penny Bank and the Grenada of his childhood.

“I can look back at it now and understand both the pitfalls and the high points of the Bank’s growth. I think 50 years ago, the Bank was personalised. The deal is though, with the growth of a nation you’ve got to leave personalised, and you’ve got to have a strong, structured, corporate entity. That transition was absolutely necessary.”

Excellence Centre at Spiceland Mall

Heading into the new millennium, the Bank’s rate of development accelerated. ATMs were installed at all branches which, along with a ‘Teller Express Card’, did much to shorten the lines of people waiting in the branch to conduct transactions, taking advantage of time-saving technology instead. Grenada was becoming recognisably modernised and the Bank, fuelled by the drive of its new recruits, steered by the experienced hands of Gordon V. Steele, with the assistance of able navigators following strategic plans, hit the highway to the future.

When Spiceland Mall opened in 2000, opposite the St. George’s University campus in Grand Anse, GCBL was fast off the mark in opening the first business in the mall. Cynthia Davidson, drafted in from Barclays, became the inaugural manager of the purpose-built, cheerfully designed Spiceland Mall branch.

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Photo: Reynaldo Bernard

2018 Opening of the Expanded Spiceland Mall Branch

Row, left to right: Ava Jeremiah-Horsford, Jenelle Antoine, Pauline Simon-Douglas, Krystle Simon, Summer Jackson, Jimmy Best. Back row cluster: Annica Francis-Flemming, Kelon Bubb, Nicklon Mitchell, Ebernie Whyte-Best, Roxanne Brathwaite-Holder, Gisella Thomas, Marquez McSween (Sales & Service Manager), Kevin Noel, Donnel Hackett, Paulette Aban-Geness, Alec Patrice, Dunbar James, Yusuf Stafford, Herschel Whiteman.


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Prime Minister Dr. the Rt. Hon. Keith Mitchell delivers opening remarks and is being shown the new branch by Ava Jeremiah-Horsford, Customer Service Ambassador. In the background are Richard W. Duncan and Ambrose Phillip. Hilda Stephen (Customer) cuts the ribbon. Looking on in the background are: Prime Minister Dr. the Rt. Hon. Keith Mitchell, Chairman Ambrose Phillip, Managing Director Richard W. Duncan, Petal Duncan and Directors Lisa Taylor and Derick Steele. Front modern, customer-friendly interior of Spiceland Mall branch.

The First Staff members of Spiceland Mall Branch (2000)

Seated L to R: Karen Brizan, Roxanna John, Gillian Bourne-Gilkes

Standing L to R: Charmie Shears, Rina St. Bernard, Kellon Passee, Cynthia Davidson (Branch Manager), Monica Murray

This fourth branch gave the rebranded Bank a highprofile presence at the centre of the new economic hub, servicing both St. George’s University and tourism development, services that would assume the position of economic mainstay, formerly held by agriculture. Visibility and accessibility were instantaneous. For customers in the south there was adequate parking, something that was at a premium in St. George’s. The new branch made a further statement as “Wall Street”, or the “Banker’s Row” with branches of the foreignowned banks was called in the local parlance, was right opposite Spiceland Mall across the playing field in Morne Rouge. For tourists, construction workers, SGU students (students and staff, including the Veterinary School, number over 3,200 now) and others who would flock to the mall for shopping, lunch or coffee, the Bank was a boon. We can just imagine W.E. Julien smiling on the other side—“It’ll be good for everyone.”

Purchasing the Land for Future Tower Hive

The Spiceland Mall branch demonstrated that adaptability and an eye for economic opportunity were integral to the modern Bank’s DNA, but there was still the matter of inadequate physical facilities, specifically those at 8-10 Church Street in St. George’s.

Increasing staff numbers and new equipment were straining the capacity of a building constructed for a former era. The Bank took the decision in 2001 to purchase ‘The Gables’, a property at 14 Church Street on the junction with Simmons Alley, where the British High Commission once stood, as the site for a new headquarters. It was hoped that this move would give the Bank a more prominent presence in the capital, reflecting its determination to be a leader, but also reaffirming its pride in Grenada’s heritage. Gordon V. Steele explained:

“As the country’s only indigenous bank, we pride ourselves on wanting to construct a facility that will meet the approval and admiration of the Grenadian people, by enhancing the streetscape of Church Street and uplifting the Georgian architecture of the town of St. George’s.”

The architectural design for Tower Hive—and indeed its name (the Penny Bank’s beehive, now elevated to ‘tower’ status)—combined tradition and sensitivity to the existing, beautifully built environment of St. George’s, with ambitious modernity and excellence. At a time when “click” increasingly replaced “brick”, Tower Hive became the physical manifestation of the modern GCBL’s ethos. Constructed in traditional red brick, it is in a category all by itself when compared to the look of the other banks in the capital, which conflicts with the harmony of the dominant architectural tone, respecting neither location nor history.

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Of course, there were obstacles and complications, from economic downturns to a court case over construction. The Building & Loan Association, located between 8-10 Church Street and the Gables site at 12 Church Street, had a concern that the construction of Tower Hive would compromise its own building’s structural integrity, and the matter ended up in court. To complicate matters, it emerged that the Chairman of GCBL, the legal advisor to the Bank, and the Chairman of the Building & Loan Association were no trinity but one solitary man! Cosmo St. Bernard, Senior Partner in Lewis & Renwick, was at the centre of this conundrum, which was resolved by his retiring as GCBL’s Chairman. St. Bernard had been elected as Chairman in 2000, succeeding George O. Williams who died in office after 24 years’ service. After Derick Steele succeeded Cosmo St. Bernard as Chairman of the Board in 2009, attorneyat-law Lisa Taylor was appointed as the Bank’s first female Director in 2010, another welcome indication of moving with the times.

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Cosmo St. Bernard 2000–2010 Ambrose Phillip 2017–2019 Derick Steele 2010–2017 Darryl Brathwaite 2019 to Present Chairmen 2000–2022 Lisa Taylor GCBL’s first female Director

Satisfied Customers

James Nicholas

Southern Fishermen Inc.

As it developed its modern brand, the Bank continued its Penny Bank policy of providing loans to those no other bank would entertain, following the mantra of ‘believing in your people’.

A case in point is James Nicholas, born a year after the Bank was founded, who had been taken as a 10-year-old by his grandmother to open a Co-op Bank account. Returning to Grenada in 1988 after a career abroad in engineering, Nicholas got involved with the Southern Fishermen Association (SFA) and was encouraged by George Brizan, then Minister of Agriculture, to set up similar associations throughout Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique. When the SFA was incorporated, James Nicholas began the rounds of banks, seeking funding for a business that would buy from the fishing associations and then market produce locally and internationally. He recalls the wall into which he ran headfirst:

“In the process of trying to find funds for this company, I went to every bank in St. George’s, including the Grenada Development Bank. Everyone gave me the same answer: ‘We’re not doing business

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Photo: Reynaldo Bernard

with fishermen’. I threw up my hands and said ‘I’m giving up!’ It was very humiliating for me. It was a time when Knocky was starting to play golf, and one Saturday when we had a game together, I thought I’d just mention it to him. He said, ‘Come and see me Monday morning.’ Of course, I went to see him on Monday morning, and he put me in touch with his Chief Loans Officer Denby De Freitas, and that’s when the relationship started. I presented them with a 5-year plan for the company, which they reviewed. About a week later I got a call, and my loan was approved. In fact, instead of the $125,000 I had asked for to start that concern, I got a cheque for $180,000. The Loans Manager said, ‘If you’re going to be running a fish business, you’ll need money to buy fish. The excess is to buy fish.’ The business was largely export (big tuna), but we also sold locally. The start-up wasn’t without its problems; it wasn’t all plain sailing. It was very risky—one of the most high-risk industries in the world.

From then I never discussed business with Mr. Steele, we were just friends and left banking and business out of it. Everything professional was handled through the Loans Managers, although I am sure Knocky was always aware of what was going on.”

It’s significant that as the modern Bank re-shaped itself in the new millennium, it retained its personal touch, embodied in the now legendary figure of the late Gordon V. Steele. As Nicholas says:

“Knocky would be recognised in any area that he went. He would go in nooks and crannies that I’d never heard of. He was well known and

Satisfied Customers

a salesman for the Bank. I’d be out with him and people would come up to him ‘Mr. Steele, remember me? You’re the best person I’ve ever met. You’ve done so and so for me.’”

What Nicholas says about Knocky has been endlessly endorsed. He touched so many people’s lives, and personally remembered many of them when they met again. Part of Gordon V. Steele’s motivation was his joy in helping others, as another Floyd Dowden anecdote illustrates:

“When I was Head of IT, we hired a young man who obviously was not ready to work in an IT environment. When I told Mr. Steele that it was not working out with him, he asked me where else in the Bank we could put him. I said I didn’t know. So he asked the other supervisors if anyone was willing to give the young man a try. When no one seemed interested, he said, ‘Floyd, we can’t just take a bread out of a young man’s mouth and send him back on the street.’ He then instructed that the guy be paid the balance of his pay for his probation period, which was three months’ pay, and directed me to find a suitable replacement. He said to me, ‘Now at least he has three months to get a new job and is not broke while he searches.’”

Agnes & Raleigh Monteram Proprietors Ambakaila Agri-products and Local Crafts

The story of Ambakaila and the husband-andwife team who made it happen is both humbling and inspiring, a leaf directly from the pages of the Penny

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Satisfied Customers

Bank, re-written for the 21st century. Amid all the glowing success of the modern Bank, a force to be reckoned with in regional banking, here’s a story with strong hints of a folk tale, that recalls the Bank’s roots. Ambakaila is a manifestation of fortitude and determination and the Bank’s commitment to better the lives of those with nothing to inherit except the fruits of their own industry and thrift. GCBL loans and the

Monterams’ persevering efforts have taken them from the dark valley of poverty to the heights of their own property, a business that has funded raising a family of ten and given many visitors a unique introduction to the bounties of Grenada, its arts, crafts, cuisine and culture. They’ve seen good times and plenty hard times, but remain smiling, stoical and eternally grateful.

We’ll let Agnes and Raleigh tell it like it is:

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Raleigh and Agnes Monteram Photo: Reynaldo Bernard

Raleigh: “Ambakaila was begun in 1994 and has been in operation since 1995. Ambakaila means ‘Under the house’ in Patois and we gave it that name because of our beginnings. We come from a very poverty-stricken family. We born and grow here in Constantine. We started across the street with a small wooden structure. We were the first people here in this area to start this kind of tourism on this level. We begin with our food products as we didn’t have the money to invest.”

Agnes: “We started from nothing and we did went to the Bank for assistance. We went to Coop Bank and first we were turned down. We went to other financial institutions and were turned down. So we come back and started saving, saving. We open a savings account with Co-op and the business start expanding.

“We took the first loan to build the premises on this side of the road. We purchased the land this side from the savings we made on the land where we started. That land was given to us for our own labour. We were working that 70-acre estate and looking after it. They were going to give us an acre but then they gave us half an acre, but we were happy, we were contented. We had a lot of challenge on that side there, the person who purchased it didn’t want to give us the half-acre. We had to pay a lawyer $30,000 and the case was 14 years in court.

“We have arts and crafts and agro-processing products like jams and jellies. A lot of people in the same field we help them, they have different products and we sell them, so a lot of people depending on us. They sell to us and we buy,

Satisfied Customers

Some of Ambakaila’s adorable and nostalgic craft items, made by local artisans for the tourism market, but also cherished by many Grenadians at home and abroad.

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Photos: Simon Lee

Satisfied Customers

sometimes we get losses sometimes we make, that’s business.”

Agnes remembers the many small steps it took to get started:

“I used to be on the street, by the junction there. When the tourist car stopping and they get out to take a photo, we would be there with our little home-made spice basket and thing. But I did not understand the way the tourist market was going at the time. I didn’t understand that there was a tourist season and an off season. However, when I get to understand it I say okay, but I can’t be running on the street, so I’ll put up a small structure with a counter. But when they come, they coming on this side and I did not like that. I wanted them to come inside and choose what they want, but I could not do it over there, it was very small.”

But “one one cocoa full basket”—perseverance and determination lead to success, and the Monterams slowly but surely expanded, as Agnes explains:

“We decided to open up a bigger building and when people come we give them a nice demonstration, we tell them everything about the spices on the island as far as we know: what it good for, what you do with it, how you export it etc. We sell plants, most of the plants have medicinal purposes. We sell Wonder Rub made from soft candle and essential oils, a little palm oil, which is good in the COVID time, very good for body pains. We’ve had many testimonials— good for rashes and bruises and open wounds.

“We have baskets, local clothes, pictures—all of that. When we started we had to make everything

ourselves: the spice basket, the clothes basket. But when we get busy we bought the hats, baskets etc. from others. The sales depend on the season and number of tourists. When there’s a downturn in the economy there’s a downturn for us too. We survived Ivan and there was a serious recession after 2008. We survive the hard times by putting away something. We didn’t have a business plan, you have to pay the bills, buy stock and save.”

A good Caribbean banker, Gordon V. Steele knew that grass-roots people like the Monterams can be utterly relied upon to pay back their micro-business loans, and he took the time to personally check out Ambakaila’s collateral. And according to Agnes, the Good Lord above also had a hand in their success:

“Mr. Steele came and saw the place, he realised we knew what we were doing and approved a next loan. They trusted us, we always make our loan payments in time or advance, we established a very good reputation with them and getting funds was not a problem, a loan could always be added on to an existing loan.

“The thing about this business here, the success, I’ll speak from a divine point of view, we would never been able to achieve this without Almighty God. Where we came from we would never have dreamt of owning this property, it had to be divine intervention. We never had any assistance from the tourist authority, whatever we do here was done with our own initiative and divine intervention. We established this by the way we establish a relationship with the taxi drivers and tour operators. So when people come and they come to the counter, they get a taste, smell

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Satisfied Customers

everything, they can pick up what they want. The drivers now, when they come we give them a free juice drink and at the end of every year we give them a gift package as an incentive. It’s good for everyone—for us, the taxi drivers, tour operators and the tourists get a real Grenadian experience. Most of them are repeaters and when they go home they tell their friends. The hotels come to recognise what we’re doing and send groups.”

Once you believe in your people, unimaginable things are possible. The Ambakaila folk tale potently symbolises W.E. Julien’s prediction that the Bank will be good for everyone, and the Monterams are well aware of the role the Bank played in their success:

“We thank them for that, we respect them for that, they did take us out of the deep waters. The Bank is doing very well, it has all the resources and modern technology and recently was able to purchase FCIB, which is a plus. A very progressive Bank—and we commend them for that.”

Keith Clouden Farmer

Keith Clouden is a third-generation Bank customer, a son of sea and soil, whose family story is woven both into the Bank’s history and Grenadian development.

For someone who served in the Senate from 2003–2018, representing farmers and fisherfolk, he modestly introduces himself as a “full-time farmer who cultivates vegetables, fruits and root crops in the parish of St. David on a 5-acre plot, very flat, so I can use machinery.”

He traces his relationship with the Bank:

“I’m proud to have been a Grenada Co-op Bank customer for over 40 years. Banking with them has been a long tradition in my family, starting with my grandfather and father, who both operated schooners plying trade between Grenada and Trinidad. And because of the fruitful relationship they had with the Bank, I was encouraged to follow in their footsteps. Also, it is the only indigenous bank and has a good track record of serving primarily the lower- and middle-income people in the country. Over the years, I have developed and maintained a good relationship with the Bank by complying with its policies and regulations.

“In difficult times during crop and income losses as a result of challenges such as extreme weather conditions, pests and diseases, the Bank would readily respond by providing some form of relief through moratorium and overdraft facilities so that I could continue my farming operations... I recall on one occasion, when I needed some funds urgently and could not have gone through the regular application process, I was facilitated by a senior officer, Miss Osbourne, and was able to get the funds promptly. I just explained my predicament to her, and the Bank was so responsive to small business people that even then and there I was promptly able to get a small loan.”

From the same generation and roots as the technocrats of the rebranded Bank, Clouden’s life experience resonates with a similar commitment to national development:

“My grandfather went as far as British Guiana, from Carriacou. You see the other half of my family is from the land on my mother’s side, so I

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have in me both a marine base and a land base, and I’ve gravitated to the land base. I travelled with my father on the schooner from time to time, on school recess when I was a little boy. But in terms of getting involved in farming, my mother’s family, the Forresters—that’s a big name in the countryside, Paraclete on the St. Andrew side— they had estates, a lot of land. But then I travelled and I studied Community Development in Canada, I realised that community development by itself does not really help to promote and build sustainable communities. What came to my mind was to combine that community development with agriculture, so that when I go in to work with groups and organisations in various communities, some of them what you call disadvantaged, I would be in a position to practically assist them in becoming more independent by fostering entrepreneurship.

“After I got my diploma in Ottawa I travelled to St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands and worked with a community development organisation there. While there, I enrolled in an agriculture programme at the University of the Virgin Islands. I didn’t complete it, because the Revolution took place here in Grenada, and a couple of friends said ‘Come down and let’s get the country developed’. I thought, well, I had a little bit of knowledge of agriculture, I’ll develop the rest at home, which I did.”

Opposite: Keith Clouden, Farmer, third-generation customer for 40 years Satisfied Customers

Forty years on, Clouden is still developing his expertise in agriculture, and plans to focus on soursop cultivation to serve a potential niche market at a time when wellness and healthy eating have become boom industries. His view of GCBL’s development comes from a long-standing relationship with the institution:

“I have to give them the credit that from mainly servicing lower- to middle-income customers, they’ve evolved into an institution that is now level with any of the big institutions. That is really important, because the Penny Bank started with a penny and today the service they provide is second to none, yet they still maintain that small man image. In other words, the average man still sees Co-op Bank as the Penny Bank, but they have over a billion dollars in assets. Richard W. Duncan and his colleagues are just ordinary, regular guys. When they needed to finance Tower Hive, they put out bonds and they got more than they needed. If they needed $12 million in bonds I think they got $18 or $20 million. So that shows the confidence. Training is an integral part of that Bank, so their personnel are competent, they don’t have a high turnover, which contributes to the stability. Today, the Co-op Bank also recognises its corporate responsibility and they sponsor a lot of activities, educational, cultural, sporting, health, scholarships. They’ve even developed an educational scholarship programme. That Bank has grown in a holistic way; there’s no bank in Grenada which has a portfolio like Co-op Bank.”

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Photo: Reynaldo Bernard

Investing in the National Family

By the time the Corporate Plan 2002–2010 was released, transition was in full swing. Gordon V. Steele assumed the position of CEO, delegating some of the operational roles that he had previously filled to the heads of Finance and Corporate Affairs, Human Resources, Marketing and Internal Audit. Some senior staff had commenced formal Banking Studies and a new ‘Core Director’ banking system was due for installation in November 2002. Despite an overall decline in economic growth in the wake of 9/11 and a fall in tourist arrivals, the Bank continued to prosper, with pre-tax profits of $1.9 million recorded for 2001.

As internal restructuring continued apace, externally the Bank increased its visibility and relevance in the national community. Spiceland Mall and rebranding had presented the new face of GCBL attuned to the challenges of the millennium, and a series of community outreach programmes and projects ensured that the Bank remained relevant to, and in touch with, a new generation of Grenadians. Engaging with the national community also fitted well with the new policy of creating value for customers.

Having reinvented itself as a fully commercial, modern bank, GCBL now focused on investing in fundamental aspects of national development, something Richard W. Duncan regarded as a “profound social and moral obligation”. Holding pride of place as the sole indigenous bank, it intended to serve all



Grenadians. This was a win-win scenario: the Bank’s rapidly increasing success was reinvested in Grenada, creating momentum and enlarging the Bank’s capital base.

In collaboration with a Chamber of Commerce initiative, the Bank sponsored bus shelters, while a programme of restoring historic landmarks highlighted

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A proud achievement: Managing Director Gordon V. Steele proudly holding the first of consecutive Corporate Citizen” awards by the ECCB

commitment to heritage and environment. In 2001, 2002 and 2003, Co-op Bank was awarded ‘Best Corporate Citizen for Environmental Protection’ by the ECCB.

In collaboration with the Grenada Bar Association, Co-op Bank sponsored the Sir Archibald Nedd Distinguished Lecture series featuring leading Caribbean literary and academic minds for “stimulating minds, enlightening the public”—and another “contribution to national development”, as Gordon V. Steele commented.

The Bank-sponsored University of the West Indies School of Continuing Studies conference in January 2002 resulted in the establishment of the Julien Fédon Memorial Prize “to encourage ongoing quality research on the history of Grenada in the Eastern Caribbean”. This initiative, proposed by UWI historian Dr. Curtis Jacobs and the Institute for People’s Enlightenment (of which Peter Antoine was a leading member), was further tangible evidence of the Bank actively encouraging and supporting pride and knowledge of Grenadian history. Similarly, the Bank sponsored the 2003 launch of Dr. Beverley Steele’s Grenada—AHistory of its People, a definitive social history, and donated 50 copies to school and community libraries.

Besides heritage preservation, the Bank’s corporate social responsibility also focused on education and family issues. Sponsoring the highly successful Community Channel TV programme Kids in Action showed the Bank’s concern for nurturing the generation of the future. There was also a very popular radio drama series, In This Home, which encouraged Grenadians to save for their children’s education. A broad range of further sponsorships anchored the Bank in both the

Thelma Marshall, resident of Saab, cuts the ribbon to inaugurate a Bank-sponsored bus shelter in Saab, St. Andrew. Looking on are: Ann Williams, Manager, Grenville Branch; Hon. Alleyne Walker, Parliamentary Representative for St. Andrew North West; Laurina Waldron, Director of the “Every Child and School Programme”; Nigel John, President of Grenada Chamber of Industry & Commerce; Christopher De Riggs, Executive Director of Grenada Chamber of Industry & Commerce; Carla Wilson and Roger Duncan of Co-op Bank; and Pastor Joseph Raeburn, Pastor of the Mirabeau Pentecostal Church.

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Richard W. Duncan (right) presents a copy of Dr. Beverley Steele’s book “Grenada—A History of its People” to Ms. Lillian Sylvester, Director of Library Services, Grenada (2003)

Dr. Arlette Herry, customer and faculty member of St. George’s University, cuts the ribbon to launch the first Connex ATM on the campus. Looking on are Richard Medford and Roger Duncan of Co-op Bank and Joshua Yetman, Associate Director of Communications, St. George’s University (2019).

Grenadian psyche and the push for progress. Some of the many initiatives included: the Run St. Patrick’s Road Race, Spice Jazz Festival, Junior Achievement, GRENCODA’s Student Assistance programme, The Grenada Union of Teachers Primary Schools Athletics Championship St. Andrew, the Grenada Workboat Regatta, the Grenada Drum Festival and Richardo Keens-Douglas’ musical production A Ya Yai Ivan.

The Credit Union CONNEX-ion

Moving into commercial bank mode offering multiple services, the Bank did not lose sight of its beginnings. Recognising that credit unions had assumed its former role of easy credit access and sharing the common developmental goal of financially empowering all Grenadians, the Bank approached the credit union movement, offering use of its ATM network. Lucia Livingston-Andall, CEO of what is now Ariza Credit Union (which began in 1947 as the Civil Service CU, became the Public Service CU before rebranding as Ariza in 2016), explains the partnership forged between GCBL and the credit unions:

“The relationship was greatly propelled by the fact that Richard W. Duncan was a past executive of the Public Service Credit Union and familiar with the credit union philosophy. He saw an opportunity whereby the two organisations could come together to fulfil our common purpose—empowering Grenadians financially. In 2002/3, the management of Co-op Bank made an approach to the credit union movement to provide ATM services to the membership of the credit unions. At that time, the offer was made to

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Photos: Reynaldo Bernard

all the credit unions, but only the Public Service Credit Union took up the offer and introduced ATM services in 2005. Co-op Bank provides the technology, and the credit unions pay the Bank for that linkage. This arrangement subsequently grew for many years afterwards to include the Communal and the Grenada Union of Teachers credit unions. PSCU also purchased ATMs.”

The core operating system to operate the Bank’s ATM network and to link it to the credit unions is facilitated by Connex. As the system moved from just an automatic teller machine to include debit card services and then credit card services, the Bank became the connection for the credit unions to Visa through the Caribbean Credit Card Corporation. Today, the Connex network is a privately registered company owned by Grenada Co-operative Bank Limited, Ariza Credit Union and Caribbean Credit Card Corporation in St. Kitts.

Riding Storms, Streamlining Customer Service and Launching in Carriacou and Cyberspace

Gordon V. Steele’s New Year message to staff in December 2003 now rings prophetically:

“GCBL’s future will be about how to succeed... not just survive. We will continue to build and strengthen this organisation as a national icon of Grenadian fortitude and determination.”

Within nine months, the island would need to call on all its reserves of fortitude when Hurricane Ivan struck, killing 41, destroying 90% of housing, wiping out infrastructure and agriculture and causing overall

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Head Office and Main Branch at No. 8 Church Street: roof damage after Hurricane Ivan (2004). Sherry Ellis-Farrier helps to organise relief goods. Clinical Psychologist Dr. Oluwakemi M. Linda Banks, counsels children of staff members.

damage to the tune of $850 million. Once again, the Bank emerged relatively unscathed, maintaining momentum and steep trajectory, as it continued to do so after Hurricane Emily in July 2005.

By this time, marketing strategies had been so successful that despite the ATMs, all branches were struggling to handle the volume of customer traffic; lines were long and slow, mutterings hit the press: “The Bank is too slow!”

Ernst & Young and Alpha Corporate Services were called in to assist with RAACE (Re-engineered Attitude and Approaches to Customer Experience), which would provide the policies and procedures to deliver on the forthcoming Customer Service Charter. If strategic planning on all fronts was the dynamic driving accelerated development, then customer service was the frontline, the crucial interface with the public. As the business model of the Information Age, notably in online sales, had conclusively proven, once you gave customers what they wanted your business would succeed—a simple case of demand and supply. But however necessary or desirable your product, it had to be delivered in a timely fashion, otherwise you would be left behind in a highly competitive environment.

The customers standing in line waiting for a teller would not be concerned with abstracts like overall profit, increased assets or loans market share, they wanted service. As Floyd Dowden points out:

“Banks all do the same thing, they take your money and lend me. At the end of it, how I get treated is what makes me go back to a bank. Your rates might be a little better, but if you go and there’s a problem to get your money and the service is bad, for a few extra cents it’s not worth it, I’ll go

to a place that’s going to treat me good. I think people actually gravitated to the Bank when they saw it move from what it was—the little Penny Bank down the street, to this bank which was just expanding by leaps and bounds, going all out for customer service, reaching out to customers, bending over backwards when customers had issues. I think that really propelled us to having the kind of patronage we have in Grenada today.”

Customer service was, is, and will always be a work in progress, a continuous process of adapting and responding to changing conditions. Consequently, ongoing analysis was an essential element of strategic planning.

“We were always collecting surveys, always asking customers, comparing notes...We actually took those surveys very, very seriously; mapped them, channelled them, looked at the trends, saw where we needed to do things differently, what the complaints were. I think that is what really helped us, in terms of our service delivery.”

In terms of public access to available services, and leveraging the increased visibility offered by the internet, on October 26, 2006 GCBL entered cyberspace with the launch of its official website. The Penny Bank had transitioned into an Information Age financial institution, harnessing its highly trained professional human resources, the science and sociology of banking along with the latest technology to establish a global presence.

Its increasing confidence and forward momentum in the face of unfavourable economic conditions led to re-financing the hurricane-damaged Coyaba Beach Resort in 2006 in collaboration with the Eastern

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Staff actively engaged in problem solution and team building exercises. Jael Hood

and Garvin Baptiste (R) lead.

Project RAACE (Re-engineered Attitude and Approaches to Customer Experience) (2005)

(L) Feature Speaker, Grenadian born Ms. Sharon Christopher, Deputy CEO, First Citizens, Trinidad & Tobago at the launch of Co-op Bank’s Customer Service Charter (2008). Project RAACE launch day workshop: Claudia De Allie passionately expounds an important point.
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Project RAACE launch day: Staff held in rapt attention to keynote speaker, Sharon Christopher

Re-financing the hurricane-damaged Coyaba Beach Resort in collaboration with the Eastern Caribbean Investment Corporation. L-R: Andre Cherman (Managing Director of Anric Ltd. trading as Coyaba Beach Resort); Hazel Highland (Managing Director of Caribbean Financial Services Corporation; Milton Lawrence (Managing Director of Eastern Caribbean Financial Services Corporation) and Richard W. Duncan (2006).

Caribbean Investment Corporation, and then further expansion with the opening of the Carriacou branch in July 2007, on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the Bank’s founding.

The Hillsborough branch in Carriacou completed the cycle of expansion begun in the 1970s, so that now GCBL fully embraced the entire national family. In fact, the Bank was to play a significant role in holistic development for Carriacou. Establishing a presence in Carriacou was a comprehensive exercise in strategic planning, from conceptualisation to implementation, as Richard W. Duncan explains:

“For Carriacou, we developed a brief that more or less mapped the way we were going to enter and we titled that brief ‘The Coupé brief’—the Coupé being the lead drum (in the Big Drum ensemble) so we understood that cultural nuance and the

importance of it. ‘The Coupé brief’—dancing to the rhythms’. If you’re going into Carriacou, the whole idea is you have to understand the people, understand the culture and the moves you’re going to make in that market have to be consistent with what obtains... Carriacou culturally unique.”

Shane Regis of Mt. Moritz, who had been with the Bank since 1994 and is currently Sales & Service Manager, Grenville, was delegated to supervise the start-up, which was a successful exercise in strategic planning. He recalls:

“The Bank had done its research before opening. It produced a document called the Coupé brief, which contained information on the culture up there...what you could and couldn’t do. The Bank did well, it surveyed the market there, understood the market, understood the nuances of the people and their culture. We had identified ‘movers and shakers’, persons of influence in the community. They would have gone out and brought back information and we would have strategised. The meetings with movers and shakers were very helpful to us, they told us exactly what was needed and how we should conduct ourselves in Carriacou. It’s a very small society, so whatever you do can affect the brand, especially with me being an outsider.”

Floyd Dowden remembers:

“When we entered Carriacou, we knew how to dance to the beat of the Coupé. As then Manager of Banking Operations, I had to visit Carriacou every week, for six months, as part of our commitment to overseeing and ensuring

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a successful startup. On one such visit, as soon as the Osprey pulled into Hillsborough, I got a call from Mr. Steele. ‘Floydy, you reach Carriacou yet?’ ‘Yes Boss, just pulling in,’ I replied. ‘Hear this’, he said, ‘someone died in Carriacou this morning. So before you even go to the Bank, go to the supermarket, buy two bottles of Johnnie Walker Black and you and Shane find the house of the deceased and deliver one bottle each and spend some time with the bereaved family.’ So we did, and Shane and I spent the entire day with the family. I returned to the Osprey at 3:30 for the return trip to Grenada. Mr. Steele later told me, ‘That’s how culture dictates actions.’ I learnt a lesson then.”

Shane Regis talks about the application of the science and sociology of banking, which had immediate effects: “When we went up to Carriacou, people wanted options and we had a significant impact. You could see the interest of the people wanting to do business with Co-op Bank. We had lines to open accounts in the first few weeks, people transferred from the other two banks to come across to our Bank; they wanted to support an indigenous bank and were frustrated with treatment at the foreign-owned banks. There also were customers coming to access our credit facilities. We were accommodating, and we still are! We pride ourselves on customer service and we want our customers to have a quality experience when they come to Co-op Bank.”

A major achievement was providing employment for Carriacouans. All six staff were locals who had little or no prior experience with working in a bank.

“That was good from a strategic point of view. Importantly, the Carriacou employees came from all over the island, so we had a growing network throughout the island and a cadre of persons who could provide information and influence in all the different geographic areas.”

Providing employment, both directly and indirectly, must be counted as one of the Bank’s many achievements. In the early days, when staff numbers were small, many Grenadians were employed in businesses owned by Bank founders and Directors (W.E. Julien, T.E. Noble Smith, Arnold Williamson, S.A. Francis, The Sugar Factory) and on their estates (P.G. Hosten, J.B. Renwick, J.R. Phillip). In the era of the modern Bank with its staff of approximately 250, this is a significant contribution, benefitting employees, their families and national development.

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Gordon V. Steele and Shane Regis, who oversaw the start-up of Carriacou branch, toast to the successful opening.

Richard W. Duncan joins the dance performance at the launch.

A happy Gordon V. Steele on the first day of business at Hillsborough Branch (2007)

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L to R: Carlton Peter Antoine, Leopold Cromwell (businessman and customer of the Bank) and Richard W. Duncan at Lauriston Airport in Carriacou, preparing for the branch refurbishment (2006) The branch under construction.
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Hillsborough Branch, Carriacou, today. Photos: Reynaldo Bernard

The Regional Financial Scene in Uproar

The Caribbean is no stranger to earthquakes, but the ones that symbolically ripped through the Eastern Caribbean’s financial sector in the first decade of the 21st century were of a different kind. The most pronounced were in Anguilla and Antigua in the north; and Grenada in the south.

Uproar in the financial sector is never a good thing when it comes to depositors’ funds—creating uncertainty among the public, losses for depositors and shareholders; and costs for taxpayers.

In Grenada in 2000, an offshore bank, First International Bank (FIB), collapsed amid the loss of US$170 million in deposits. The Ponzi scheme crumbled and 17 banks associated with FIB were closed in March 2001. This was the outcome of ineffective regulations and regulators. Notoriously, FIB was granted a licence to operate on the strength of its capital, being the value of a photographed ruby.

On the domestic banking front, even more disruptive was the collapse of the Capital Bank International (CapBank) in Grenada. In the late 1980s, Finton De Bourg, businessman and the CapBank’s sponsor, obtained a licence to operate a bank, which he never did for some years though he paid the annual licence fee. When De Bourg attempted to commission CapBank, the 1994 Banking Act was in effect. De Bourg’s application under the 1994 Banking Act had come into effect. His application under the Act failed ECCB’s assessment and they advised against granting

Identifying Dirty Money and Meeting Global Banking Standards

One of the negative fallouts from the Information Age and its instantaneous connectivity was a drastic rise in money laundering—the conversion of funds from a range of illegal activities into legitimate businesses and shell companies. Sadly, since the 1980s, the Eastern Caribbean has been a major jump off point in the transshipment of illegal drugs from Colombia, Venezuela and other South American states to North America and Europe. Drug money has financed political corruption and gang warfare throughout the Caribbean and South America, and the safest place to hide illegal funds used to be a bona-fide, unsuspecting bank.

A raft of anti-money laundering legislation was enacted from the early 1990s, resulting in the stringent application of international banking procedures for detection and deterrence. In 2000, the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force noted ‘serious deficiencies’ in anti-money laundering operations.

The Bank took its obligations seriously, and its track record remained unblemished, gaining a favourable ECCB rating for its money-laundering risk management in 2002, the year in which the Bank had compiled a training manual for its staff as part of a series of efforts to address the issue of money laundering. In May 2003, the Bank organised a risk management workshop with the Caribbean Anti-Money Laundering Programme, and remained confident that it was able to keep “dirty money” out of its business.

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the licence. However, a banking licence was granted to CapBank by Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell and the Ministry of Finance against better advice of ECCB Governor Sir K. Dwight Venner. Capital Bank International had an impressive representative office in a prime location, South City Plaza close to Grand Anse Beach. When it became public that the CapBank could not meet a $1 million dollar withdrawal request from one of its depositors, other depositors demanded their funds. There was a run on the Bank and the Bank failed. In February 2008, the government appointed a receiver pursuant to section 43 of the Banking Act, against which CapBank fought in the courts. The bank’s CEO found himself sentenced to a substantial prison term for fraud, but of course the entire fiasco took years to disentangle. In 2013, the government paid up to $500.00 to each depositor of CapBank.

In 2009 came news of the collapse of insurance giant CLICO in neighbouring Trinidad and Tobago, which had regional ramifications and risk of contagion. The collapse of BAICO followed. The failure of these two regional insurance giants, led by Lawrence Duprey of Trinidad and Tobago, also meant heavy losses for clients who were unable to recover millions in highinterest paying annuity products. Likewise, after Hurricane Ivan, property owners were badly hurt by failed local insurance company NALGICO, led by David Phillip. As if those were not enough, hundreds also suffered deeply from the crash of yet another Ponzi scheme, SGL Holdings, a purported ForEx Trader led by Lester Clyne.

Not helping public confidence in the banking sector was the failure of four indigenous banks in the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union, arising from the 2008

economic and financial crisis. In Anguilla, National Bank Anguilla (NBA) and Caribbean Commercial Bank (CCB), and in Antigua & Barbuda, Antigua Barbuda Investment Bank (ABIB) and Bank of Antigua (BoA) all failed.

The Banks in Anguilla fell victim to an age-old misguided strategy that has befallen commercial banks ever since they existed. Led by Val Banks, in a quest to drive the development and growth of Anguilla, NBA undertook excessive exposures in the rapidly growing tourism and related sectors using liquidity generated from their off-shore bank (highly volatile funds). When the 2008 economic and financial crisis broke, demands for funds by off-shore clients could not be met. The business model unravelled. In the case of CCB, under the leadership of Preston Bryan, and later Starry Benjamin, much of the liquidity from the off-shore bank was invested in the US stock market. Unwinding those positions to meet the demand of off-shore clients for their deposits in a time of declining stock prices meant heavy losses, erosion of capital and confidence —the business model came apart.

When Allen Stanford of Bank of Antigua was arrested in 2012 on fraud charges, it made international headlines. A clear case of massive fraud was uncovered, and the arrest of the owner and fraudster triggered a loss of confidence by depositors and resulted in a classical bank run.

The failure of Antigua Barbuda Investment Bank (ABIB) is best characterised in terms similar to the banks in Anguilla with layers of self-dealing. McAlister Abott led that institution.

While the subprime mortgage crisis and the global financial crisis in 2008 can be partly blamed for this

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series of regional and local fiascos, it was really mostly individual and corporate greed, coupled with very poor corporate governance, an insufficient regulatory framework and in some instances ineffective regulators, that resulted in those institutions’ failure to apply the proper prudential measures, risk management, credit risk oversight, governance structures and transparency to their operations and policies.

The lack of “teeth” on the part of the regulators was glaring. In the Caribbean, regulators like the ECCB and other central banks, Supervisors of Insurance Companies, Ministries of Finance and Stock Market Regulators can only act within the purview of local legislation. Very often, if legislation is weak or is kept from being passed by strong lobbyists with political affiliations, then regulators are powerless to intervene in badly run financial institutions. In the end, it is the little people who suffer, with their deposits, investments, pensions, or savings just vanishing.

Grenada Co-operative Bank Limited, like most other Caribbean commercial banks, prudently shielded its customers from any such risk. Essentially conservative, with a policy of keeping banking simple, affordable, and never to imperil its depositors’ funds in risky investment schemes that could collapse, GCBL’s business portfolio actually benefitted from the collapse of these badly run financial institutions. Its stability and a balance sheet that showed steady, sustainable growth demonstrated to shareholders, regulators and customers that the Bank’s leadership had no appetite for risky banking products, nor would it deviate an inch from its policies of transparency, accountability and good corporate governance. In the long run, this has served the Bank, and the people of Grenada, in good stead. Needless to say, the Bank’s growth accelerated in the decade that followed.

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Farewell to Gordon V. Steele, O.B.E.

As the Bank celebrated its 75th anniversary in July 2007, the man who had literally called it ‘home’, having lived ‘above the shop’, was finally preparing to retire after 55 years’ service. Now in his early seventies, Gordon V. Steele had spent his entire adult life growing up with and growing the Bank, boasting he had never taken a holiday! When W.E. Julien asked him if he was interested in becoming Secretary/Manager after Iri Bain’s sudden death in 1967, Steele became the public face of GCBL. In this pre-digital era before cell phones, the internet, marketing and social media, he had his own live island network. He was known and well-loved from Sauteurs to Point Salines and ‘every nook and cranny’ in between. With his staff of eight, he was responsible for running all operations.

Steele is deservedly recognised as ‘Father’ of the modern GCBL, leading it from its low profile as a deposits and loans institution to become a stateof-the-art, modern, fully commercialised financial institution, providing local, regional and international services—while never losing sight of the ‘Small Man’. He led from the front, committed to growing the Bank and Grenada as it moved from colony to Associated Statehood to full Independence. Under his leadership, the Bank established its Grenville, Sauteurs, Grand

Anse and Carriacou branches, while weathering two devastating hurricanes, revolution and invasion, and never entertaining overtures of acquisition by foreign banks. Knocky was a born competitor ‘unable to comprehend or accept defeat’, and his determination and adaptability made the Bank a winner.

Honoured with an O.B.E. and a CAIB Award for Excellence, Gordon V. Steele prepared to leave his home away from home on January 31, 2008. He had presided over a remarkable transformation in an indigenous institution that then boasted Assets of $350 million and a network that included the NIS, the Public Service Credit Union, CAIB, the Eastern Caribbean Investment Corporation, the Antigua Barbuda Investment Bank, Turks & Caicos International Bank, RBTT and Republic. As he succinctly put it: “I am proud to have established a strong team and will be leaving the Bank with a great heritage, looking positively towards the future.” Gordon V. Steele’s contributions to developing the Bank and his beloved Grenada have given him a unique place in the island’s socio-economic history.

P.S. Of course Knocky’s departure was less of a ‘farewell’ and more of a ‘long goodbye’ as he continued to serve on the Board of Directors, offering his invaluable insights garnered over more than a half-century of the Bank’s history.

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Management Team 2002

Front row (l-r): Carlton Peter Antoine - Senior Credit Officer, Gordon V. Steele - General Manager, Richard W. Duncan - Manager Finance & Corporate Affairs, Ann Williams – Branch Manager-Grenville

Second row (l-r): Floyd Dowden - Senior IT Officer, Mondelle Squires-Francis – HR Officer, Cynthia Davidson - Branch ManagerGrand Anse, Claudette Sylvester – Senior Operations Officer, Laura Antoine - Operations Manager, Samantha Ince-John –Marketing Officer

Third row (l-r): Julia Lawrence – Internal Auditor, Denby De Freitas - Credit Consultant, Florence A. Williams – Manager, Credit, Clifford Bhola - Branch Manager-Sauteurs

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Grenadian 400m Olympian Kirani James with Managing Director Richard W. Duncan.

Onwards and Upwards - the Final Ascent from Penny to Billion Dollar Bank

When Richard W. Duncan stepped up to the crease as newly appointed captain of Team Co-operative on February 1, 2008 he was ‘ready for dem’ and gearing up to clear the field of competition. Now he could shift mode from ‘making his boss look good’ to making the Bank better and ultimately—the best.

In the next 14 years as Managing Director, he would lead from in front as the Bank hit some soaring sixes and smashed stubborn wickets; stunning competitors and the Grenadian public alike at this unlikely outsider who emerged as a new champion—not just in banking, but in developing Grenada and its people. This success was neither a flash in the proverbial pan nor a matter of chance, but a harvest of what had been painstakingly sewn, cultivated and nurtured since 1996: holistic development based on analysis, planning, piloting and revision, implemented with expertise, utilising the latest technology.

The pride and affection which Grenadians had taken in the Penny Bank now blossomed into mutual respect, a partnership of progress to realise the potential of independence and build a resilient sovereign state with a national consciousness, proud of its past, ready for the many challenges coming its way as the millennium unfolded.

The rebranded modern Bank now had an unmissable public presence throughout the tri-island state with over 30,000 customers, five branches and a staff of

145. Loans and advances had passed the quarter billion mark at $280, 638,341. Strategic planning, customercentricity and the adaptability encoded since 1932 continued to deliver those ‘unimaginables’ W.E. Julien dreamt of and Richard W. Duncan’s vision realised.

Customers First

The definitive decision to make customer-centricity the driver of the modern Bank’s development had been nearly a decade in progress. Following the RAACE initiative of 2005, Ernst & Young along with strategic planning consultants Anthony Proute and Associates had worked with the Bank to improve its internal controls and operational efficiency. By February 2008, a series of documents were produced, including the Customer Service Charter (CSC), Customer Service Standards (CSS) and the Employee Code of Practice (COP), along with desktop manuals. As a pragmatist as well as a strategist, Richard W. Duncan was by now well aware of the gap between planning and successful implementation. He was determined that when Tower Hive came onstream, it would start out with a new culture firmly grounded in customer service. Consequently, there was to be a six-month induction period, allowing staff to adapt to and internalise customer service attitudes and approaches, embedding the necessary frontline mindset before implementation began with the formal Charter’s publication.

Opposite: Corporate Social Responsibility Snapshots Photos: Reynaldo Bernard

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When the Charter was rolled out on March 15, 2008 at the Grenada Grand Beach Resort, the launch event was aptly themed ‘Living Out The Excellence Within’. The feature address was delivered by Sharon Christopher of Trinidad and Tobago’s First Citizens Bank, which had achieved its modern brand by a process of rigorous realignment similar to that employed in transitioning the Penny Bank. The launch was another statement of confidence and ambition, celebrating successful indigenous banking and setting sights on gaining market share from the foreign-owned banks in Grenada.

Teacup Storms and a Global Tsunami

The new Managing Director had got off to a flying start, adding the accolade of ‘Distinguished Graduate’ during UWI’s 60th anniversary celebrations to his container full of credentials. However, as he and other banking colleagues worldwide were aware since September 2007, a storm was brewing in the United States, with the potential to disrupt financial institutions the world over. The American housing market ‘bubble’, created by years of cheap credit and lax loan regulation, finally burst in 2008, leaving financial institutions with trillions of dollars-worth of near-worthless investments in subprime mortgages. The American housing market collapsed, triggering a domino effect as banks and businesses went bankrupt. Wall Street crashed and a tsunami of global economic meltdown was unleashed.

Grenada Co-operative Bank Limited found itself in a similar situation as when it had started up as the Penny Bank in the early stages of the Great Depression in the

The Customer Service Charter

We are committed to providing consistently professional and superior service to all our customers. This means that we, at all times:

• treat customers with courtesy and consideration

• be helpful and friendly

• attend to questions and needs promptly

• exercise the utmost integrity in providing services

• do not disclose any information about clients without their consent, except as required by law.

Our service commitment applies to everything we do, whether provided by our own team or through agents and contractors.

1930s. But like its founders, the Bank’s leadership in 2008 saw opportunities in the coming Great Recession. The organisation had embraced a culture of change and adaptability, had strong local and regional partners, and its planning, policies and procedures had generated an upwards and onwards trajectory. The Penny Bank had been conceived in and weaned on adversity; surviving, thriving and capitalising on low points when foreign banks abandoned ship rather than sink, something that has never been an option for GCBL. If you keep your head, it’s possible to ride out some storms; and the Bank’s Board and Management kept steady on the course it had set for the modern Bank. The MV Fortitude and Determination was underway and there was still time to build resilience before the Great Recession hit Grenada’s shores.

Regardless of what was happening stateside as Wall Street banks began toppling, starting with the venerable investment bank Lehman Brothers in September 2008, GBCL pushed ahead with construction of its

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“Elevation showing Grenada Building and Loan Association’s building next door to Tower Hive”

flagship building, Tower Hive. On October 1, 2008, construction began. On November 7, the Grenada Building and Loan Association served the Bank, its neighbour on Church Street, with an injunction to halt construction. As mentioned earlier this precipitated a corporate tangle—Cosmo St. Bernard was Chairman of both the Bank and the Association and head of the law firm representing the Bank. Since the Bank had already received building permission to begin construction, its lawyer Ruggles Ferguson of Ciboney Chambers, within three days, countered the injunction:

“The building project ... has been approved by the sole authority under the Laws of Grenada for so doing ... being the Physical Planning and Development Authority. The Defendant [Grenada Co-operative Bank Limited] has complied with all the requirements of the Physical Planning and Development Authority and is carrying out construction consistent with the approved plans. The Defendant is not in any

violation of any building regulations. Assuming but not conceding, that the building project...will adversely interfere with the Applicant’s building, damages will be an adequate remedy and the Defendant will be in a position to satisfy such damages.”

By November 21, the Supreme Court had discharged the injunction and the Bank sued the Association for the losses incurred during the halt in construction, estimated at $1.5 million.

Tower Hive, on the site of the former British High Commission, was formally opened on July 19, 2010. Sir Dwight K. Venner, Governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, who gave the feature address, was well pleased with the progress its member bank had made in the past decade and the visible success Tower Hive displayed, and said,

“One gets a sense of achievement and purpose in the ability to stand with your depositors, your customers, to celebrate success and excellence...”

Derick Steele, the new Chairman of the Board, noted:

“The founding fathers had a vision that in my view, we have lived up to quite admirably to date. Our Bank has a mission to be ‘The leading Grenadian provider of High Quality Financial and Related Services’. This New Premiere Banking Facility is undeniably a clear manifestation of this Mission.”

In line with the Bank’s ‘customers first’ policy, the original plan for Tower Hive to be the new head office was shelved in favour of making it the flagship ‘Retail Banking Unit’. Besides giving customers the opportunity to enjoy the very best of the Bank’s assets in a worldclass ambiance, there was the added convenience of

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Interior of Tower Hive, which was designed and project managed by Grenadian architects and designers TVA Consultants Ltd., with the assistance of Tower Bucknall Austin (Quantity Surveyor, Barbados), A de B Consultants Ltd. (Services Engineer, Barbados), DLN Consultants Ltd. (Structural Engineer, Barbados) and TP Smith Engineering (Structural Engineer’s Representative in Grenada)

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Photos: TVA Consultants

a double-level underground carpark. Meanwhile, the old bank at 8–10 Church Street was converted into the corporate head office.

Also in 2010, as the old gave way to the new, Claudia De Allie, who had joined the Penny Bank in 1969 as a teller and risen through the ranks to become a Bank signatory and held many supervisory positions, retired after 41 years’ service. She had witnessed the Bank’s rapid expansion, development and transformation:

“In spite of everything, Co-op Bank has done very well; from where I started with it and where it has reached now, they’ve done very well and Richard has done a good job, that’s how I look at it.”

Forging Ahead

Despite worldwide recession, severe drought, high unemployment and public debt at home, the Bank forged on and as a good Caribbean neighbour raised $58,200 (including staff contributions of $13,200) towards the Haiti Relief Programme after January 2010’s devastating earthquake. Within the Bank, training for both staff and Board Directors drove the human resource development and operational competence necessary to make the Mission Statement a reality.

Chairman Derick Steele and Directors Richard McIntyre and Leslie Ramdhanny completed the Directors Education and Accreditation Programme organised by the Eastern Caribbean Securities Exchange and the Canadian Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators, joining MD Richard W. Duncan and Director Darryl Brathwaite who had achieved accreditation in 2008. For staff there was training in the Bank’s in-house Credit School, while three staffers went to pursue the Wisconsin Graduate School of

CARICOM recognised the Bank’s relief efforts in Haiti after the earthquake in 2010.

Banking three-year diploma. An oversubscribed additional public offer of 2.5 million shares raised $17.5 million, not only repaying the bond for Tower Hive’s construction, but also strengthening the capital base necessary for further development. In adverse times this was really a massive show of confidence in the new Bank—“Look where it reached!”—as Ms. De Allie might say.

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Building Bank and Nation—Investing in the Future

In the first decade of the new century, strategic planning had successfully transformed the Bank internally; now, in the second decade, it would be used externally—enhancing the Bank’s public presence and reputation for supporting national development. The community outreach programmes, donations to charities and various sponsorships now became formalised into strategic pillars: education, health, sports, heritage, environment and culture. The initial impulses of the founders—betterment for all—now found expression in the modern Bank’s carefully strategised investment in the entire Grenadian family. What evolved is a model for sustainable indigenous development, building self-belief and self-reliance, cornerstones of true independence.

Super Starter Education Investment Plan/ HELP

Education became the first pillar of GCBL’s community outreach policy. The Bank already had a strong track record of donations and sponsorships for a variety of educational initiatives (SGU Knowledge Bowl, GRENCODA Student Assistance programme, Junior Achievement). Now, against the background of rising costs for education, a new product was developed specifically designed as an ‘investment strategy for educational advancement’. This would directly contribute to the development of our nation’s human capital and also benefit the Bank—‘one hand can’t clap’.

The Super Starter Education Investment Plan, launched in 2008, enabled customers to finance education from primary, through secondary to tertiary

level for themselves or their children, with the added bonus of eligibility for scholarships. In 2009, besides title sponsoring the National Brain Bee Challenge, the Super Starter scholarship programme commenced with seven primary school (covering all parishes) and six secondary school scholarships.

Also in 2009, tertiary education was exclusively addressed in collaboration with the Caribbean Development Bank with the launch of the Higher Education Loan Plan (HELP). HELP was another practical statement of the Bank’s commitment to the sustainable long-term development of Grenada by providing quality education opportunities to deserving students who want to study in universities and vocational schools, but who lack the necessary means to do so.

Besides tuition financing, HELP featured flexible repayment terms, a pre-approved credit card and the opportunity to win a lottery prize of an airline ticket. Most importantly it gave students a grace period while at university and six months after graduation, only paying monthly loan interest.

Pump It Up

Strokes of genius come from seeing something whose perfect simplicity eludes the casual gaze. The PUMP IT UP annual Family Fun Walk, launched in 2009 as part of the Bank’s Healthier Lifestyles policy, is a case in point. It’s become synonymous with the Bank as its signature event and a much-anticipated feature on Grenada’s calendar of events, drawing thousands of participants. Pump It Up T-shirts in an array of vibrant colours are worn with more pride than brand or sports

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Awardees of Co-op Bank’s Education Investment Plan (EIP) Scholarship.

Above: Brendon Mc Gillivary, Sales & Service Manager, St. George’s Retail Banking Unit presents special award to Nemron Moses, Best Graduating Student 2017 in “Electronic Engineering Technology” at T.A. Marryshow Community College.

Left: Marquez McSween, Sales & Service Manager, Spiceland Mall Retail Banking Unit presents an Education Investment Plan scholarship to primary school student Gabrielle Welsh of Bonair Government School, St. Mark.

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Photos: Reynaldo Bernard


Pump It Up (Dramatisation)

Date: April 2010

Location: St. George’s

Morne Rouge playing field looks as though it’s been invaded by a host of multi-coloured butterflies; luminescent oranges and greens flutter, weave and dip amongst lemon yellows, exuberant reds, cyan blues and glorious greens.

Or maybe it’s a massive flock of chattering, cooing, shrieking, singing birds, temporarily landed to exchange news and greetings: “Tanty Janet girl whago? Marnin marnin! Yuh still alive an come down quite from Hermitage? Ah see yuh still knockin strong. Whey de family dey?” “Ahai! Buh eh eh, is youself Miss Gladys, de younges great granmudda from Belmont? Yes, yes gyul, Ah still have me strength an Ah ain’t done walk till Ah crawlin. Look de family right dey dey—me big dotter Bobina, she likkle son Sam in he stroller and a whole section from Hermitage. We even totin ol’ Kolosingh in he wheelchair, cor he say de village go be too quiet an he want

tuh see he pardnas an dem. Whey dere is breath an health girl, God willin, we hadda walk, oui.” “Amen tuh dat.”

The entire field bubbles with excitement and goodwill, like a huge pot of wholesome oil-down simmering, eagerly anticipated, while more ingredients arrive and are added from La Taste and Tanteen, Nianganfoix and Soubise, Marigot and Marquis. Healthy snacks and drinks made from local ingredients are on offer from vendors such as Marketing & National Importing Board, Livingston Nelson, Don Purcell, and sponsor Jonas Browne & Hubbard. Rude health and youth rub shoulders with bent backs and the blind; teenage squawks mingle with elderly sighs and babies’ cries. Laughter and smiles float up from the field, trailing overhead like festive balloons in the afternoon breeze, as this widely assorted crowd of more than 4,000 surges out of the field, wheels onto the road past Wall Street and begin their three-and-a-half-mile Pump It Up pilgrimage to the National Stadium.

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Photo: Reynaldo Bernard

team jerseys, not only during the event but as fashion statements throughout the year.

Progress from Penny Bank days into the millennium had come at the price of an alarming onset of lifestyle diseases—diabetes, obesity, hypertension, strokes— as following global trends fresh local produce and home cooking were abandoned in favour of fast food and processed imports. The effects of poor diet were compounded by lack of exercise; why walk when you can ride? So, despite technological and other advances, human capital was being disabled and depleted as productivity decreased and rising public healthcare costs strained a national budget struggling with public debt, creating an expensively destructive cycle.

Pump It Up made many obvious connections— encouraging healthier lifestyles, bringing a range of communities together, raising funds for health programmes—but best of all, it was hugely beneficial in promoting the mindset that a healthy lifestyle is actually family fun. The Family Fun Walk is for everyone, whether the toddler in her stroller, or the toddler’s siblings, parents or grandparents. Just register and show up! In the first year, the three-and-a-halfmile route started at the National Stadium and ended at the Morne Rouge playing field. Subsequently, due to logistics, the route was reversed and now ends at the stadium. In Carriacou, the four-mile route, beginning at the stadium, ends at the Hillsborough playing field.

As the walk is for fun rather than competition, prizes are awarded for participation: to the largest school, workplace, community or church groups; the youngest and oldest female and male on foot and the youngest and oldest female and male on wheels. With one walk, the Bank has saved much talk and very probably quite

a few lives, with an event that strengthens its bond with the people while promoting the welfare of the greater Grenadian family. Over the years it has made generous donations to such health organisations as the Grenada Heart Foundation, Cancer Society, Diabetes and Kidney Associations, Lupus Foundation of Grenada and most recently towards the re-establishment of Carlton House, a much-needed rehabilitation centre for substance abusers.

Bank of the Diaspora

As part of the drive to instil pride in the sole indigenous bank and generate further revenue, the ‘greater Grenadian family’ in the diaspora was targeted. From inception, the Grenadian diaspora has been part of the Bank, some early shareholders were overseas residents and remittances over the years found their way into savings accounts for building the longanticipated ‘home back home’ on retirement. If we include neighbouring Trinidad and Tobago, it’s likely

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The Bank’s booth at a diaspora event in the UK (2017).

the diaspora population in North America, the United Kingdom and even Australia exceeds that at home—a very sizeable market. After the public launch of the first Customer Service Charter in May 2011, the Bank participated in the UK’s Grenadian Heritage Day on July 16 and then was main sponsor for the Diaspora Founding Conference, held in August, at which it was designated ‘Bank of the Diaspora’. Floyd Dowden recalls how this significant phase of expansion was developed:

“We’d go to the major metropolitan countries where Grenadians are resident: Canada, England, and the USA, and meet with them, discuss the things they want to do, and ask them what do you think the Bank can do differently for you? Especially around Carnival time, we’d have representatives at the airport. We have no diaspora branches, but we have corresponding banks (Bank of America, Lloyds of London, Crown Agents in England, Bank of Montreal) across the world.

“Our strategy is to establish relationships and partnerships, and we reach out to the diaspora. Before COVID, we attended events like the UK’s Grenadian Heritage Day, where we had a booth providing info etc. The diaspora is what really pushed us into e-banking. Diaspora people were saying they needed to be able to bank with us, but they couldn’t wait ‘till they got back to Grenada. We take the diaspora seriously, because we know they’re the ones to be sending things back home, coming back for vacation. Some people live in the States for a long time. They want to retire, come back, and we want to be the first bank of choice when they want to buy land, build a

house. When they think about Grenada and they think about banking, they must think about Coop Bank first.”

From Primary School Games to Olympic Gold

After Education and Health, another major pillar of the Bank’s community outreach policy directly contributing to national development was Sports. Early involvement in team sports teaches many invaluable life lessons—from teamwork, responsibility and discipline to focus and perseverance, while harnessing young energy in positive rather than anti-social pursuits. Early potential, when nurtured, can result in sports scholarships, international success and a career path benefitting individuals, their extended families and communities.

The Grenada Union of Teachers’ National Primary School Games (PSG) and the preceding parish competitions hold pride of place in the school calendar. Teams train for months not just for field and track events but for the ceremonial march past at the National Stadium. Recognising that investing in youth is investing in the future, the Bank began sponsoring Primary School Games in St. Patrick and St. Andrew in 2004, and in 2006 also began sponsoring the national event.

One golden product of the PSG is former World, Olympic and Commonwealth champion, 400m runner Kirani ‘The Jaguar’ James, who’s been tearing up tracks from his hometown in Gouyave to stadia worldwide since the early to mid-2000s. Already well known at home and throughout the Caribbean, Kirani James announced his arrival on the international scene when

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he became World Junior Champion in 2010. After winning gold at the World Athletics Championships in 2011, in another stroke of synergism like Pump It Up, GCBL approached James to become brand ambassador as part of an exclusive local sponsorship deal. This was more than ‘an eye for economic opportunity’, it was a marketing coup and the beginning of an ongoing partnership between Grenadian champions, giving the Bank unprecedented international exposure at the London Olympics in August 2012. There Kirani James became the first Caribbean runner in 36 years to win the 400m, with his run of 43.9 secs delivering Grenada’s first Olympic medal—and gold in a one!

It was Roger Duncan, another Gouyave man, who had been aware of Kirani and his potential from early, and Mondelle Squires-Francis in Marketing, who set up the sponsorship and a partnership of Grenadian excellence and success which is still flourishing. ‘The Jaguar’ is both a national hero and a member of the Coop Bank family, a relationship he values:

“I like this relationship because the Bank is not just a financial institution—it’s like a family, investing in Grenadian people; the family feeling and on top of that them being a local bank, we are always going to have that connection with the people. For me that connection is very, very

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Brendon Mc Gillivary, Sales & Service Manager, St. George’s Retail Banking Unit at the medal ceremony at the Primary School Games 2018

Date: 2000/2012

Kirani James (Dramatisation)

Location: National Stadium Grenada/Olympic Stadium London

National Stadium Primary School Games April 2000

“On your marks!”

Well boy Kirani, doh look like St. John win no march past this year; nah St. Andrew buss dat big time. Buh Kirani we can still mash up dis 400 metres an show dem speed from Gouyave, yes? Kirani, yuh listenin tuh me? Yes Kirani Ah listenin, Ah listenin buh Ah concentrating too, like coach tell me. Focus nah Kirani, dat track waitin fuh yuh all now.

“Get set!”

Hmm dese new track shoes kinda buggin me, not like dat ol pair from larse year flap flapping. Come tek some deep slow breaths, hear dem St. John drums beatin, jes now is time tuh fly.


Wheeee, dis is wha Ah like, runnin free, flowin easy into dis firs bend. Take yuh time, tag those backs in front, let yuh riddim tek yuh-yeah yuh gliding now, everyting moving togedda sweet like coach say, like coach say, like coach say. A nex bend an into de straight, a blur of faces in the stands. Come Kirani, time to stretch, it feelin good, plenty energy, plenty fire, only two ahead. Time to pounce as we hit de larse bend. Mash de x man! Mash de x! Ah born fuh dis clear track ahead, nutten cyar stop me now. Faster! Faster! Ah could run forever— buh here’s de tape an look de rest of de field only comin through now. Is win, St. John win! Kirani boy, yuh want tuh go again?

2000 2012

Olympic Stadium London August 2012

“Hush yuh mout now Bubbles, how we go hear de man run?” “Buh wha kina foolishness yuh talkin Boney Dread? Yuh does see wit yuh ear?” “Move nah man Bubbles, look! Look dey linin up.” The tiny Crown Heights bar in one road Jean Anglais which hugs the steep hillside overlooking Grand Anse Bay, is festooned with Grenadian flags and crammed to the gills with ecstatic villagers downing drinks in record-breaking times. All eyes are locked on the TV poised above the bar’s lone table.

Over the hubbub comes the honey tone of the English commentator “So now we come to the final of the Men’s 400 metres, a great event throughout history... From the inside we have Jonathan Borlee of Belgium; Steven Solomon of Australia; Lalonde Gordon from Trinidad; the World Champion, he’s still just 19 years of age, Kirani James from Grenada, World Junior Champion, World Youth Champion, World Senior Champion, can he now add the Olympic title?”

The collective Crown Heights roar can probably be heard from the other side of the Atlantic...

“From the Bahamas Chris Brown, Luguelin Santos from the Dominican Republic, the second man from the Bahamas Demetrius Pinder and the second of the Borlee Brothers, Kevin.”

Amazingly, a split-second hush falls on the tiny bar, just long enough to hear the crack of the starting pistol before pandemonium breaks loose. “Well they’re away and the Bahamas is off fast, Chris Brown is off fast, so too is Pinder...Kirani James is running well though, his long strides taking him further up the field in the back straight, he’s being tracked by Gordon...but it’s Kirani James World Champion last year coming into the home straight with a marginal lead...” As the Jaguar pulls away from the field, lithely and gracefully breasting the tape, the little bar back home threatens to bounce off its foundation, barefoot children race up and down the narrow road waving flags, big men embrace with passionate pride, dogs howl at the uproar— “We win dem! Dat is WE boy!”

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L-R: Harvey Glance (Kirani James’ Coach), Carlton Peter Antoine, Carlene Phillip-Frank, Ericka SimmonsHosten, Mondelle Squires-Francis, Kirani James, Richard W. Duncan, Cynthia Davidson, Diyanna Gulston, Roger Duncan, Renaldo Nehemiah (Kirani James’ Manager) Kirani receives a copy of the 2013 GCBL calendar from Richard W. Duncan.
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Kirani at Co-op Bank National Primary School Games

important and maybe that’s why we get along very, very good.”

The bond of trust established by the Penny Bank with its fellow Grenadians and the belief in the possibility of ‘unimaginable things’ happening, of proving ordinary Grenadians capable of outcompeting world-class opposition is epitomised in the Bank’s partnership with James. The people have always trusted the Bank, it’s family. As the young athlete explains:

“It’s always good to have support and know that I have a base at home, where if I need to do something I have their support. And having a connection home, where people can see my face, where I can have that kind of relationship and not feel I’m distant or aloof. They’ve provided me with the opportunity to connect and stay grounded at home. For me it’s extremely important, because I spent most of my life, my development years at home. All my family still live at home, so I always try to stay connected and come back. So I’m not like in another country—out of sight, out of mind. It’s a part of keeping me who I am and reminding me of how the journey has been and how far I’ve come. So every time I come home, I get reinvigorated to go back and do my training and do what I have to do, because I know I have this connection here. Giving people a sense of pride and joy makes it worthwhile.”

While the sponsorship has given the Bank priceless international exposure, back home it’s given young aspiring athletes the ultimate role model, who is already considering the possibilities of a role in sports development, which also has potential for sports tourism:

“I would love to be involved in the development of athletics in the future here. Knowing how much athletics has given to me it’s only fair that I give some of it back. I always try to make myself accessible in that area to give back to sport.”

After one time is two time—so who better to endorse the speed (and convenience) of e-banking than the Jaguar, which he did for the 2014 campaign. A child of the Digital Age, he was impressed by the Bank’s readiness to move with ‘the trajectory of the times’.

“Even from a technological perspective, where you get the people to change the way they view banking, the way they’ve embraced the direction the world is moving, that’s important so we don’t feel we’ve been left behind from a technological aspect. There’s a lot of times where there’s things out there in developed countries and we don’t get it until ten years later. Just making sure people can make that transition faster is commendable, they’re trying to do things like that. They’re trying to make banking not so traditional as it was.”

Carriacou, We Coming Again!

Establishing the Hillsborough Retail Banking Unit in Carriacou in 2007 was imperative for including this unique community in the GCBL family. Carriacou punches far above its weight culturally; its Big Drum ritual and Nation dances are living links with the ancestors, fired by retained African rhythms as visceral as those of Haiti or Cuba, and a long time fascination for anthropologists and ethno-musicologists alike. What a lot of proud Trinis do not know is that some of the Orisha rhythms that drove their famous carnival

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were imported from Carriacou with the many immigrants who came to Trinidad since the late 18th century. Along with this extraordinary time capsule of African culture, which survived due to isolation, there’s an equally strong Afro-Creole culture, musically manifested in the ‘Quadrille’—a Creole take on a European formal dance—and the string bands, which in pre-DJ days supplied accompaniment for dancing at every community occasion. It was an astute mark of respect as well as support that in 2007 the Bank sponsored the String Band competition, the main event of the preChristmas Carriacou Parang Festival and began supporting the island’s museum.

Carriacou Primary School Games

It was really a Carriacou family affair that resulted in the Bank sponsoring the Carriacou Primary School Games, as former Games Chairman Devon Matheson recounts:

“The original agreement happened on Paradise beach after a windball game. At that time, I was the Chairman of the Sports Committee and Mr. McSween was the Manager of Co-op Bank’s branch in Carriacou. After that windball game we had a little conversation. We were just talking cricket and then the conversation came up about the PSG, that was early 2015. He said the Bank was always interested in getting involved in the PSG in Carriacou. So there was a verbal

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Devon Matheson, former Chairman of the Carriacou Primary School Games Photo: Reynaldo Bernard

agreement that Sunday evening and I think the Tuesday or Wednesday of the following week we had a sponsorship letter on the desk for Mr. McSween and the sponsorship started in 2015.”

He explains how the sponsorship worked: “We’d present a budget and the Bank would meet the cost of the budget, which covers logistics costs of meals for officials, T-shirts, transportation costs, the hosting of the event. Generally, $8-10,000. The Bank gets mileage in radio and TV ads and as title sponsor during the competition, which is referred to as ‘Co-operative Bank Carriacou PSG’. Paraphernalia and banners are placed throughout the field on the two days of the event; field events on one day and track events on another. The PSG are held before the end of February, because we then have to pick a team to represent Carriacou and Petite Martinique at the national level before the Easter school holidays.”

Jabari Fleary, who began coaching primary school athletes in 2016 is enthusiastic about the successes generated:

“We’ve had athletes come though PSG and then perform well at secondary level nationally and at CARIFTA Games. Currently we have four athletes from my school Hillsborough Government in Jamaica.”

Additionally, he’s seen the community benefits that the Bank’s sponsorship has brought:

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Jabari Fleary, Primary School Athletes Coach Photo: Reynaldo Bernard

“It’s a great sponsorship because with the promotion it gets everyone involved and makes the sports attractive. There’s a large amount of people who attend the sporting meet and with this amount of people it gives the athletes a big boost, because there’s a lot of people cheering them on. With all these people we also make money to travel with our team now from Carriacou to the national games in Grenada.”

For Devon, who has a longer overview of the PSG, Bank sponsorship has totally transformed Carriacou’s participation in the national games as well as boosted local economy:

“I was the Head Coach of that team that travelled to Grenada from 2009 to2017. My involvement in the administration of PSG in Carriacou started in 2006.

The Bank’s sponsorship has transformed that investment. When I started, we had a situation where the children were wearing ‘parachutes’: a twelve-year-old and an eight-year-old would be wearing the same size jerseys. That was a disadvantage—we were going to Grenada, our uniform was not at its best, and most of the athletes from Carriacou were competing barefeet, because we never really had any sponsors. We had partnerships, that’s the best way of describing it. I remember after the first year of sponsorship, in 2015 I went to the then head of the Bank as the Chairperson of the Sports Committee, and I said we would not be travelling to Grenada without branded uniforms. So we got branded uniforms, with “Carriacou & Petite Martinique” written big and bold letters and in the correct sizes for

all the children. Because of the sponsorship, we were able to fill a quota for a full team to travel to Grenada, whereas in the past, we only took four athletes, but a full team is 60, which meant that from the get-go, you short and Carriacou used to be 6th or 7th. But in 2016, Carriacou placed 4th. We saw that the Bank’s investment gave us an opportunity to nurture the development of our athletes. Also, when you look at the games from a socio-economic standpoint, these two days benefit our street vendors and our bus drivers significantly. The games impact the whole community in Carriacou.”

Cricket Lovely Cricket

While American basketball and wrestling matches attract partisan spectators in many rumshops and bars, cricket still courses through the veins of many Grenadians and Carriacouans; it’s definitely encoded in Greenz DNA. And of course, it’s much more than just a game—”What do they know of cricket who only cricket know?” Despite recent erratic or even disappointing Windies’ performances, cricket has been a far more significant unifying factor in Caribbean identity and pride than the West Indies Federation and CARICOM put together. From backyard and beach, to street and stadium, generations have played for fun and fame; fiercely contested local competitions are a distinctive feature of community culture and bonding.

The fast version T20 format has attracted a new generation of spectators, so sponsoring the Carriacou T20 was another win-win for the Bank. Here was an opportunity to support roots culture while marketing.

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West Indies Batsman Devon Smith and Gordon V. Steele at NIS ATM launch. Devon cut the ribbon to officially open the Bank’s first off-site ATM on Melville Street, St. George’s. Devon Smith performed the first live transaction at the NIS ATM launch.

Calypsonian Andy ‘Leftist’ Matheson whose love of lyrics is matched by a passion for cricket explains the genesis of the Bank’s sponsorship:

“T20 started in 2013. The Carriacou Cricket Board, which organises cricket, decided besides our normal 40-overs competition, which starts the end of February, early March, we could have something earlier on to get guys into the season—the first/second weekend in January. So we started in 2013, without any major sponsor really, we had a bar and charged admission to pay for prizes and stipends for officials. In 2015, when Co-op Bank had the Pump It Up walk, Mr. Richard W. Duncan was in Carriacou and one of the founding members of the Board Stephen

Gay—we call him Scraper—engaged him and asked him to sponsor the T20 the following season and he agreed in principle and they came on board in 2016 with the tournament being the Co-op Bank T20 Tournament.

“The sponsorship took the form of $20,000 cash, $10,000 up front and at the end of the tournament when we send in a report we get the balance. That helped us to better organise in terms of getting balls and other equipment; a better stipend for the umpires and the ground staff and officials working at the venue and providing refreshment, a lunch.”

Once again sponsorship transformed the competition:

“It created an avenue for persons to come out and get involved with the game. Because prior to T20, our domestic tournament took place at four venues, so that on any given weekend you have four games going on but with T20 we centralised it to one venue—the Hillsborough Recreation Ground. All the teams come there, start at 10–10.30 in the morning, play their games, two games a day Saturday and Sunday. So that got the fans into the games, because instead of going to watch a match in Dover, or Harvey Vale, everyone comes to Hillsborough and the atmosphere became real festive. So the players now had to up their game to showcase their talent.”

Besides its social aspect, T20 has directly contributed to developing career opportunities for young cricketers in Carriacou. ‘Leftist’ cites their successes:

“Our biggest success is Emmanuel Stewart (wicketkeeper/batsman) West Indies Under-19

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captain, now playing for the Windward Rockets; Cazari Charles (fast bowler) Windwards Under-15/Under-17; Mikel Joseph (batsman/offspinner) Grenada Under-19; John Edmund (wicketkeeper/ batsman) Grenada Under-19; Nicoby John (batsman/offspinner) Grenada Under-19 and Isiah Simon (offspinner/batsman) Grenada Under-19.”

Like Devon Matheson and Jabari Fleary, Leftist is impressed with the Bank’s overall contribution to developing Carriacou:

“The Bank is seen as a valuable stakeholder in Carriacou because besides cricket it’s involved in other aspects of Carriacou society. It is involved in the Inter-Primary School Athletics and Pump It Up walk and every year it’s growing. So I think the people of Carriacou have come to appreciate what the Bank is doing and it’s seen as a very good corporate citizen.”

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Calypsonian and Cricket Umpire Andy ‘Leftist’ Matheson Photo: Reynaldo Bernard

Developing and Sustaining Indigenous Culture

Nation building requires the creation of a national consciousness and identity—a sense of shared history, traditions, lifestyle and beliefs—the integral elements of ‘culture’. In the postcolonial era, all the former colonies of the Anglophone Caribbean have faced the task of forging their own identities after varying lengths of colonial rule, which used cultural dominance as one of its tools of control. Rich and diverse indigenous culture was not only suppressed, but in many instances banned and made illegal. The ‘belief in your people’, which Grenada Co-operative Bank Limited’s founding father W.E. Julien presciently spoke about back in 1932, has run like a thread, a continuous drumbeat, through the Bank’s history. A major part of the modern Bank’s success has been its support and nurturing of Grenadian culture from the traditional to the innovative, developing the pride, creativity and confidence necessary for national identity and growth, and acknowledging the struggles and achievements of the past as the foundation for moving forward. As the Honourable Bob Marley did sing—In this bright future you can’t forget your past!

For Richard W. Duncan, actively supporting indigenous culture is a matter of pride and policy:

“We have to occupy, or endeavour to occupy pride of place, when it comes to supporting things indigenous to Grenada, Carriacou and Petit Martinique, by virtue of the fact that we’re

owned and run by Grenadians and I don’t see that changing any time soon, so we have that role to play and we have attempted to play it in different ways.”

Besides traditional artforms like calypso and drumming and most recently the Commancheros steelband, Richard points out:

“We also support Creative Writing. We have some folks who do poetry, short stories, we’ll assist them in book launches. We do things to encourage and support the development of our cultural forms in many different ways. I could see a future where the Bank develops products and approaches to support budding artistes like Jeverson Ramirez—a very talented vocalist.”

While the Bank has “always taken a keen interest in the development and growth of our culture” as Roger Duncan says, he emphasises that it “has never been directly involved in aspects, which some people describe as ‘Jump and Wine’—the Bacchanal thing. But certainly you’ll see us promoting, sponsoring the development of calypsonians through workshops or mas band workshops, ensuring that it is sustained and grown, and practices are passed on, holding true to how much the drum of our African ancestors has played a part in our own cultural development. And into the communities, helping different groups through their own programmes,

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whether it be dance or theatre, allowing persons to express themselves. That aspect of our culture, which is not just an event but a way of life, we were able to protect and grow.”

Tivoli Drummers Drum in My Blood

The African drum and its rhythms have been the heartbeat of Caribbean sacred and popular music since enslaved Africans first landed. Still revered as a sacred instrument in several Afro-Creole religions, which only certain initiates are allowed to see, let alone play, the drum functioned as a link back home to Mother Africa and the ancestors as well as a means of survival and resistance, a lingua franca intuitively understood by all the enslaved regardless of their origins. Used as communication in countless slave rebellions across the region, notably the Haitian War of Independence, it was often suppressed or banned by European colonial authorities, only to transform into the innocent looking ‘cajon’ or packing case in Cuba, or the tamboo bamboo bands of Trinidad, which eventually morphed into the steelband. The drum, in whatever version—the plastic bucket lapo kabwit of Dominica, the biscuit tin beaten by Blue Devils on J’ouvert mornings, the schooldesk pounded or even the bottle struck with spoon for percussion—provides the rhythms of Caribbean daily life, the quintessential energy of a musicality that is one of the defining characteristics of Caribbean culture. In supporting indigenous culture, GCBL paid respect to this iconic symbol, sponsoring the Drum Festival since inception in 2001. The powerhouse behind

the Drum Festival was master drummer Livingston Krumah Nelson, founder of the Tivoli Drummers, who tells his story:

“My father was a drummer but I was never officially taught. My father died at an early age; I was just five years old. I played drum since I know myself, since my father was there I used to be sitting down on his leg and he playing those drums and there was just this deep yearning to connect with the drum. I didn’t develop a love affair for the drums, I was born into a love affair with the drums—it was just drum in my blood. I never went to any formal teaching, where I learned how to play drums. I just played but then I became a drum teacher. I developed a whole repertoire of drumming and styles that no one else in the Caribbean ever displayed. We’ve been to CARIFESTA in Trinidad, Guyana, Tobago Heritage Festival and of course we’ve been to the Gwo Ka Festival (Guadeloupe), Canada

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Drum Festival on two different occasions, Antigua.”

Livingston recounts how Tivoli’s relationship with the Bank developed:

“When Richard W. Duncan became Manager, the funding from the Bank developed a level of meaning. So there was a significant move and contribution to the traditional culture and sporting activity under Richard W. Duncan’s leadership, and not just Tivoli Drummers but other groups.”

The Black Wizard

Elwyn McQuilkin “Black Wizard” of La Digue, who celebrates his three score and ten in this year of the Bank’s 90th anniversary, is a national icon who needs no introduction. A master of political commentary, his voice and lyrics are an embodiment of Grenadian culture and part of that resilient thread that reaches all the way back to the griots of West Africa. Those musicians, singers and poets who carried their nations’ history in their heads, who were as adept at producing a song of praise as one of mockery, of satirising or commenting on topical issues as readily as all aspects of the human condition, crossed the Atlantic, shape shifting into chantwels and kaisonians, then calypsonians. Repositories of news and scandals, the ‘poorman’s newspaper’, masters of language, wit, ‘extempo’ improvisation and double entendre, the calypsonian is one of our last

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Photo: Reynaldo Bernard Livingston Krumah Nelson, Master Drummer

links to the pre-literate past, the oral tradition as old as the first drums and the source of all our subsequent scratching, scribbling, printing, texting. Any topic is considered fertile ground for a calypso—there’s even one about depositing money in the bank!

As a calypso aficionado and calypso competition judge himself, it’s entirely in character that Richard W. Duncan would co-opt the magician of words into the calypso-writing workshops for children the Bank organised early in the new millennium. Wizard recalls his own ‘calypso education’ and debut:

“I grew up in a home and a village (La Digue, St. Andrew) that loved calypso. My uncle was a calypsonian, a chantwel. I would learn the songs he’d compose, especially around Carnival time. They would have singing bands, they’d compose songs on what happened in the community for the last year and they would have rehearsals in the village junction and they’d come out in their full glory on Carnival day.

So as a young boy, I would learn all these songs, and some of them I remember up to today, from since in the 60s. In those days we didn’t have a radio station, so we’d listen to Trinidad 610 and Radio Trinidad, we’d have songs from the Mighty Sparrow and Lord Melody, Lord Kitchener and later on Black Stalin and Chalkdust.

“I began public performances around 1969. We used to have a youth club in La Digue, and in the club there used to be

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Calypsonian Elwyn McQuilkin “Black Wizard” Photo: Reynaldo Bernard

competition among the members. We had our own little calypso tent in the club. The senior members of the club thought I was different, I was good, so they decided I should further my interest by going to St. George’s to sing in the calypso tent. So in 1969 I started singing in the first calypso tent in Grenada, in the old drill yard

behind the museum. That night I was a schoolboy still, I enjoyed it because I got a good appreciation. As a matter of fact, the premier of Grenada, Eric Matthew Gairy, was in the audience and he had liked my song because the title was ‘Action and Progress’, which was his political party theme, so he liked the song.”

Wizard is well aware of the role calypso plays

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Co-op Bank awarded by Veni Vwai La Grenade Dance Company, in recognition of the Bank’s generous support for more than two decades. Roger Duncan, Manager Customer Care, receives on behalf of Co-op Bank. Photo: Reynaldo Bernard

in generating national consciousness and identity, providing a window for reflection and engagement:

“It provides entertainment; people like to come to the tents and laugh and free up themselves. It also provides information about what’s happening in the society, and of course the calypsonian will put his own spin on it. People are educated, they are motivated through the art form, but most of all it provides a reflection of what is happening in the society.”

We could view the Bank’s cultural policy as an investment in ‘human capital’; the calypso-writing workshops successfully introduced a new generation to a vibrant aspect of their own patrimony, as Wizard observes:

“The workshops had a number of positive effects in the sense that they generated a lot of interest among the young people in calypso. They’d come up with good compositions and some of them would have graduated into the senior competition. It definitely had a positive impact.”

Yet beyond simply sensitising the future generation of Grenadians to their proud heritage the Bank has enabled the understanding of ‘the trajectory of the times’ past and present needed to move forward.

The Play’s the Thing

This is a book of stories, histories and herstories— Crik Crak! In documenting the stories of GCBL, we have heard many voices, those of ordinary and extraordinary Grenadians, rising from hill and valley, mountaintop and seashore, farm and forest, below the house and on the skyline; tales of the Penny Bank and the Billion

Dollar Bank, all part of Grenada’s own story. That has been the inspiration and purpose. The Bank, we come to realise, “doh jus business wit business”, its business is the Grenadian people. This is abundantly clear in the unwavering support it has given to the playwrights, whose business is bringing Grenada’s stories alive onstage, providing another window for reflection.

There’s no sustainable national development without a sense of national identity, which itself is a work in progress. Grenadians need to see themselves onstage, to see their history as well as local and universal issues affecting the human condition, so they’re sufficiently informed to actively engage in their own progress. Besides entertainment and storytelling, dramatists provide this necessary context, yet surviving in Caribbean theatre requires endless fortitude and determination, and many actors and playwrights have no option but migration. GCBL has the distinction of ensuring that those Grenadian playwrights who opted to remain or come home have been supported both as artists and contributors to national culture. Richardo Keens-Douglas, Christopher De Riggs and Urias Peters have all enjoyed fruitful relationships with the Bank.

Richardo Keens-Douglas

Richardo Keens-Douglas went to Toronto to fulfil his ambition of becoming an actor. After he graduated, he went to the Stratford Shakespeare Company with people like Maggie Smith, Peter Ustinov and Maggie Tyzack. However, success was not everything:

“But my heart, no matter what, was always in Grenada. I was living a fantastic life in Canada—I had my own TV show on CBC, a radio show, I

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was working with all the top theatres in Canada, I had 15 books in five languages. But my heart was always coming back to Grenada, and I would always come home for Christmas.”

Eventually, in 2000, Keens-Douglas came home to stay, and giving up the bright lights in Canada for Grenada brought its own challenges. But the Bank welcomed him, made a place for a customer who had been saving with them since he was in short pants:

“It’s very hard for theatre people in this country.

And that’s why when there are places like Co-op Bank, where you find somebody who understands you, there’s a warmth, there is hope. You say ‘Oh God yes! There’s someone who can see me and they’re going to support me and appreciate me and help me to bring it out there to the universe.’ When you make that kind of connection, it’s heaven.”

Keens-Douglas notes that both Richard W. Duncan and Gordon V. Steele were always interested in theatre, in the arts. Most of his work dealt with the Caribbean, and it always had an uplifting message. His first production in Grenada was The Nutmeg Princess, a musical for children that won the top Canadian Dora Mavor Moore award for the Best Musical in Canada in 1999.

“The Bank wanted to be involved in the promotion of indigenous culture and local people, written by local writers. This also gave opportunities for young actors, because the only time actors get opportunities to learn anything is in actually performing in a play, since we don’t have a performing arts school in Grenada. These were things the Bank always supported, no matter what. Usually with sponsors, you have to go and beg them; but I never had to go to the

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Posters announcing Theatre Plays by Richardo Keens-Douglas, Francis Urias Peters and Christopher De Riggs

The Bank’s 75th Anniversary Church Service (2007)

Wife of Gordon V. Steele, Valerie Steele, releases balloons in celebration of the Bank’s 75th Anniversary. Gordon V. Steele and family lead the Inter-denominational Church service recession along with Governor General Sir Daniel Danny Williams GCMG. Staff and guests in attendance at the 75th Anniversary Inter-denominational church service.
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Governor General Sir Daniel Danny Williams, GCMG greets Deputy Chairman Derek Steele, Esq. and Mrs. Steele.

Bank and beg. They just knew the work was good, they appreciated it, they knew that they were going to get high quality, so it was never a hassle. I always celebrated them, I made sure that the public knew. Co-op Bank was always there for me.”

Out of this good relationship, Richardo KeensDouglas also started producing bespoke works for the Bank, like for the launch of Tower Hive, or the song for the Bank’s 75th anniversary:

75 years of being there for me

From my first penny, you gave me dignity

Always made me feel at home from my very first loan.

75 years hip hip hip hooray

It’s been a long way, but from the very first day

You would hear people say:

Co-operative is the Bank of the day

Co-operative Bank is there for you and me

No matter where your pocket might be

Co-operative Bank is for all walks of life

Co-operative is there to ease your strife

Co-operative puts a smile on your face

Co-operative puts you at the head of the race

Makes you feel tall like a steeple

Co-operative Bank is a bank of the people

75 years of service with a smile, with such classy style

You reach out far and wide, never swaying from our side

With your indigenous pride.

75 years you’ve been the corner stone

Always made us feel at home, safe and sound we have grown

Like the sweetness of the honey from the bee, Co-op is there for you and me.

Keens-Douglas and his business partner Margaret Payne became a trusted part of GCBL. At times, when Richard W. Duncan had a television appearance scheduled, he would call on Richardo to be there and to coach him. The Bank would also ask Keens-Douglas to direct and rehearse presentations by the Managing Director to staff or the public: “Am I sounding okay? Should I phrase it differently, emphasise this or that?”

“When they asked us to do the 75 years, down at the Rex, I told Margaret, ‘We have to make this so different’. I wanted to do something fantastic. I went to the beach and collected thousands of dried grape leaves, sprayed them gold and green in the colours of the Bank, and stapled them on big boards for backdrops. That’s the kind of work

I don’t mind doing. I decided to write a song, which my actors performed at the launch. I also did a couple of ads for the Bank. So, it was really a wonderful relationship. To be honest, I’m going to miss Richard, he’s so supportive and he truly likes culture and would always say, ‘Listen, this is very important to Co-op Bank, it’s important that this is seen in the country’.”

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Christopher De Riggs

Christopher De Riggs is a stalwart of indigenous culture, dedicating his life to it since schoolboy days. At Grenada Boys Secondary School (GBSS) in the late 1960s, with no specific interest in literature or theatre, he was fortunate to have benefitted from excellent teachers of literature and English. HD Baptiste, Principal of GBSS, had a certain magical touch in the way he taught English. “The way he unravelled the complex old English expressions from Shakespeare and Chaucer, really stimulated something in me,” De Riggs remembers. But what really excited him was Caribbean literature, the writings of Sam Selvon, Edgar Mittelholzer, Roger Mais, and later George Lamming, V.S. Naipaul, Derek Walcott and a number of playwrights, in particular Douglas Archibald, Errol John, Errol Hill, and Roderick Walcott. When Derek Walcott brought Dream On Monkey Mountain to Grenada, it was staged in the school’s auditorium, and De Riggs, who wasn’t seated inside, looked through the louvres and became mesmerised by the magic of theatre, the lights and sound, the conflict, the oratory, the powerful speeches. It was an awakening in him that made him join the school’s drama group, preparing plays for Speech Night, which was an annual affair.

Together with some like-minded students who shared the passion, De Riggs formed a theatre company, first staging and then writing

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Christopher De Riggs, Playwright, Artistic Director, Actor, Poet Photo: Reynaldo Bernard

Date: August 24, 1981

Location: Butler House, St. George’s

Jookootoo (Flashback)

The formerly glitzy Islander Hotel on the Ballast Ground, now requisitioned by the Revolution, renamed Butler House and repurposed, is buzzing tonight. Below the portraits of Butler, Michael Manley, Fidel Castro and Prime Minister Maurice Bishop, a meeting of the St. George’s Workers’ Parish Council is in full session, with several hundred dockers, roadworkers, agricultural labourers, nurses, teachers, hotel staff and civil servants in attendance. Following Grenlec Manager Winston Bullen’s review of problems inherited and steps taken to address them, a young man springs to his feet as the Chairman announces: “The People’s Poet - Brother Cudjoe Christopher De Riggs!” In a couple of bounds Christopher De Riggs, bursting with youthful energy and revolutionary fervour, is at the dais. With an actor’s sense of dramatic timing, he unleashes his flood of words conjuring history and humour, folk wisdom and resilience, resistance and fortitude; sweeping his spellbound audience into a living tapestry connecting all their past trials to the mercies of the present, the promise of a future for all:


I who walked through Belvidere wid Fedon, was me who tell him to bun de dam place down Grenada 1795 was naked blood and sand And every bitch and dey brudder wid machet in dey hand was death and terror for de Englishman. Believe yuh me dey run like hell. Dat was two hundred years ago, Ah believe dey running still.


I who fight for King and Country, dat was in World War Two Singing Rule Britannia Rule and growing like a big macco under de Union Jack Ah remember coming back vex like arse standing in de sun for de Queen to parse. And was nineteen thirty how much when Butler and Marryshow shout something

Ah doh remember too clearly, but to dem it was time for we natives to do something and put an end to all dis British Empire thing, for after all, de British didn’t like de best best bone in we and we been ketching arse on de estate from since King Matchet was a hammer, was like a donkey pee on we


I who in 1951 swallow hook line and sinker and eat from bramble to timber when de beast from de east somewhere between Dunfermline and Moyah came forward after making marse in Aruba proclaiming that he was the Messiah

We cuss the Guv’ner in bout ten different language and turn de whole place upsided down was rum parsing and estate burning and we making ting a merry and we all did sing ‘we shall never let our leader fall’ Never knowing dat one day our leader would let us fall


I who wet pants March 13th ‘79 and hide like hell for days singing Our Fadder, Holy Mary, Lord oh Lord please bring back Gairy But is two years since the Revo come and Ah still could drink me rum Dey ‘en close de church, dey ‘en take one sheep Ah ha me wuk an Ah still could sleep me son gone and study engineer, Ah getting free milk an house repair is only now I seeing how dis Revo good for de poor, an Ah dam sorry it didn’t come before de Revo run me Fadder, is true, but me Godfadder treating me better.

De Riggs’ performance is thunderously received. Here’s a man with all the skills of a chantwel or calypsonian, speaking the people’s language, celebrating their place in the unfolding of their history. Rather than individually acknowledge any applause for his communal performance Riggs quickly merges into the crowd, making way for the Minister of National Mobilisation.

(excerpt from “Jookootoo” reproduced with the kind permission of the author)

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plays. De Riggs started as an actor, but then discovered that he also could write and direct, and set up his Heritage Theatre Group, a repertoire company that, for three decades, addresses historical and topical issues in plays. His Group has toured internationally and De Riggs has written over 30 plays and comedic pieces. Presenting national stories as well as topical social and individual issues is a fundamental aspect of development, which the Bank has consistently supported, as De Riggs confirms while also explaining arts funding, sponsorship and promotion in Grenada:

“My relationship with Co-op Bank started about a decade ago. We’ve always depended on the private sector to provide us with financial resources to do theatre. Governments generally do not have money, so we expect them to be facilitators. If we import costumes and set construction materials, we ask them to give us duty-free clearance, but in the case of the private sector, we ask them for help so we can meet the production costs. Promotion is a big issue, so we often go to the private sector to ask them to underwrite the cost

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Christopher De Riggs (front) with actors from his play “Julien Fédon”

of promotion. We approached the Bank first to fill the halls. Doing a show in a hall that seats a thousand people you want to make sure that at least you have 400 or 500 for each night of the production. The Bank initially committed to purchase batches of tickets and pass these tickets on at a marked-down price to their staff. They also circulated information about the production in the internal mailing systems, in that way it helped give visibility to our promotion.”

GCBL sponsored at least four of De Riggs’s major productions: Bayside Story, which dealt with people’s traditional rights of access to beaches, parks and public amenities; Breaking Out, which showed how a relationship was affected by a man-made disaster, the invasion in 1983, and a natural disaster, Hurricane Ivan in 2004; Patient Zero, which was about COVID-19 and the lockdown; and most recently Julien Fédon, staged in March 2022 and sponsored by the Bank, which captured the experience of Grenada in the rebellion of the 1790s.

Besides its ongoing support for productions, the Bank has donated equipment that has radically improved performances:

“I think the most significant help that they’ve given us was the donation of a set of microphones and the accompanying equipment. It’s very expensive, state-of-the-art equipment, the kind that is used on Broadway. That has made a big difference in the quality of our performance, because sound has been an issue. We live in a part of the world where there’s a shortage of theatre spaces that are designed, customised for theatre, and so sound is a problem and that

can ruin the best theatrical production. So, we were very grateful when we had access to these microphones, which made it possible for somebody sitting in the back of a rectangular hall, like the Trade Centre, to pick up even a stage whisper from an actor. And actors were able to speak with their natural voices rather than strain their voices shouting. So that has raised the quality of the work that we have done, we’re very grateful for that help.”

Like Richardo Keens-Douglas, De Riggs fully appreciates not just the financial help but a mutual commitment to national development shared with the Bank:

“The Bank is one of the standout performers in support of national development, in support of the Arts. I would say they’re the most outstanding contributor to the development of an indigenous artform in Grenada. I think they’re miles ahead of every other entity in that regard. I don’t think it’s purely coincidental; they’re an indigenous bank and they’ve lived up to that profile in a big and remarkable way. It’s not just theatre, they support other artforms. They carry a big social responsibility that goes beyond the size of their deposits, that goes beyond their strength in the financial sector. They are seen as having a special loyalty and commitment to the development of Grenada. In many ways there’s a lot that can be emulated from the role that Co-op Bank is playing.”

As Roger Duncan clarifies, the Bank’s approach to sponsorship differs from that of the other banks, which tend to sponsor regional initiatives, or at best one-

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off local promotions. Co-op Bank invests directly and heavily in Grenada:

“In most cases our budget exceeded $2 million. Our sponsorship and donation dollars were quite a large percentage of what we were making as net profit.”

Regarding theatre sponsorship, GCBL adopted a cooperative rather than exclusive approach:

“We were unselfish enough to recognise that by ourselves, we cannot help a theatre company, so while we’ve made those heavy investments, it was never an exclusive arrangement for Coop Bank. Other financial institutions could still support because we recognise that it requires the efforts and resources of so many and we were looking from a very unselfish position—trying to help out the culture. We say ‘There are times to compete and times to cooperate’.”

Francis Urias Peters

Francis Urias Peters’ theatre company was the third beneficiary of the Bank’s focus on the performing arts. Its contribution to the company was in excess of $130,000 for state-of-the-art sound systems and microphones. Peters, too, is a long-time member of the Bank family, and was granted a mortgage through a loan from the Bank.

“I’m a traditional and loyal person, and I guess the same thing goes for the Bank, which in my perception has that goodwill towards the average Grenadian, hence the reason I gravitated to them.” He laughingly recalls the drama of his own daughter

opening an account in 1999, when the Y2K issue had people concerned:

“My daughter was about seven years of age, of course we wanted to encourage her to open an account because she had a piggy bank. So we told her ‘You have to go to Co-op Bank to open an account’ and she said ‘No. The millennium

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Poster announcing Redemption Time by Francis Urias Peters

bug going to eat my monies!’ We had to get a high-ranking officer in the Bank to come and speak to her and tell her that this wouldn’t happen and she got her confidence and opened an account.”

Peters studied theatre arts in Jamaica, and in the 1980s, was involved in the majority of plays at the Marryshow Folk Theatre (in what is now the UWI Open Campus Centre, Marryshow House, St. George’s), which was instrumental in developing theatre in Grenada.

Around 2010, his relationship with GCBL started to develop, and the Bank was one of the sponsors in all of his Spice Basket productions: Struggle, set on a cocoa plantation in the Gairy era; Redemption Time, about the Revolution; No Money No Love (the title of a calypso by The Mighty Sparrow), a play about the plight of musicians and the importance of copywriting your work; The Burial of Ms. Faithlyn, a very successful comedy; and Rivals, first commissioned by the university in 1993 and rescripted for Spice Basket.

Prior to sponsoring productions, in the early 2000s, the Bank commissioned Peters to script a long-running radio series of about 120 episodes, promoting their Super Saver and HELP education loan products—once again investing in local talent to promote national development. It was called In This Home, and encouraged Grenadians to save for their children’s education.

“That’s where again I give them credit because so many times you might do an

192 90 Y ears O f G renada C O - O perative B ank L imited
Francis Urias Peters, Actor, Playwright and Theatre Director Photo: Reynaldo Bernard

ad, make an announcement, do a newspaper article and that’s it. But to make continuous public education done in a very creative way, I think it’s one of the most effective tools for marketing, and Co-op Bank understood that. It was a 5-minute radio drama surrounding the main character Tammy and we made her brilliant beyond her age, witty and smart. It used to air around 7.30 am when the parents dropped off their kids at school, and if that episode was not completed, they had to wait! It was a major, major success.”

With a creative and historical perspective on Grenada, Peters acknowledges the Bank’s vital role in development:

“It’s a legacy, a tradition. If you go back to the history of this country, traditionally workers across the board were the lowest paid, even up to today. But there was always this quest among Grenadians to own land, and when Gairy gave access to people to own a piece of land, Co-op Bank assisted them with loans and mortgages. That tradition is handed down. My children and grandchildren all have an account, and I’m sure my great-grands are going to have accounts.

We feel that this Bank is ours, it represents us.

I believe it’s also the service—they’re flexible in hard times. You can work something out. You could sit, speak and reason with them. And they’ve given so much back to the community.”

Urias Peters also comments that outgoing Managing Director Richard W. Duncan has earned an almost “reverential respect” all over the country. He is seen as a symbol of honesty and truth; a person who has vision and creativity—brilliant but humble, down to earth.

The creative community appreciates that even though the Bank is the main sponsor, Duncan always pays for his own tickets with the words, “I am supporting”.

“His leadership has been instrumental in their success. He includes all staff including cleaners and other non-banking workers in staff parties. He was like a son to Knocky Steele—they were like (Clive) Lloyd and (Sir Vivian) Richards. He is a brilliant guy, but like Richards, who never upstaged Lloyd, they had a lovely synergy. Richard supported him, he created a lot of new ideas but he didn’t take the credit. I don’t think the Bank had any choice but to make Richard manager based on Mr. Steele’s guidance, because Richard still comes from the working class. Richard recognises that ‘where there’s no art people perish, it’s a formula for chaos and decadence’.”

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The Treaty of Tower Hive

In 2012, the Bank had to declare a loss and was not in a position to pay dividends. The spectre of nonperforming loans (NPLs) plagued the Bank’s financial outlook. At 13% and rising, the level and increasing trend of NPLs was “like a disease that sapped the strength of the Bank and by extension its ability to survive”, as Managing Director Richard W. Duncan said. The Recoveries Staff were asked to think outside the box and come up with improved and new strategies to contain and reverse the situation. The Lending Staff met on September 23, 2013 and identified ways to raise the monitoring and follow-up aspect of their processes.

Recognising the importance of celebrating achievement in building team spirit and growing the modern Bank, Richard W. Duncan turned collections into a team challenge, inspiring confidence and determination by anticipating success and dramatising the launch of the Bank’s initiative with a special occasion. In October 2013, Duncan called the staff together to roll out the Non-performing Loans Containment and Reduction Programme (NPL-CARP), and gave a rousing speech, a copy of which was placed in a time capsule to be opened in October 2019. As at September 30, 2019, the NPL ratio at the Bank was reduced to 3%—well below the mandatory benchmark of 5% stipulated by the regulators.

In fact, it had taken the Bank just three years, from 2013 until 2016, to reduce the NPLs to below 5%. This milestone was celebrated by management with a sense

of drama and pride, with the “Treaty of Tower Hive”, in which the “NPL” concedes defeat and surrenders to the NPL-CARP team and the staff members of Grenada Cooperative Bank Limited. With much humour and levity, the Treaty of Tower Hive read:



Entered into between NPL on the one hand and the NPL-CARP Forces and all Staff of Grenada Cooperative Bank Limited on the other.

I, NPL hereby declare that I have come here, not of my own free will and accord, but under duress.

I am here, present to do the following:-

i. Concede my emphatic defeat at the hands of the NPL-CARP Forces

ii. Render an unconditional apology to the Bank

iii. Give an undertaking never again to threaten the Viability of the Bank

iv. Acknowledge the gallantry of the NPL-CARP Forces.

1. Defeat Conceded

In any battle there comes a time when continued employment of the means and methods by which opposing forces vie for supremacy must come to an end. This may be due to a stalemate where both parties, exhausted and battle-weary, jointly accept that further

194 90 Y ears O f G renada C O - O perative B ank L imited

engagement is too costly or futile; or one party gets a decisive upper-hand, and therefore the battle comes to an end. I, NPL accept that the latter has occurred and that my defeat is emphatic.

2. Unconditional Apology

I, NPL acknowledge that I have brought much pain and suffering to the Bank and its employees. My pervasive presence in the Bank’s Loan Portfolio was disgraceful; I have caused both men and women to grey faster than they ordinarily would, leading them to dye their hair pre-maturely. The accelerated hair loss among the male members of the Team is also as a result of my actions. The trauma they faced from customers, due to threats of obeah, beatings and other forms of retaliation were all my fault. Therefore without hesitation or reservation, I offer my unconditional apology for the harm and distressed caused.

3. Undertaking

I, NPL accept and acknowledge that I flourish best under the following conditions:-

i. Weak credit risk environment

ii. Poor credit risk practices

iii. Poor underwriting standards and practices

iv. Poorly trained staff

v. Absence of robust early detection, follow-up and resolution of delinquency

Should those aforementioned conditions be kept out of the Bank, I give my word that I shall never again:-

i. Return to the Bank above 3%, and

ii. Threaten the Bank’s well-being in such a rude and vile manner.

However, to the contrary, I shall be held blameless for any future harm and suffering should the Bank fail to prevent any or all of the conditions alluded to above.

4. Acknowledgement of Gallantry

Finally, I NPL state categorically that I appreciate and admire the gallantry and fighting spirit of the NPL— CARP Forces.

The drive and passion of Brigadier General Charlton Paryag is something to behold. His mastery of field craft and tactical agility are second to none.

• Major General Nicola Philip and Major General Susan Redhead have displayed extraordinary leadership skills and patience with the troops along the way.

• Brigadier General Jacqueline Phillip has discharged herself quite admirably also along the lines of tactical agility and a passion for SUCCESS.

• Sergeant Majors Daniella Mc Sween, Ria JonesCherman, Michelle Noel-Gibbs and Sergeants Glenn Canhigh, Hazel Ann John, Patricia ThomasHagley, Viola Charter, Albert Andall and Alicia Bubb were also valiant in the discharge of their duties.

I also pay special homage to Lieutenant General Peter Antoine and Lieutenant General Deon Moses for their brilliance in strategic and tactical leadership.

In conclusion, I, NPL, place on record that the victory of the NPL-CARP Forces was achieved by legitimate means; and in compliance with the Geneva Convention. These Forces stand free of any accusation of war crimes or crimes against humanity.

Signed and sealed this 10 th day April 2018 at No. 14 Church Street St. George’s (The signatures can be found in the Appendices.)

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A New Record-Breaking Champion

By the time the Treaty of Tower Hive was signed, both the Bank and Grenada were emerging from the global recession and the last year of a Structural Adjustment Programme, with GDP nudging just above US$1 billion. Economic growth was recorded in education, real estate, communications and transport, wholesale and retail trade and construction. Even while the Bank had registered some losses, rises in financial investments drove Assets growth. Deposits continued to accelerate and a rigorously controlled loans portfolio expanded further, due to increasing consumerism reflecting the global trend facilitated by digitalisation and easy credit. New houses were built, older properties renovated, and hardware boomed. Overall profits now began to match Assets in the sharp upward trajectory: from $4.4 million in 2016, up to $7.7 million in 2018, reaching $9.9 million in 2021. By 2018 GCBL was first across the billion dollar line in competition with Grenadian banks to register Assets of $1.058 billion—another new local champion!

In the run-up to the 2016 Brazil Olympics, at which Kirani James would defend his title, the Bank’s Make It Yours consumer loans campaign ran a competition with the prize of an all-inclusive trip for two to the Olympics. With national pride in mind and in line with its support for sports and athletics, the Bank made a donation of $25,000 to the Grenada Olympics Association. Sponsorship of the Primary School Games was extended to all six parishes and Carriacou, and the National Sports as well.

Now confident in having found its own winning stride, like a well-trained, superbly fit relay team

the Bank picked up more speed, taking on further challenges, now as unstoppable as the Jaguar himself.

Co-op Bank and ECSE

Holding true to its mission statement and aware that being a frontrunner means leading by example, in 2016 the Bank took the lead in the push to further transform and develop the financial landscape in Grenada and the Eastern Caribbean in the aftermath of the global economic crisis. As an Information Age institution with its own fully functioning e-banking platform it was now poised to join The Eastern Caribbean Securities Exchange (ECSE), founded in 2001 and the Western Hemisphere’s first electronic regional securities market. On September 28, 2016 the Bank was issued a Broker/Dealer licence by The Eastern Caribbean Securities Regulatory Commission (ECSRC). Then in a mark of respect to its past and a salute to tradition it celebrated its 85th anniversary on July 26, 2017 by listing its own shares on the ECSE.

For Richard W. Duncan, the listing was another instance of adapting, modernising and capitalising on the opportunities offered by developing technology:

“There exist in the region several institutions to enable the further modernisation of our financial space. The ultimate benefit of such modernisation to me, is the democratisation of investment prospects, whereby more persons who are willing and able to do so, get a fair and equal opportunity to participate in converting some of their savings into investments, and so diversify and grow their wealth.”

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At the public launch of its brokerage and investment services on November 22, 2017, ECSRC Commissioner Lucia Livingston-Andall congratulated the Bank:

“Firstly by taking up the challenge to be the only institution on the island currently to facilitate securities trading through the recent establishment of its Brokerage and Investment Services Unit; and secondly, through this initiative of listing its own shares on the securities exchange.”

Chairman of the Board Ambrose Phillip noted that joining the securities market not only extended the Bank’s customer base but also conclusively positioned it as “a leader and innovator in Grenadian economic development.” Yet as Richard W. Duncan emphasised in speaking of “a determination to play a more meaningful role in the ECCU market”, the relationship with the ECSE and the development and expansion of the ECCU’s money and capital market are fundamental to the project of sustainable regional development. Once again the Bank has been proud to lead Grenada’s contribution to meaningful independence and sustainable development throughout the Eastern Caribbean, demonstrating the capacity of indigenous co-operation.

In a blast from the past which strengthened its links with regional indigenous banks, in 2017 the Bank signed a ‘functional co-operation agreement’ with the First National Bank of St. Lucia—a rebranding of none other than the St. Lucia Co-operative Bank, which Penny Bank founder and first Secretary/Manager Sam Brathwaite had helped establish back in 1937. It’s a family thing, and old bonds, once nurtured, bear future fruits in due season. The First National delegation

L - R Directors Derick Steele, Gordon V. Steele, Richard W. Duncan, Managing Director; Director Lisa Taylor and Deputy Chairman Leslie Ramdhanny

included Charmaine Gardener, President of the Board of Directors, Christian Husbands, Vice President and Andy Delmar, Managing Director.

Reflecting the shift in social patterns, in 2017 Ambrose Phillip became Chairman of Grenada Cooperative Bank Limited’s Board of Directors. Now the Board of the Penny Bank, on the verge of becoming the Billion Dollar Bank, would be headed by a meritocrat from the same working class the Bank had been founded for. Like Richard W. Duncan, Ambrose Phillip was a working class star, who had soared on the wings of education, with an equally impressive list of credentials and a well-known track record in the public sector as General Manager of the Grenada Port Authority.

Richard W. Duncan was undoubtedly a modern banker par excellence, a student and scholar if you will of the ‘science and sociology’ of banking, a master of both theory and practice capable of harnessing technology and human capital. But more importantly, he is a Grenadian who never became estranged from

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his roots. A strategist and occasional cricketer, like the best captains he knows how to set his field and, as a batsman, how to block a devious spin. As he puts it:

“When people try to hoodwink me, or pass things off, I like to remind them I grew up doing a little bit of farming—that’s how we survived in terms of my Dad’s taxi service. In the off season, we did some cultivation; we reared chickens, we reared pigs. So, I can detect BS by sight and smell, from a distance. So it’s always difficult to fool me on a particular issue. It’s one of the things I held dearly in my years treating with the politics of organisations.”

It’s this no nonsense ‘common sense’, a gift to those who grow up and learn to survive on the land which no ‘book learning’ can teach, that gave Richard W. Duncan a cutting edge when combined with expertise. He would survey the pitch he was playing on, adapt to conditions and the state of play, then rally his team to lead them to victory.

In the most recent period, as the Bank outpaced the competition and hit the billion-dollar mark, there

has been consolidation of all the advances made in strengthening institutional organisation, capacity building and revamping of policies and procedures since 1996. Areas addressed include: enterprise risk management systems; anchoring and embedding new branch business model; along with the sales and service and credit organisation models; introducing enhanced governance policies and building a balanced and fit for purpose Board of Directors; new audit policies and audit and risk management software, and further entrenching customer-centricity. Richard W. Duncan credits the following outstanding GCBL team members for leading these initiatives, vital for sustaining the Bank’s trajectory: Deon Moses, Chief Experience Officer; Julia Lawrence, Chief Audit Executive; Jennifer Marshall-Robertson, Executive Manager, Risk; Richard Medford, Manager, Electronic Services and Retail Operations; Javed Hosten Head of Card & Merchant Services; and Garvin Baptiste, Senior IT Officer.

Entering 90 Years on a High Note

Mere weeks before Richard W. Duncan retired in November 2021, GCBL announced that as part of a consortium of leading indigenous banks in the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union it had entered into a definitive agreement (subject to regulatory approval) to acquire the branches and banking operations of CIBC FirstCaribbean in Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The acquisition will not only give the Bank a deposit base of $1.3 billion, representing a 36% market share in Grenada, but will also signal the growing strength of indigenous banking and a validation of W.E. Julien’s belief that indeed ‘unimaginable things are possible’

198 90 Y ears O f G renada C O - O perative B ank L imited
Richard Medford Javed Hosten Garvin Baptiste Deon Moses Julia Lawrence Jennifer Marshall-Robertson

In 2019, the Bank was the recipient of the ECCU Bank of the Year Award. Mr. Richard W. Duncan, Managing Director (second from left), among other recipients; Bank of St. Lucia, Antigua Commercial Bank, St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla National Bank Ltd., CIBC First Caribbean International Bank, St. Lucia and Republic Bank (Grenada) Ltd.

once you believe in your people and develop a mutual bond of trust.

An abiding and inspiring image of GCBL’s success must surely be that juxtaposition on the corner of Young and Church Streets, St. George’s, where the first real office of the Penny Bank still stands obliquely opposite CIBC First Caribbean Bank—former headquarters of the same Barclays Bank who refused W.E. Julien a loan to start his business more than 90 years ago. In 1932, no Grenadian in their wildest dreams would have thought GCBL’s Tower Hive would be gracing the St. George’s skyline today.

Before we leave the Bank in the capable hands of its new Managing Director Larry N. Lawrence, we’ll hear some parting reflections. First, Richard W. Duncan

analyses the Bank’s success, which he attributes to human resource capacity, plus the introduction of technology and training.

“We recruited people of calibre from other financial institutions and professionals from the public service. We brought in young people fresh out of school and trained them, and sent staff on banking courses. Technology wise, we launched international debit cards, credit cards, and e-banking. We built a modern spacious facility and renovated all the branches. We also strengthened our corresponding banking relationships, all of which allowed the Bank to modernise and gain the confidence of the public. Governance, staff and Board were completely

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realigned as we invested in Director training and developing rigorous policies and procedures for staff to follow in the delivery of service.”

Richard W. Duncan also fully acknowledges the key role played by shareholders, who at the time of writing numbered a little over 4,000.

“Without their capital we couldn’t have done it. In 2010, to drive the expansion and modernisation, we went to the shareholders and asked them to buy some more shares, a share issue that was handsomely subscribed and that created a great platform for the further growth and advancement of the Bank. One investor was making the point that when the offer came on the market, he felt confident that the Bank finally had the leadership and the management that led him to believe that if he bought shares they would yield a decent return. He did not regret having made that decision.”

In terms of non-financial metrics, the Bank developed a Customer Service Charter, which outlined to customers precisely how the staff would deliver service to them. The Charter is audited every year by an independent auditor, who analyses customers’ rating of the Bank’s service. The benchmark is 70; and in the first two audits the Bank came close, reaching 69 and 68, but in the last five audits it has consistently hit above 70, with 79 in 2021, despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

Roger Duncan, currently Manager of Customer Care, who joined the Bank in 1998 subsequently becoming one of the pillars of modernisation, is amazed at the speed and size of the strides made over the last 20 years:

“When we started off we never considered ourselves last; there were five commercial banks

Bankers to the Government of Grenada

Having aligned its own trajectory with national development since Penny Bank days, by February 2014 the Information Age Bank (with foreign and regional corresponding banking relationships, on-line banking and wire transfer competence) was now positioned to become banker to the Government of Grenada. This was a logical and natural progression as well as a matter of national pride. The transfer of government accounts from FCIB and the Bank of Nova Scotia made good business sense, with government as the largest employer and biggest revenue earner. Doing business with GCBL finally meant profits made on government banking went into the Grenadian economy and a mutual project of national development.

Subsequently, once government embarked on a particular strategic development initiative, like the Citizen by Investment (CBI) programme, relaunched in 2013, it was in the Bank’s interest to participate.

The CBI has played a very significant role in boosting the economy in the last five years and the Bank has been instrumental in facilitating the compliance necessary to ensure the integrity and development of what the COVID-19 pandemic has proved to be a rapidly expanding sector of migration investment. Both Deon Moses (Chief Experience Officer) and Willvorn Grainger (Chief Experience Officer, Designate) have played critical roles in this initiative, which resulted in two successful Investment Migration Round Table conferences for CBI stakeholders, organised by the Bank in November 2020 and 2021 (see photo above).

200 90 Y ears O f G renada C O - O perative B ank L imited

and we were just the fifth! We have seen the Bank move into first position in both its market share in deposits and loans; we have seen the Bank grow in its reputation and image, as the Bank of first choice; we have seen the Bank grow in its structure, its range of service, its technological platform. I have seen that massive expansion over 20 years, like a flower that just burst open. What we are enjoying now is the result of that hard work. What’s important for us now is sustaining that.”

And finally here’s Willvorn Grainger, now Chief Experience Officer, Designate, who, with a UWI MA in Finance and Investment, was initially unimpressed with GCBL:

“When I left school in 1993, I did not consider to become a part of Co-op Bank. When I joined

in 2005, we were the fifth of five commercial banks. In terms of organic growth, currently we are the second-largest. 90 years after Barclays caused Co-op Bank to be here, it is going to be acquired by the Bank. That is remarkable, it’s a proud moment for the staff, a proud moment for Grenada. As an indigenous bank, it’s probably the best run and managed in the region. That’s worthy of national recognition. We want to be an employer of choice, a model for customercentricity. To have young professionals who come into the Bank, be able to grow, have a family and live a fruitful life. We believe we come here and we have to grow, both personally and with the Bank.”

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Launch of the Bank’s Brokerage and Investment Services L-R: Directors Derick Steele and Gordon V. Steele, Managing Director Richard W. Duncan, Director Lisa Taylor, General Manager of the Eastern Caribbean Securities Exchange Trevor Blake, Director Darryl Brathwaite and Chairman Ambrose Phillip.
Above: GCBL Staff and their families enjoying themselves in social get-togethers. Photos: Reynaldo Bernard

Community Engagements

Floyd Dowden (left) and Licensed Emergency Communication personnel (Callsign J39JX) participate in Multi-Island Emergency Communication Exercises in Windward Islands. These exercises included CEDERA, CDEMA NEMO, NaDMA and other regional bodies. Co-op Bank was a major sponsor every year (2007).

The Board of Directors tours La Sagesse Farms (2003).

Sir Archibald Nedd Memorial Lecture Series

The Bank sponsors the annual Sir Archibald Nedd Memorial Lecture at the Grenada Bar Association. Gordon V. Steele with The Honourable Dame Dr Bernice Lake QC (above) in 2004, and with The Honourable Mia Amor Mottley QC (below) in 2005. At right is Ruggles L. Ferguson, President, Grenada Bar Association. Sir Archibald Nedd was a Grenadian legal scholar and jurist who served as Chief Justice of Grenada from 1979 to 1986.

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W.E. Julien Lecture Series

Michael Julien - Financial Economist and grandson of founder and first Chairman of the Board of Directors, Willan Edward Julien, delivering the feature address at the inaugural W. E. Julien Memorial Lecture Series, 2014.

The W.E. Julien Lecture Series (in honour of Founder and first Chairman of Grenada Co-operative Bank Limited, Willan Edward Julien) is inspired by the Bank’s desire and intention to deepen our appreciation for various issues relating to Banking, Finance, Management, Strategy and Organisational Performance.

The Bank uses the opportunity of these lectures held annually to enhance Director/Executive interface and interaction. The feature speakers were:

• 2014: Michael Julien, Financial Economist Financial Intermediation in the Caribbean: How well does it work?

• 2015: Sharon Christopher, Deputy CEO, First Citizens Group FEATURE ADDRESS: What Lessons, if any, have Bankers learnt from the Financial and Economic Crisis: a Governance and Risk Management Perspective.

• 2016: Dr. Arnold Mc Intyre, Deputy Division Chief, Caribbean Division, at the International Monetary Fund

Chairman Darryl Brathwaite, Gregory de Gannes and Managing Director Richard W. Duncen (2019)

(IMF). RegionalEconomicDevelopmentsandFinancialSector Challenges: Prospects for Prosperity of Indigenous Banks.

• 2017: Dr. Kari Grenade, Macroeconomic Advisor. Mega Trends and Potential Implications for Commercial Banks in the ECCU.

• 2018: Christopher E. Louard, Director of Bank Supervision, Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB). Sector Stability: Lessons from the ECCU.

• 2019: Gregory de Gannes, Commercial Banker extraordinaire Indigenous Bankers of the 21st Century: Experiences of the Trailblazers - Problems, Progress, PitfallsLessons for Today’s Bankers

• 2020: Derry Williams, Managing Director, Bank of St. Vincent & The Grenadines Limited (BOSVG). Growth, Development and Transformation of Indigenous Banks - The Leadership Challenge

• 2021: Dr. Timothy N. J. Antoine, Governor, ECCB FEATURE ADDRESS: Enhancing the Competitiveness and Stability of the ECCU Banking Sector in a Post Pandemic Era –a Regulator’s Perspective.

204 90 y ear S o f G re N ada c o - o P era T i V e b a N k l imi T ed

Julien Fédon Memorial Lecture Series

From 2001 to 2005, GCBL sponsored the Julien Fédon Memorial Lecture Series along with the Julien Fédon Award.

Distinguished historians who gave the lectures of the series were Mary Toussaint, Donald Polson, Dr. Adrian Fraser, Dr. Nicole Phillip-Dowe and Ron Sookram.

The University of the West Indies School of Continuing Studies - Grenada Centre in collabroation with the Preparatory Committee of the Institute for People’s Enlightenment hosted the event. The Award was given for excellence in history to the most outstanding UWI student in History of the Graduating Class of the respective year. The Award included a medal and cash in the EC equivalent of £501. This represents a sum greater than the reward offered by the British of £500 for Fédon’s capture, dead or alive, in 1796—a reward that was never claimed. The recipients were then known as ‘Julien Fédon Scholars’:

• 2001 - Dr. Nicole Phillip-Dowe (Grenada)

• 2002 - Bertha Joseph (St. Lucia)

• 2003 - Dr. Cleve Mc Scott (St. Vincent)

• 2004 - Dr. Ron Sookram (Grenada)

• 2005 – N Saka N.Sptf ‘Ntp’ Sesepkekiu (Antigua)

Carol Bristol Lecture Series

For several years, Co-op Bank has invested in the development of Grenadians through consistent sponsorship of the Carol Bristol Lecture Series in partnership with the University of the West Indies.

This lecture series has provided an avenue for continuous discussion surrounding important social topics, thus contributing to the growth and development of Grenadians and the wider region.

The Carol Bristol Lecture Series was made in honour of Mr. Carol Bristol Q.C. for his exemplary service to the University of the West Indies. For half a century Mr. Bristol served the University, first as a tutor in the 1960s and as member of the University of the West Indies Territorial Advisory Council and as President of the Council for 15 years. His intellect, wit, benevolence, stalwart leadership, and his indomitable spirit was an inspiration to Grenadians and the wider region. Mr. Bristol understood that the true beauty of life is to serve one’s fellowmen. The lecturers were:

• 2015: Dr. Hollis Liverpool a.k.a.Chalkdust, “Calypso, its Contribution to Culture, National Identity and Development”

• 2016: Prof. Brian Meeks, “The Grenada Revolution Legacy: Lessons and Pitfalls”

• 2018: Prof. Verene Shepherd, “Get on Board Sisters: Women and the Reparations Movement in the Caribbean”

• 2019: Ambassador Attallah Shabazz, “Black Lives Matter: The Relevance of the Work of Caribbean People of Labour in the Diaspora”

• 2020: Dr. Didacus Jules, “Children Go to School an’ Learn Well: Challenges with Education in the Caribbean”

• 2021: Dr. Wendy Grenade, “The COVID-19 Crisis: Reimagining New Pathways for the Caribbean”

• 2022: Dr. Halimah De Shong, “ThePursuitofGenderJustice: Violence, Unpaid Labour and the Complex of Care”

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Julien Fédon Scholar N Saka N.Sptf ‘Ntp’ Sesepkekiu receives monetary prize from Mrs. Samantha Ince-John

The Annual General Manager’s (later Managing Director’s) Special Award

Besides a policy of ensuring that all staff are valued, enjoy good working conditions, training and well defined career paths, the modern Bank, realising the importance of recognising and celebrating outstanding performance in forging team spirit and motivating individuals to develop their full potential, instituted the annual GeneralManager’sSpecialAward, which was later changed to the Managing Director’s Special Award

Over the years, this coveted award has been bestowed on those who have made significant and outstanding contributions to the growth, modernisation and development of Co-op Bank, honouring their leadership and teamwork skills, and elevating to be regarded as exemplars of the Bank’s core values.

Peter C. Antoine 1998 “For Dedicated Leadership and Commitment in the Setting Up and Operations of the Loan Recoveries Unit”

Floyd Dowden 1999 “For Dedicated Leadership & Commitment in Achieving Y2K Compliance of Grenada Co-operative Bank Ltd.”

Richard W. Duncan 1999 “For his Sterling Contribution in the Development Process and the Way Forward for the Bank”

Stephen Gresham 2000

Florence Williams 2001

David Flemming 2002

Richard W. Duncan 2002 “For His Continued Sterling Contribution to the Development of Grenada Co-operative Bank Limited”

Clifford Bhola 2003 “For His Loyalty and Sterling Contribution in the Development and Growth of the Sauteurs Branch of the Bank”

Julia Lawrence 2005 “For Her Loyalty and Sterling Contribution in the Development and Growth of the Bank”

Richard Medford 2006 “For His Loyalty and Sterling Contribution in the Development and Growth of the Bank”

90 Y ears O f G renada C O - O perative B ank L imited y ear S re N ada P era T i V e a N k imi T ed 206

Tracy Garrett 2008 “For Her Loyalty and Sterling Contribution to Project R.A.A.C.E.”

Shane Regis 2009 “For His Sterling Contribution to the Growth and Development of the Bank as Officer-in-Charge of the Carriacou Retail Banking Unit 2007–2009”

Allana Charles 2010 “For Her Sterling Contribution to the Strategic Initiatives of the Bank”

Garvin Baptiste 2011 “For His Sterling Contribution to the Development and Implementation of the Bank’s Card Issuing and Merchant Acquiring Infrastructure”

Willvorn Grainger 2012 “For His Contribution to the Financial and Non-Financial Performance of the Bank over the Years; along with His Achievement under the Group Credit Life Insurance Programme”

Richard Medford 2013 “For His Sterling Contribution and Dedication to Duty in the Design, Development and Implementation of the Bank’s eBanking Service”

Charlton Paryag 2014 “For His Sterling Contribution to the Containment and Reduction of the Bank’s Non-Performing Loan Portfolio through Property Sales”

Nicola Philip-Walcott 2015 “For Her Sterling Contribution to the Stability of Grenada Cooperative Bank through Her Outstanding Leadership and Effective Execution of the Bank’s Non-Performing Loan Containment and Reduction Programme”

Deon Moses in 2016 “For His Sterling Contribution to the Stability of Grenada Cooperative Bank through His Outstanding Leadership and Effective Embedding of the Oneday Model and the Centralised Disbursement Function”

Bobina Bethel in 2017 “For Her Sterling Contribution to the Development and Transformation of Grenada Co-operative Bank through Her Outstanding Involvement in and Effective Embedding of the ‘Customer Insight Unit’ and ‘New Branch Business Model’”

Wilfred Gary Sayers 2018 “For His Sterling Contributions to the Growth and Transformation of Grenada Co-operative Bank Limited”

Javid Hosten 2019 “For His Invaluable Contributions to the Growth, Expansion and Safety of the Bank’s Card & Merchant Services Programme”

Diyanna Gulston 2020 “For Her Sterling Contribution to the Development and Modernisation of the Bank as Project Champion of the New Credit Origination Model”

Kester Joseph 2021 “For His Invaluable Contributions to the Board Governance Reform, Strategic Management Methodology and Systems”

Brendon Mc Gillivary 2021 “For His Sterling Contributions to the Bank’s Enhanced and Expended Participation in Grenada’s Investment Migration Programme”

A list of all former and current staff members can be found in the Appendices.

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“Unless we, the older generation, try to impart and get young people to appreciate certain things, those things will be lost. People like myself have to make sure the younger folk understand that the world is on a particular trajectory that we can influence by pushing ourselves.”
(Richard W. Duncan)

So here we pause, to mark this 90th anniversary milestone in the history of Grenada Co-operative Bank Limited, before the story continues beyond these pages into the future. This book celebrates the success of Grenada’s sole surviving indigenous bank and commemorates all those who made it possible for ordinary Grenadians to access financial services, better themselves and their families and play an active role in developing their nation.

We have met the founding fathers, whose belief in their people and whose vision of betterment for all was driven by the understanding that with fortitude, determination and opportunity ‘unimaginable things are possible’.

We have heard how the Bank rose from the same humble beginnings as its first shareholders and customers, from obscurity to prominence. Like the Grenadian terrain, it’s been a rugged journey, skillfully negotiated first by amateur bankers in the role of Secretary/Manager and then by two visionary leaders who recognised ‘the trajectory of the times’ and seized the opportunity to transform a deposits and loans

institution into a digital-age bank. ‘Island man’ Knocky Steele had the will for this transformation and Richard W. Duncan found the way.

In documenting the Bank’s own history, we have also gleaned insights into Grenada’s socio-economic history and development from early in the 20th century into the new millennium; the two histories are inextricably entwined. As we travelled from Crown Colony days to universal suffrage and independence, first by horse and cart and then on wheels all the way into the Information Age, we followed the journey of a bank committed to Grenadian development.

At a time when the paradigm for some eastern Caribbean banks is servicing a consumerist import culture, rather than investment at home, Grenada Cooperative Bank Limited is a leader of indigenous banks’ investment in their own people. This is a model we can all take pride in.

The journey continues, like this book, from a past we can all learn from into a future we’re now better placed to shape.

208 90 Y ears O f G renada C O - O perative B ank L imited



Willan my Father

While preparing this book in 2022, we had the good fortune to get the following account from the last surviving child of W.E. Julien, Annette Smith, who at 94 years of age was visiting Grenada from her home in England to ‘wrap up her affairs’.

My father Willan Edward Julien was born in 1896 in Grenada. His mother was Portuguese, one of many who settled in Grenada from Madeira.

As a boy, he and his sister were poor but happy. He would sort out rusty and bent nails from good ones, and sell the good nails together with kites that he made to get some money, which he shared with his sister. It is possible that his business acumen started then.

His sister was drowned on a ship returning from America, which was a great loss to him and his mother. He was evermore extremely good to his mother, having a house built for her and seeing to her needs.

He fought in the First World War in the British West Indian regiment as a Sergeant and showed leadership, command and strategy. He was noted for his stoicism.

Following the capture of the Damieh Bridgehead in the Jordan Valley he was awarded the D.C.M. (Distinguished Conduct Medal). At the time it was the highest honour for gallantry. He requested a commission from the Colonel, but was refused because of the colour of his skin. He cried for a week, but decided that he would never let any man talk down to him or stand in his way.

W.E returned from World War I and, as you know, was extremely disillusioned about the way he was treated by the British Government when he applied to join the Army. A hint of this was that, on his return to Grenada, he was the only one of the returning soldiers who refused the automatic “honour” of being appointed a Justice of Peace by Her Majesty’s Government. It is therefore very likely that he returned to Grenada with a very different view of life than the one he had when he left for the war: if you were going to achieve anything in life, you had to do it all yourself and not be dependent on third parties to help you along the way.

W.E started his business with absolutely no money. He borrowed 250 pounds sterling from Clifford Date, Derick Steele’s grand-uncle, and used those funds to purchase a shipment of flour overseas. He then went to Barclays Bank and offered the flour as collateral for a loan to pay the import duties on the arrival of the shipment. Initially, the Bank agreed, but then changed its mind when the flour actually arrived at the port in St. George’s. So W.E was stuck; he had no money to clear the shipment through customs.

They say that necessity is the mother of invention. To get around his cash flow problems, W.E opted to market his flour to small shop owners by offering them a discount on the price if they agreed to pay him in advance for it—which they did. In that way, he was able to collect enough money to pay the duties owed, clear the flour from the docks and start his business.

90 Y ears O f G renada C O - O perative B ank L imited 210

In 1926 he moved from mercantile activities— joined with smaller businesses, then moved to start his business, he borrowed money from a private source— no bank would lend him what he needed.

He was able to start his own business, which was profitable. His employees were given shares in the company and bonuses at the end of the year (a thirteenth month’s salary).

I often reflect on his ingenuity, because it is perhaps one of the most amazing examples that there is always a solution to every problem. Nothing is impossible. And, most importantly, if you really want to succeed, you can!

I believe that this is the same approach that he, and other Grenadians like him, took in deciding to start Grenada Co-operative Bank Limited. The objective was to afford Grenadians, who were prepared to try, the opportunity to succeed financially. W.E’s commitment to this vision was forthright: he was the Chairman of the Bank for over 35 years, from the day it started.

In 1931 many merchants, planters and colonial officials called the crisis following the General Election a “communist plot”. W.E. and others said the crisis was due to negligence, failure to share profits of war and failure to grant universal suffrage.

W.E. and five other businessmen decided that a local bank was needed in Grenada. It was originally called “The Penny Bank” and encouraged Grenadians to start saving, particularly the poorer people. Other banks on the island were not local, not co-operatives and not affordable for the Grenadian working class because they required £1 in credit to start. In short, Co-op Bank was accessible—others not so much.

The Bank has helped thousands of Grenadians to achieve their dreams over the last 90 years of its existence. Of course today, few Grenadians are aware of why the Bank was started in the first place. Many are not aware of the stellar contributions made by Grenadians to its success!

Two of W.E.’s greatest loves were his livestock farm and his horses at Point Salines, tended by “Lewis”. He took advantage of the very salt sea water and sun at Point Salines to create the “salt ponds” by boarding areas so that the sun would evaporate the water and leave the sea salt.

His family remembers him as a forward-thinking man, attentive to every aspect of Grenadian society.

A ppendices 211

RBTT’s Letter of Offer of Acquisition, 1992

90 Y ears O f G renada C O - O perative B ank L imited 212
A ppendices 213 GCBL’s
Answer to RBTT, 1993

Staff Signatories to the Treaty of Tower Hive, 2013

90 Y ears O f G renada C O - O perative B ank L imited 214
A ppendices 215

Board Directors at the 90th Anniversary (appointed at the Shareholders’ Meeting in January 2022)


Acc. Dir., Chairman

BSc, Acc., Dir., Director


B.A. (Hons.), LL.B (Hons.), Acc. Dir., Deputy Chairman


BSc, MSc, PhD, Acc. Dir., Director


MBA, Acc. Dir., Managing Director

Lic., Acc. Dir., Director


BSc. FCCA, Acc. Dir., Director

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The Bank’s Executive Team at the 90th Anniversary


MBA, Acc. Dir., Managing Director


Corporate Secretary/Executive Manager, Legal & Compliance


BSc, MBA, FICB Chief Experience Officer


Executive Manager, Wealth Management & Financial Services



Executive Manager, Finance


Executive Manager, Operations & Administration

A ppendices 217


Dip. Banking, AICB, CIRM, CRU, MBA, MCIBS, Exec. Dip.


Executive Manager, Risk


Executive Manager, Human Resources


Chief Audit Executive


Executive Manager, Credit Administration


Executive Manager, Sales & Service


Chief Experience Officer, Designate

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Alexander, Keron

Alexander, Tracy

Alexander-Stephen, Vicki

Alfred, Mariette

Andall, Albert

Andrew, Juliet

Antoine, Carlton Peter

Antoine, Laura

Antoine, Phil

Archibald, Lyndon

Archibald, Roxanne

Auld-Mark, Sheree-Ann

Bain, Andy

Bain, Charles Ignatius Iri

Bain, James

Bain, Jose

Banfield, Ian

Baptiste, Barbara

Baptiste, Glenroy

Baptiste-James, Joanson

Barry, Omelyn

Beausoleil, Kyle

Beggs-Robinson, Lucian

Belfon, Monique

Berkley, Magdaline

Bethel, Esther

Bhola, Clifford

Bhola, Maxine

Bhola-Joseph, Rhonda

Bishop, Allan

Blache, Calvin K.

Blache, Rupert

Blackman, Kavonna

Blake, SUSAN Agnes

Bleasdille, Lerone

Bobb, Kiwani

Bourne-Gilkes, Gillian

Bowen, Kyle

Brathwaite, Samuel Wright

Britton, Javier

Brizan, Karen

Our Former Staff

Brizan, Sheereen

Bruno, Damani

Bubb, Alicia

Buckmire, Donovan Devon

Bullen, Leon

Buxo, Eddie

Buxo-Haywood, Sharon

Cadoo, Sharonda

Calliste, Renae

Calliste, Veda

Campbell, John

Canhigh, Glen

Chance, Jackie

Charles, Anthony

Charles, Donna

Charles, Mavis

Charles, Stephanie

Charles, Sylvester

Charles, Velma

Chatteram, Kirk

Chitan, Skeeta

Christopher, Mickie

Church, Mayrose

Clarke, Lynette

Clarke, Nicola

Coldeira, Sheridon

Commissiong, Jessie

Connaught, Della

Copland, John Christopher

Coxall, Annette

Cummings, Hanson

Cyrus, Stephen

Date, Clifford

Davidson, Cynthia

De Allie (Jr), Christopher

DeAllie, Claudia

DeAllie, Kareem

DeCoteau, Ingrid

DeFreitas, Denby

Delfish, Karlene

Depradine, Gloria Jean

Donelan, Princess

Douglas, Hazel-Ann

Dowden, Cassandra Dowden, Karlene

Dowden, Shaunelle

Downes, Lena

Downes-Mirjah, Angela

Drakes, Nsona Drakes, Osmond Duncan, Rachael

Duncan, Richard W.

Edmund, Shanel

Felix, Ackeesha Felix, Andre Felix, Lovell

Ferguson, Shimron

Ferguson-John, Dossia Findley, Sharon Flemming, David

Fletcher, Nicholson

Fletcher, Nicola Forteau, Greg Fortune, Joanne Fouchong, Maurice

Francis, Amara

Francis, Glen Francis, Hilary Francis, Khadine Francis, Tracy

Francis-Fleming, Annica Francis-Flemming, Kenisha Frank-Pivott, Rolda Fraser, Ian

Frederick, Dwight

Frederick, Tracy

Gabriel, Avon

Gabriel-Robinson, Marcelle

Garrett - Baptiste, Tracy

Gellineau, Kim

Gellineau, Kimon George, Kera

George, Phillip

Gibbs, Kevon

Gibson, Elena

Gilchrist, John Fitzgerald

Gittens, Tony

Glean, Adrian

Glean, Muriel

Gludd, Curliann

Gooding, Lera

Grant, Christine

Grant, Marietta

Greene, Vaughn

Greenidge, Abigail Annalee

Gresham, Corrine

Gresham, Stephen

Grey, Michelle

Griffith, Tesil

Guilliame, Valentine

Gulston Gittens, Jennifer Gunpot, Hilarion

Hackett, Donnel

Harford, Karxena

Hastick, Ainka

Haywood, Ashley

Haywood, Edward Henry, Shem

Herry, Lethon

Hillaire, Marika

Hinds, Janelle

Horsford, Boris

Horsford, Mary

Hosten, Christopher

Hosten, Denielle

Hughes, Leonard

Hughes, Paul

Hunte, Joshua

Hypolite, Jarmarie Max

Ince-John, Samantha

Isaac, Rhea

Jack, Nerissa K

Jacques, Hesketh Alec

A ppendices 219

Jacques, Leonard

James, Akira K.M.

James, Brian

James, Dunbar

James, Stephanie

James-Hankey, Niddica

Japal, Delon

Jeremiah-Horsford, Ava

John, Albert

John, Desiree

John, Rachael

John, Roxanna

John, Stephen

Johnson, Ananda

Jones-Gittens, Melissa

Joseph, Ashford

Joseph, Denize

Joseph, Kaiem

Joseph, Linus

Joseph, Shari

Joseph, Tracey

Julien, Deniston

Julien, Shervan

Keens-Douglas, Gerard

Knights, Danielle

La Mothe, Hilary

La Touche, Ronny

Laldee, Vernice

Lander Cyrus, Janis

Law, Omar

Lazarus, Nichole

Leid, Alex

Leid, Jennifer

Lett, Betty

Lewis, Jenielle

Lord, Donlyn

Lord, Kurt

Lord, Marlon

Louison, Cordell

Marquez-Sylvester, Natasha

Marryshow, Brian

Marshall, Verna

Marshall-Williams, Muriel

Mason, Ruby

Mathurine, Dwayne

Mauricette, Erlese

Mc Burnie, Paul

Mc Millan, KathyAnn

McIntyre, Alice

McIntyre, Alister

McMeo, Giselle

McMillan, Stephanie

McNeilly, Nicholas Adrian

Medford, Ann

Medford, Robert

Mitchell, Adrian

Mitchell, Cecile

Moore, Annette

Moore, Nandi

Morain, Richard

Moses, Rose Marie

Munroe-Martin, Deanne

Murray, Andy

Murray, Monica

Narine, Grace

Neckles, Shirley

Nedd, Clifton

Nicholas, Dwayne Noel, Ladyclair

Noel, Nesta

Noel, Yola Jolema

Noel-Marshall, Jennifer

O’Neale, Fitzroy “Roy”

Ollivierre, Ritchie

Oneale, Gemma

Osborne, Phyllis

Ottley, Natasha

Otway, Keleyan

Passee, Kellon

Patrice, Alex Asquith

Patrice, Jonathon

Patterson, Andre

Penny, Abigail

Perez, Vernice

Peters, Antonia

Peters, Godwin

Peters, Michael

Peters, Stephan

Phillip, Camelo

Phillip, Jensen

Phillip, Judy

Pierre, Trudy

Protain, Caryl

Purcell, Abijah

Pysadee, Errol

Raeburn, Revan

Rahaman, Clearie

Ramdeen, Jenel

Ramjohn - Alexander, Samantha

Redhead, Jennelle

Redhead, Yasmin

Regis, Michael Anthony

Regis-Johnson, Simone

Reid, Timothy

Richards, Darnell

Richards, Karim

Richardson, Roy

Roberts, Clyde

Roberts, Lyndon

Robertson, Margaret

Robertson, Nea

Robertson, Selwyn

Rougier, Amorelle

Ruffin, Michael

Salfarlie, Jacqueline

Salfarlie, Salisha

Scott, Jeremy

Scott, Roxanne

Shears, Charmie

Silvester, Anique

Smith, Nicole

Squires-Francis, Mondelle

St. Cyr, Allan

St. Louis, Danya

St. Louis, David

St. Paul, Serena

Stanislaus, Alvin

Steele, Gordon V.

Stephen, Awada

Strachan, Janice

Strachan, Krystal

Stuart, Kareen

Stuart, Tamara

Su, Gailon

Sylvester, Carla

Sylvester-Forteau, Claudette

Telesford-Thomas, Recia

Thomas, Alexandra

Thomas, Jerome

Thomas, Lydia

Thomas, Miriam

Thomas, Orson

Thomas, Patrick

Thomas-Campbell, Chantal

Thompson, Faye

Trotman, Anusca

Walcott, Clyde

Wayne, Shatonia

Wells, Pauline

Wells-Francois, Catherine

Wells-Noel, Chriselda

Whiteman, Herschel

Whyte-Forsyth, Zandra

Wickham, Raul

Wildman, Doyle

Wildman, Janice

Williams, Ann C.

Williams, Florence A.

Williams, Kenneth Oswald

Williams, Kerrie


Wilson, Mark

Wilson, Peter

Worme, Gemma Agatha

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Aban, Josh

Aban-Geness, Paulette

Abel, Lexan

Adams, Marvin

Alexander, Denicia

Alexander, Keasher

Alexander, Kelita

Alexander, Michal

Alexander-Frame, Krista

Alexis, Avian

Alexis, Karen

Alexis, Kurt

Amade, Jarelle

Antoine, Jenelle

Antoine-James, Anna

Bain, Ariel

Bain, Howard

Bain, Jada

Baldeo, Chardy

Baptiste, Garvin

Baptiste, Zohira

Barclay, Marissa Barker, Liesha

Barry, Nella

Barry, Oni

Beggs, Lloydris

Belfon, Craig

Benjamin, Melanie

Benjamin, Sadel

Best, Jimmy

Bethel, Bobina

Bishop, Rene

Brathwaite-Holder, Roxanne

Brown, Asher

Bruno, Jamaul

Bubb, Kelon

Campbell, Terri-Ann

Charles, Cameile

Charles, Canisha

Charles, Kannia

Charles, Tiffany

Our Current Staff

Charter, Viola

Chetram-Dolland, Beverly

Chris, Lisa

Courtney, Jade

Cummings, Monique

Dabreo, Anna

De Coteau, Judith

Derby-Roderiques, Vanessa

Donald, Marian

Douglas, Brian

Dowden, Floyd

Dowden, Kendel

Downes, Marisa

Du Bois, Andrea

Duncan, Roger

Duncan, Ruthann

Edwards-Noel, Ann

Ellis-Farrier, Sherry

Findley, Alonda

Fleming, Shennel

Fletcher, Kwame

Fletcher, Roland

Forsyth, Adreene

Forsyth, Cyprian

Francis, Alisha

Francis, Alvin

Francis, Kishel

Francis-Sandy, Nadia

Frederick, Ron

Frederick, Tracy

Gabriel, Daniela

Gabriel, Shanon

Gay, Candice

George, Anthony

George, Ayana

George, Riohni

Gibson, Roxana

Gilbert, Renee

Gittens, Kwame

Gooding, Catherine

Gooding, Shallene

Grainger, Willvorn

Greenidge, Keisha

Gulston, Diyanna

Haemer, Raynold

Harding, Nicolette

Henry, Akisha

Henry, Samaki

Hercules, Kurt

Holas, Keith

Holder, Richardson

Hosten, Ericka

Hosten, Javid

Hyacinth, Ashlyn

Isaac, Sharlene

Jackson, Summer

Jacob , Roshanda

James, Kenya

Japal, Jeremy

Jeffrey, Kemoya

John, Denesha

Johnson, Gilroy

Johnson, Jesher

Johnson, Nicholan

Jones, Dahlia

Jones-Cherman, Ria

Jones-Paryag, Jadein

Joseph, Allana

Joseph, Aloma

Joseph, Dianne

Joseph, Dorsel

Joseph, Kester

Kingston, Norbertina

Lambert, Golda-Meir

Lambert, Shawn

Latouche, Corey Lawrence, Julia Lawrence, Larry Lawrence, Najmie Licorish, Mary Lindsay, Rackel Logie, Aaron

Lowe, Rondine

Lucas, Joshua

Mahadeo, Daniel

Marshall, Trent

Mc Barnette, Sule

Mc Gillivary, Brendon

Mc Leish, Rhea

Mc Meo, Tevin

Mc Sween, Daniella

Mc Sween, Marlene

Mc Sween, Marquez

Mc Sween, Tahera

Mcdonald, Chelsea

Mcquilkin-Decoteau, Kera

Medford, Richard

Medford, Zennie

Miller, Brittney

Mitcell, Keziah

Mitchell, Kelon

Mitchell, Nicklon

Modeste, Caryl

Modeste, Laurian

Modeste-Paul, Dixi-Ann

Morain, Ackiron

Moses, Deon

Moses, Marilyn

Neckles-Walker, Jillian

Nedd, Kenneth

Nedd, Terrika

Noel, Gideon

Noel, Kevin

Noel, Linda

Noel, Ruel

Noel-Gibbs, Michelle

Paryag, Charlton

Patrice, Ronan

Patrick-Raeburn, Vanda

Paul, Sherica

Peters, Yari

Peters, Zeleka

Philip, Nicola

A ppendices 221

Philip, Racquel

Philip, Ronald

Philip, Shannea

Philip-Bethel, Rachael

Phillip, Carlisha

Phillip, Jacqueline

Phillip Frank, Carlene

Phillips, Kaiz

Pierre, Aquila

Pilgrim, Renee

Pivott, Patisha

Pope, Vonlyn

Prime, Kristy

Quashie-Blackman, Denielle

Redhead, Jael

Redhead, Susan

Regis, Raynel

Regis, Shane

Richins, Nicholas

Richmond, Kenya

Roberts, Collin

Roberts, Marcus

Roberts, Samica

Roberts , Lyshaun

Roberts-Gittens, Hilda

Robertson, Jennifer

Robinson, Nnandi

Rogers-Francois, Antonia

Sandiford, Prycilla

Sandy, Jiselle

Sandy, Karrie

Sayers, Wilfred Gary

Seales, Tamara

Shears, Nirvana

Simon, Krystle

Simon-Douglas, Pauline

Slinger, Shawn

Springle, Reeane

St. Bernard, Rina

St. Clair, Monique

St. Hillaire, Francis

St. Louis, Jamie

St. Louis, Nedgra

St. Louis-Telesford, Keri-Ann

Stafford, Yusuf

Stanisclaus, Anica

Stephen, Karina

Stewart, Krystal

Stuart-Julien, Nakita

Sylvester, Karyn

Telesford, Rasheda

Telsford, Allahna

Thomas, Daren

Thomas, Gisella

Thomas, Kerres

Thomas, Kisha

Thomas-Hagley, Patricia

Thompson, Aliza

Twum-Barimah, Alana

Victor, P-Sasha

Victor , Tamia

Walker, Rauldon

Wells, Jennox

Wells-John, Hazel-Ann

Whyte-Best, Ebernie

Williams, Calvin

Williams, Danny

Williams, Nickel

Williams, Shamika

Wilson, Aly-Terese

Wilson, Carla

Wilson, Shania

Worme, Clifford

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GCBL’s Annual Banquet and Award Ceremony under an African-inspired theme (2019).

Above: Family Fun Day on the Beach (2018).

When unimaginable things were happening: Bank employees assist with sending relief items to St. Vincent following the catastrophic volcanic eruption there in 2021, while being masked due to the COVID-19 pandemic, when vaccines were not yet been available.

Reynaldo Bernard
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