Eastern Caribbean Amalgamated Bank (ECAB) was officially launched yesterday as the replacement financial institution for the former Bank of Antigua.
Yesterday’s press conference marking the launch brought at least a symbolic closure to one of the more prominent local aspects of the Allen Stanford saga.
The new entity is born out of a rescue takeover by the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, and its present shareholding includes the Government of Antigua & Barbuda – which has the largest stake – and five major banks in Antigua, St Kitts, St Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Monday’s press conference for the launching was held on the same plush premises at Coolidge (near the VC Bird International Airport) where Bank of Antigua was formerly located.
Addressing the function, Minister of Finance and the Economy Harold Lovell noted that the transition had taken place without any depositors losing their savings.
“I think it is a proud chapter in the history of Antigua & Barbuda and the Eastern Caribbean that the intervention effectively stopped the run on the bank, and it can be said that every single demand for withdrawal of funds from the Bank of Antigua was honoured. Not a single depositor lost any of their hard earned savings,” he said.
In recognition of ECAB’s modest start and the need to find its feet, Lovell added, government will not be placing any financial demands or burdens on the new bank – at least not initially.
“We do not anticipate any major changes with respect to our dealings with ECAB, as opposed to our dealings with the Bank of Antigua,” he stated. “We are not looking to come to ECAB for any special facilities; certainly not in the immediate future. But we will deal with ECAB as a government deals with all commercial banks.”
The new bank’s general manager, Henry Hazel, said while operations are for the time being limited to Antigua, this does not rule out future plans for expansion beyond the country’s shores.
“The vision for Eastern Caribbean Amalgamated Bank is to be a regional institution with international reach. Presently the bank has 100 staff, and our asset base is just around 350 million dollars. This operation in Antigua is the only operation we have.
ECAB presently has four branches in Antigua. They included the Coolidge outfit, one on High Street in St Johns, another at Jolly Harbour and a fourth in the area of Nelson’s Dockyard.