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The Scotiabank saga

BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Aug. 22, 2019– For many Belizeans, the fate of Scotia Bank’s operation in Belize became uncertain last week when “speculations” began to reach the media about the institution’s impending closure. Initial reports to several media outlets were that on Wednesday, August 14, a staff meeting was held at which Scotia employees were informed that the bank’s local operation would be sold to a regional financial institution from Jamaica as early as October of this year.

According to that same report, the employees were not given any details regarding the fate of their future employment or the legal status of this transition; however, they were allegedly assured that the bank was not intending to close any of its branches in the interim.

The following day, however, the Governor of the Central Bank, Joy Grant, asserted that Scotia Bank’s Managing Director, Sarah Hobbs, called her to clarify that the reports circulating in the media were untrue.

Since then, the Central Bank has issued a statement dated August 16 to further affirm that as far as they are concerned, the bank has not taken any necessary action towards a sellout.

The statement reads: “Except with the prior written approval of the Central Bank, no licensee under the Domestic Banks and Financial Institutions Act, section 27 (1) (c), shall, by any means, sell or dispose of its banking or financial business. At this time, the management of Scotiabank has not sought approval from the Central Bank for any such transaction.”

Further discrediting the rumors of the bank’s impending sale is an article published by the Jamaica Gleaner in which David Noel, the head of Scotia Group Jamaica, who is responsible for the oversight of certain countries in Scotiabank International’s regional operations, affirmed that “Belize remains within the Caribbean Network”.

Evidently, however, when asked specifically whether the Belize branch would be sold, Noel opted to cite the company policy to avoid comment on market rumor and speculation regarding affairs of the bank.

Scotia International is in the process of selling nine operations within the Caribbean, namely: Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Maarten, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, which was announced in November of 2018 due to the bank’s concerns about being over-branched in the Caribbean where economies aren’t as strong.

In summary, then, both Scotia Group Jamaica and the Central Bank of Belize have issued ambiguous statements which seem to discredit the speculations in the public about the sale of the bank, but neither of these have confirmed that the bank will not actually be sold.

Furthermore, Scotiabank Belize itself has remained silent on the issue, and members of staff who have been asked to comment have stated that they have been instructed not to entertain any questions from the media regarding the matter.

This still leaves room for speculation as to the future of Scotiabank’s operation in Belize. Scotiabank has been operating in Belize since 1968, with nine initial branches being opened, and has employed over 180 Belizeans to date.

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