Antigua PM Browne increases pressure on local bank, ECAB

Customers outside ECAB on April 9, 2020

Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne has lambasted the Eastern Caribbean Amalgamated Bank (ECAB) for persistent poor service that has infuriated dozens – if not hundreds – of customers, and called for ‘urgent leadership changes’ to address the situation.

ECAB, as it’s almost exclusively referred to in the twin-island nation, has a long-held and surely unwanted reputation for intermittent system issues, but those issues have escalated dramatically over the past two years, following its acquisition of Scotiabank’s Antigua and Barbuda operations approximately two years ago.

The indigenous bank, of which the government is a shareholder, was rightly hailed when it was announced that it had secured the assets of the departing Canadian institution in September 2021. Those applauding the move included PM Browne himself, who batted for local banks to be given priority as potential purchasers.

This came amid robust and ultimately failed efforts by Republic Financial Holdings Limited (RFHL) out of Trinidad and Tobago to secure the Scotiabank assets, as well as some interest from the Antigua Commercial Bank (ACB), another indigenous bank.

However, it appears the magnitude of the work required in the integration process caught ECAB off guard, with thousands of former Scotiabank customers expected to migrate onto its systems.

This has resulted in an outpouring of anger and dissatisfaction from both new and previous customers – on the streets, on talk radio and on social media – over issues like transaction delays, point-of-sale (POS) disruptions, out-of-service ATMs and poor customer service.

PM Browne, who has long been one of the bank’s biggest supporters, has since morphed into one of its biggest critics.

In response to a news article highlighting the sustained challenges customers have been facing this week, he called out ECAB’s Board of Directors for doing little to address the state of affairs.

He also called for the Board Chairman Craig Walter to be held accountable for his alleged silence.

In the Facebook post, Browne said, “the time has come for the shareholders of ECAB to have an extraordinary meeting to demand his resignation”. He added that, alternatively, Walter should do the honourable thing and resign.

If the Chairman and others are not held accountable, the PM went on, “they will continue to treat people with contempt [and] offer them inferior banking services”.

“If they can’t handle the job, they have an obligation to resign so that the bank could employ persons with the requisite skills to preside over the transition. We are looking for results, not excuses”, he asserted.

Browne voiced similar complaints about ECAB in September last year, one year after the Scotiabank acquisition, urging the bank to improve its service offerings.

“ECAB’s service remains a problem and I would have held discussions with the manager [and] one of the Directors as well about it”, the PM had said.

“This is my public call for ECAB to step up on its service. If you need to employ more people, employ more people”, he added.

Despite the pressure he has been placing on ECAB, the PM defended his government’s actions to support its acquisition of Scotiabank despite the public interest from RFHL.

That move, which would have seen the Trinidad-based entity add to its prior purchase of Scotiabank’s operations in Anguilla, Dominica, Grenada, St Kitts & Nevis, St Lucia, St Maarten and St Vincent & the Grenadines, fell through over reported differences in valuation with the government.

Responding to suggestions that the former Scotiabank (now ECAB) customers would be better served with RFHL at the helm, Browne maintained that the decision was taken in the best interest of the country and its banking sector in particular.

He pointed out that ECAB has experience in such acquisitions – the bank having purchased and assumed “certain assets and liabilities of ABI Bank Limited” back in 2015 – noting too that “bank consolidation is not rocket science”.

He also explained that “this upsizing makes our banks more sustainable and profitable, thereby increasing the national wealth from retained earnings and makes them eligible for corresponding banking services”.

“The majority of the dividends payable from the increased profits will be paid to local entities, adding to the national income. It also has the added benefit of the pride of ownership and has positioned ECAB as the primary acquiring bank in the OECS sub-region.

“In addition, there would be no concerns over foreign exchange leakage to Trinidad with its foreign exchange problems”, he continued.

ECAB’s management has remained silent on the prolonged issues and the PM’s latest comments to date, though bank officials have reportedly confirmed that an official statement is forthcoming.

The PM sought to assure that, while he will continue to be vocal about the need for urgent improvements at the bank, he is looking forward to the resolution of the current issues and its ultimate success.

“I shall remain optimistic about the prospects of our country and its people, while standing on the truth. Despite the problems experienced by ECAB, they shall pass and history will show that our decision to scale up the domestic banking sector was a wise and sustaining one”, the PM said. (LOOP)

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  1. This basket case of a Prime Minister is trying to destabilise this bank for his own financial gain.

    He’s always on a mission when it comes to monetary greed, whether through Litigious matters or – unaccountable – self-enrichment schemes.


    Let the ECAB take care of their own affairs, and you take care of the country. Simpleton!

    • You actually sound foolish. Had it not been for the PM’s stance to have an indigenous bank acquire the shareholdings and assets of the Canadian entity, ECAB whittle not have stood a chance of acquiring such a franchise. Stop playing politics at all costs. You know what he’s saying is the truth. Perhaps you don’t do banking, so therefore you might not understand.
      Such a pity!

      • If this Bank of which I am a customer let Gaston Browne in.I am coming to ANtigua and transferred all of my”cents” to another Bank.I do noticed that ANtigua News Room is playing Politics. That picture above is from 2020 during the Pandemic.ECAB was not the only Bank looking like that.Dave Ray,have you ever worked in a Bank at any levels.Gaston Browne did work for a piggy money laundering Bank,Swiss AMerican.What has become of that Bank?

    • Brix, I really wish you had not opened your mouth. Because all you penned down is pure stupidity. How in God’s name will the PM benefit from it. He is not a personal Shareholder. The country Antigua and Barbuda is a shareholder. And he is speaking on behalf of the country. I wish Lovell, when he was the minister of Finance, would have called on the Directors and Shareholders of ABIB to do the right thing and resign. Because Dwight Veneer has requested their resignation on many occasions. You let your hatred for the man blind your objectivity and chat a lot of nonsense. Now people can see how dumb you are.
      Anyway, I have said enough. No matter what, you have a mission and that is your problem. Continue to make yourself an ass.

      • Once again, Brixtonian stirring up the ABLP acolytes and Gastonites hornets nest; and now they are buzzing and swarming around looking for victims to sting, instead of looking at their leader and not realising that he’s naked.


    • Once again u come on here chatting shyte because u have an internet connection and a QWERTY keyboard. This by far is Once the dumbest comment u have made and there are plenty. SMH what a lonely loser u are.

  2. The Chairman of the Board stood up to him. He did not like that. So now he is using a bully pulpit to try and discredit the Bank.You would not be winning this one Adolf.

  3. I don’t know y he don’t pick the speck out of his own eyes….how he can’t pay pensiones on time or sell de damn boat oh oh ..and how up to now he can’t fix the water situation but a wash he mouth pan ecab …who is actually making an effort.. over the past 2 years when he done get what 12 years …..just gee me one break


  4. Some stats – A Tale of Numbers :

    At 30 Sep,2021
    25.69% of ECAB’s loans were to Government of Antigua and Barbuda.
    Loans to Government of Antigua and Barbuda stood at EC$257.4 Million .
    And this would have been with the loans acquired from Scotia Bank being included
    in the totals .

    By contrast the entire loan portfolio of Caribbean Union Bank (CUB) at 31 Dec, 2022 stood at EC$180.45 Million .

    • Have you read the Banking Act of 2015? It was passed to protect the financial sector from overlending to the government. Not just this one. Anyone. Because that is what happened to ABIB. And when ABIB wanted to liquidate the loan, the UPP government couldn’t come up with the money. So, ABIB was left to fight their liquidity problem all by themselves. When the Gaston Browne administration came in, they solved the ABIB fiasco, and then they saw another fiasco that was brewing at CUB. They then pumped $30million into CUB in order to stabilize it. And you know to date in Antigua and Barbuda, no depositor has lost their deposit. Check what is happening in St. Vincent.
      ECCB Places First St Vincent Bank Ltd Under Receivership
      The Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) in exercise of the powers conferred under Section 138 of the Banking Act No 4 of 2015 of the laws of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines has appointed a Receiver for First St Vincent Bank Ltd (FSVB) with effect 26 May 2023.

      You guys should educate yourself before chatting lots of stupidity. But then again Brix had a nice word for it. “glaikit”. Ask him what that means:-)

  5. Bald head , crazy , gaston clown, willikies got water one time last week, I wish I would put more emphasis into apua with the water situation and leave the bank to handle their business .

  6. You called,,the P.M.of this country,,a basket case.
    You offered,,your opinion,,and that,, is OK.
    You then moved away from being Opinonated to being Libelous.
    ” is trying to destabilise this bank for his own financial gain.”
    That is one hell-of-a statement to make of a man ,,right before you call him greedy for money ,,, ,,,,, ,,,, wait for it,,,,
    “through Litigious matters”
    Maybe I should restate.
    THAT IS ONE DUNCE,,statement made by a FULLY DUNCE BACKSIDE,,about ,Gaston Brown who,,the author,, further states is litigious
    How exactly would you provide proof of Gaston Brown destabilizing ECAB in a court of law?
    Your last paragraph is a DUNCE DOOZIE
    “Let the ECAB take care of their own affairs, and you take care of the country”
    The entire country is agonized,,with ECAB’s Male Bovine Excrement
    Ok,,let me help you,,,to comprehend,even a simpleton can get this;
    When I ,,,just one person,,walks into EPICURIAN,,to buy a 100 dollar birthday cake,,using my ECAB card and its declined for the system is not functional,,,the ATM ,,then does not,,spit out my cash,,to pay for the cake,,a merchant loses ,,,the Government loses ,,for it does not collect its 15% from that sale.
    No need to by the cake til next year.
    Now multiply that by all the ECAB card holders,,who couldn’t make,,their purchases.
    And that is the simplest scenario, of many,,even a FULLY DUNCE BACKSIDE can grasp in aiding he to comprehend,,,why,,this would be concerning,,to the P.M.of our twin island nation and not just ECAB’S ” own affairs ”
    It’s our countries affairs,,,and questioned by the head of our country.

    • Doesn’t matter what you or anyone else says. He has a hatred for the PM and doesn’t matter what comes or may, he will try to blame the PM for everything under the sun. And the funny thing is the PM never even takes him on. He is really a sad case. And sometimes I feel sorry for him. Every agency says Antigua and Barbuda has the second fastest growing economy in the Caribbean, still he says the country is going to hell. The governor from the central bank was here and had an interview on ABS television and when the lines were open and he took questions, he got an air full from the public about the bad service of the bank. In particular ECAB. And now the PM is putting more public pressure on the board, and they are so politically hatred towards the man that they don’t even see the good in that. He says it will benefit the PM. Well, if so, no problem, because surely it will also benefit lots of angry customers. A friend of mine was trying to sell his Canadian dollars and at the same time buy USA Dollars, and they told him he cannot do that. To date I cannot understand the reason behind this. You buy my CAN$ give me EX$ and then I turn around and buy US$. And that is not possible at ECAB. And no management to deal with. They are all busy in their offices. refuse to come to face the customers.

    • … and breathe @ WTF.

      What a lot of MEANINGLESS words to defend a Prime Minister that’s so out of touch with the electorate.

      By the way, what is a “libelous”?

      Is it some sort swimming floatation item?

      ABLP acolytes and Gastonites always looking at outsiders, instead of the enemies within. Utter simpletons!


  7. @From The Sideline

    Hey you seem to be a virtual walking encyclopedia on the Antigua Indigenous banks .
    You have highlighted a culture of unsafe behavior and operations over the years.
    A good reason for people to be apprehensive about who has control of the Local Banks .

    From the 2015 Banking Act :

    “large exposure” means an exposure to a person or a borrower group, which amounts to ten
    per cent or more of the capital base of a licensed financial institution”

    ““capital base” means the total of paid-up share capital, statutory reserve fund, share premium
    account, retained earnings and any other capital account approved by the Central Bank,
    in the case of local licensed financial institutions, or such other capital account or similar
    measure as approved by the Central Bank in the case of a licensed branch of a foreign financial
    institution, less any amount by which that total has been impaired in either case”

    So ECAB has “Large Exposure” to Government of Antigua and Barbuda Loans.Regardless of which entity they were extended. Everything is under ECAB now.

    Interesting to hear about CUB have had problems apart from the new minimum capital requirement.

    The Governments injection at a minimum covered Section 44 of the Banking Act :
    PART V
    44. Minimum paid-up or assigned capital

    (1) Every licensed financial institution shall maintain in [Territory] unimpaired, paid-up or, as
    the case may be, assigned capital at least equal to the minimum amounts specified in accordance with the following requirements:

    (a) if operating as a bank, the minimum required capital shall be not less than twenty million

    (b) if operating as a credit or other financial institution, the minimum required capital shall
    be not less than five million dollars.


    The First St Vincent Bank Ltd resolution has been different from 5 previous ECCB actions.
    (1 in Montserrat. 2 in Anguilla and 2 in Antigua).

    With First St Vincent Bank Ltd 100% of depositors had access to up to EC$100,000 per account
    after the sale to Bank of St Vincent and the Grenadines . If I recall correctly some 15% of depositors have funds over that and have to wait on the receivership process to see what happens with the funds over the EC$100k amount.

  8. Indeed, ECAB has its challenges, but this idiot,as usual, has his hands(mouth really) in everything except his failure as a PM and finance minister. Suggestions were given to him to at least ease the cost of living squeeze. He has done nothing. Other than accusing APUA workers of shutting off water valves,( which was just a lie)he has very little to say about citizens getting water once weekly for several hours. Crime spirals out of control; nada.
    He should just shut the hell up. We know what happen with Brian Stewart Young and the Global Bank thing when he was involved. ECAB, work on fixing your challenges and keep this idiot out at all cost.

  9. And I hope you understand that before the 2015 banking Act the Governor of the ECCB had no power or authority to step in unless the Minister of Finance gave him that authority. Now the power to intervene rests with him. That is why he was able to get in there quickly in St. Vincent. The scenario in Antigua was very different. And therefore, the depositors would literally have lost lots of money. $100k is not much return if you have a saving of $500K. Still means people will lose money in the end. And the control of the bank’s risk is with the Central Bank. And they have now the power to remove management if they feel that management puts the bank at risk. So ECAB would never be allowed to overlent to the government. I remember at one time the government under the UPP wanted an overdraft of $10million from FCIB. Guess what they had to do. Cash Secure it. ABIB was made, by the then manager, Mr. Christian, to provide the government with non-secured overdraft for up to sixty million. And when the governor found out he insisted that the overdraft be secured. And you know what they did? They moved the overdraft to a long-term loan with a moratorium of two years. And then they say, oh we are up to date with our loans. We do not owe ABIB anything. You call that window dressing of the balance sheet.
    Anyway, since I have no knowledge or information on the government loans in the books of ECAB I cannot comment on it. But I do trust the ECCB to do their job and do it to the best of their professional ability. And I know they have very qualified staff. I especially saw them at work when they took over the management of ABIB.


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