By Orville Williams
Following the completion of the Eastern Caribbean Amalgamated Bank’s (ECAB’s) purchase of the Bank of Nova Scotia operations in Antigua, customers on both sides say they’re anxious about the long-term impact on banking services.
An agreement was reached for the sale between the two parties back in October last year – following tensions between the government and the Canadian bank about the sale of its assets – though that was said to be “subject to regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions”.
In a statement on Wednesday, ECAB said it “received regulatory and government approval and has now closed the transaction to acquire The Bank of Nova Scotia (Scotiabank) operations here in Antigua and Barbuda.”
That is certainly big news for the local financial sector, as well as the government, who had been pushing for Scotiabank’s operations to be acquired by indigenous entities ever since the bank decided to sell off its local assets.
For some former Scotiabank customers and established ECAB customers, however, they are eagerly awaiting the complete transition and what that might mean for their day-to-day banking business.
Speaking to Observer on condition of not being named, one former Scotiabank customer said he was delighted that he will now become a customer of an indigenous bank, but also said he was unsure whether some longstanding issues he had with his former bank would be rectified.
“I’m happy to be a new ECAB customer, I won’t lie, but I’m waiting to see how they will ultimately structure their various ATM and online transaction fees.
“With Scotia, I complained with almost every transaction, because it felt like I was paying unnecessary money to use my own money. That is something I hope will be different with my new bank.”
Another former Scotiabank customer, who is only willing to be identified as Trish, said her experience has been indifferent from a transaction standpoint, with an equal number of good and bad experiences doing business with the bank.
What she says she is anticipating, is the difference in customer service between the two banks.
“I used to hear people complain about Scotia nonstop and I used to ask them, why bank with them if you’re never satisfied? For me, there were good days and bad days trying to get business done, but that’s just what business is, you’ll never always have it your way, especially as a customer.
“I am hoping the customer service will be somewhat the same or even better though, because even when I had problems with Scotia, I would get decent assistance in dealing with the problem. That is something I consider important, so it will be interesting to see how it goes,” Trish said.
She added that what she will also be looking forward to, is having an abundance of ATMs at her disposal, which will mean standing in less long lines when she needs cash urgently.
As far as the established ECAB customers, they were more concerned with the potential impact of the Scotiabank acquisition on their existing services.
Marlene – who says she has been an ECAB customer for over eight years – declared that she “isn’t very involved with the digital side of things”, but was fearful that the plethora of new customers would only worsen her current issues.
“I don’t know how ECAB is going to manage all those people who are coming over from Scotia, when they seemed to be already struggling with what they had.
“I do all of my transactions in the bank because I’m not so good with the technology, and I have to stand in a long line almost every time. Not to mention the ATMs, they are always having issues, so I can imagine how difficult it is going to be to withdraw a little money now.”
Another ECAB customer, Dionne, echoed similar sentiments, noting that the pressure is now on the bank to improve all its service offerings in order to satisfy a larger customer base.
“There always appeared to be a strain on the bank to keep up with the demands of the customers, but they will have no choice but to turn things up a notch now that many new customers are coming in, with new demands.”
According to ECAB’s statement on the acquisition, “the integration of the Scotiabank accounts and services into ECAB’s systems” is the next stage of the process, which means “customers must continue to conduct their banking at their usual branch location”.
When the transition is complete, all customers will be able to “commence banking activities at a branch location of their choice”.
The acquisition of Scotia’s assets will see ECAB expand from four branches and a network of 11 ATMs, to six full-service branches and a network of 23 ATMs.