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Mar 11, 2011

Belize Bank opens at the Matalon

A contemporary architecture of glass and concrete is home to the north side branch of the Belize Bank. It is a giant leap from the subtle design of its headquarters at Market Square. The new branch opened on Thursday night at the Matalon Business Center on Coney Drive. Beyond the visual appeal of a new office building, however, is a homegrown banking institution that continues its expansion to cater to the needs of its diverse clientele.  News Five’s Isani Cayetano was on hand for last night’s ceremonial launch.

Dr. Euric Bobb, Director, BCB Holdings

“We are the largest bank by far and to grow when you are the largest is much harder than when you are smaller.”

Belize Bank, the country’s premier lending institution since the turn of the twentieth century, has grown significantly over the years commanding forty percent of all domestic loans.  Along with expanding its loan portfolio the bank has also spread its reach to various communities across the country; the newest branch being inaugurated on Thursday at the Matalon Business Center on Coney Drive.

Lyndon Guiseppi, Group C.E.O., B.C.B. Holdings

Lyndon Guiseppi

“Our aim ladies and gentlemen is to exceed your expectations.  This branch will represent the new face of the Belize Bank, the new face of the Belize Bank.  It will be spacious, modern and accessible.  The Matalon Business Center, ladies and gentlemen, affords us a modern, clean look as we seek to achieve in providing you, our customers, with a diversified range of financial services and products.”

With all the bells and whistles of a new local office the Belize Bank is at a critical juncture in its hundred year history.  Recently it has come under scrutiny from the Central Bank of Belize for the number of non-performing loans it has accumulated.  According to Dr. Euric Bobb, former Central Bank Governor of Trinidad & Tobago, it has streamlined its operations to address this specific problem.

Euric Bobb

Dr. Euric Bobb

“We’ve set up a special risk management unit with dedicated staff, people with a lot of experience and they are working one on with our big borrowers who are delinquent and we have many workout plans and a lot of this is now coming to fruition.  As I said in my address as a prudent bank you have to make provision, you set aside some of your income to cover that, to increase your capital to cover that but that doesn’t mean that you forgive the debt that people walk away.  You work with them to restructure the debt in a way that they can afford on the basis of the results of their business to service the loans and that’s what we are doing now.”

Before an audience of business executives the modern office which sits on the ground floor of this new commercial hub was formally inaugurated.  Helium balloons were ceremonially released to mark another milestone in Belize Bank history.

Lyndon Guiseppi

“If we apply a wider context to today’s historic occasion ladies and gentlemen the opening of this new north side branch is really symptomatic of a groundswell of changes currently taking place within the wider organization.  All directed at improving the quality of service to our customers.  It is indeed an exciting time for us at the bank, our staff and for management as we embark on this important journey, the culmination of which would be a new re-branded Belize Bank.”

Despite dire times Bobb says the future of Belize’s economy remains promising.

Dr. Euric Bobb

“Looking ahead the next few years the consensus forecast is that the global economy will grow at fairly modest pace, three to four percent at best.  Belize is able to insert itself there and do well with tourism in particular, in agriculture.  You have a lot of possibility although there is a lot of competition for example with bananas you’re losing that edge of preferences so it’s not obvious how well Belize would do but if the world economy is doing well and if Belize has in place some of the right policies, building the infrastructure, having the supportive institutions and laws to encourage private investment I see no reason to believe that Belize shouldn’t do as well as the world economy does.”

Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

The Belize Bank north side branch officially opens to the public this coming Monday.

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