First Citizens has a rich legacy of resilience, loyalty and leadership. Although our doors first opened in 1993, our story began nearly a century earlier, weaving together the histories of three banks on a mission to thrive and strengthen service to their customer base.
Trinidad Co-operative Bank
Incorporated in 1914 as a savings institution, Trinidad Co-operative Bank (TCB) became known as the “Penny Bank” because depositors required only a penny to open an account. This was a considerably smaller initial deposit requirement than other banks at the time, where a shilling (24 cents) was standard. The TCB provided an important platform for all citizens regardless of class or social status to save and grow their funds. The ability to participate in banking also provided an opportunity to become financially literate and to therefore potentially accumulate wealth.
“To inculcate in the people virtue of thrift…and to provide a quick, easy, safe means for children and poor people to save …” Years after TCB opened its doors, Sir Ellis Clarke, the Governor-General in 1974 spoke of the responsibility of TCB and its success, “Essentially, the Bank stands as a monumental refutation of the many slanders of our people so readily inherited and glibly disseminated.”
On February 21, 1986, following an investigation conducted by the Inspector of Banks, the Central Bank took control of the Penny Bank removing most of the Board of Directors and appointing a new CEO. Under its new management, the TCB showed signs of recovery. In 1991, however, there were again signs of trouble.
National Commercial Bank
Born in the wake of the Port of Spain Black Power uprising in 1970, the National Commercial Bank (NCB) was unveiled with a mandate to “fly the flag of nationalism”. NCB took up the challenge with enthusiasm, growing into 18 branches with over 900 employees. But 23 years after the historical establishment of this locally-owned government bank, some of the gleam had worn off. In a 1992 annual report, the Inspector of Banks deemed NCB financially unsound and its shares almost worthless.
While NCB had numerous accounts, it did not attract enough of the type of investors who could generate profits for the Bank.
Worker’s Bank prided itself on innovation and meeting the needs of the people. Over its history, the bank introduced a number of innovations geared towards making banking services more accessible to its customers. These included the 1979 unveiling of the “Mary Anne All Day All Night Service.”, Trinidad and Tobago’s first automated teller machine (ATM). Worker’s Bank in 1983 introduced a programme called the “Varinstall” plan to help people who otherwise would not qualify for a mortgage to buy their own homes.
First Citizens Bank
By 1993, the three fledgling banks faced increasing pressure. The TCB faced grave liquidity issues and was frequently unable to make any of the reserve deposit requirements of the Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago. The NCB was dealing with increasing liquidity pressures, and the Central Bank was forced to step in and take action to help avoid a run on the bank. Worker’s Bank had been hindered by rumours of crippling bad debt. It was time for the Central Bank to make a bold move.
In an effort to save the three fledging banks in 1993 the Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago merged the institutions under a new name: First Citizens Bank Ltd. With little faith in the stability of the organization however, many customers parted ways with the institution. Much to the surprise of many the organization by its first birthday was able to put itself on a path for success. Over the next three decades, the bank would continue its steady growth amassing local and regional acclaim for innovation, customer service and technology.