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22 December, 2020

Best banks in the Caribbean: where to open accounts and keep your savings in 2021

The Eastern Caribbean Central Bank has named the region's best financial institutions. Here's a look at who won the Bank of the Year award for 2020 and why.

ECCU Bank of the Year Awards: Best Caribbean Banks of 2020
Photo: The Eastern Caribbean Central Bank

The ECCU Bank of the Year Awards recognise commercial banks in the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union. It comprises eight countries: Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. All these countries use a single currency, the Eastern Caribbean dollar.

The Eastern Caribbean Central Bank is the Union's main financial and credit authority. It holds the common currency reserve of the member countries, issues Eastern Caribbean dollars and establishes a common financial policy in the region.

The Central Bank has established the ECCU Bank of the Year Awards for 2019. It is the only award of its kind in the region's financial sector. Winners are selected by a vote: nominees are judged by a special jury and users of the Central Bank's online portal.

The best Caribbean banks in 2020

Twelve commercial banks applied for the 2020 awards. The Central Bank jury presented awards in four categories, but did not announce the specific achievements of the winning banks.

CIBC First Caribbean International Bank's Antigua & Barbuda branch is the winner in the Best Customer Service category. The jury considered how personalised the bank's services and facilities were. For example, whether there is a loyalty programme and whether the bank trains its customer service staff.

CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank is the region's largest international bank, headquartered in Barbados. It opened in 2002 and as of 2020 has branches in 17 Caribbean countries.

The bank provides services to both locals and foreigners. It supports around 500,000 active accounts in 2020. The bank's debit and credit cards are accepted at 1.8 million ATMs in 200 countries.

Bank of Saint Lucia won in two categories: Financial Literacy and Empowerment and Technological Innovation. The first recognises the bank's outreach work, such as launching financial education programmes for citizens and advice for businesses. The second category takes into account whether the bank is implementing modern digital technologies.

The Bank of Saint Lucia opened in 2001. It provides retail and corporate banking, private wealth management and insurance services. It is the country's largest commercial bank with the most extensive ATM network on the island.

How the Central Bank chooses the winners

The Eastern Caribbean Central Bank announces the list of nominations and conditions for application in advance. Any commercial bank in the region can become a nominee for the award. To do so, send a letter to the Central Bank stating the nominee's achievements in the chosen category.

The Central Bank appoints a jury, which then considers the applications. In 2020, the jury consisted of five representatives from the Caribbean financial sector.

The jury determines the final list of nominees. This year, 7 banks out of 12 made it to the final. The jury then meets in person with representatives of the nominated banks for an interview.

The central bank is also launching online voting on its website in parallel with the jury.

Participating banks receive a cumulative percentage score. The maximum 100% is added up from:

  • 60% - evaluation of the application from the jury;
  • 30% - results of the interview;
  • 10% - results of the online voting.

The bank that earns the highest percentage score wins the nomination and receives an award at the ceremony. In 2020, the award ceremony was held online.

How to get citizenship in countries with the best banks

It is difficult for Russian citizens to open an account in a foreign bank, and not all financial institutions cater to foreigners. A Caribbean passport does not pose such difficulties.

Two Caribbean countries with the best banks offer the possibility of citizenship for investment.

Citizenship of Antigua and Barbuda is obtained by investing $100,000 or more in the country's economy. One can make a non-refundable contribution to the National Transformation Fund or the University of the West Indies Foundation, buy real estate or invest in a local business. It takes 3 to 6 months to participate in the investment programme.

The Saint Lucia Citizenship Programme also sets a minimum investment amount of $100,000. Under its terms, investors transfer money to the National Economic Fund, buy real estate or government bonds, and invest in business projects. A second passport can be obtained here in 3-4 months.

Immigrant Invest is a licensed agent for Caribbean citizenship programmes. If you want a second passport, contact the experts at Immigrant Invest for advice.

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Best banks in the Caribbean: where to open accounts and keep your savings in 2021