In 1997, we set out to invest and develop “the People’s Bank”. After nine years of planning, preparation and interactions with the Bank of Ghana, First National Savings & Loans Company Limited was granted a license to open for business in May 2006.
Our company, Coconut Grove Hotels was the major shareholder, later to be joined by others. Our idea which became a passionate mission, was to go where other people wouldn’t go, to the major market centres and towns in every region of the country and offer safe banking to the ordinary person; especially with the frequent news of armed robberies on our roads at the time.
No one was interested in assisting to calm the fears and anxieties of customers. Rather, the question we got was, “what’s wrong with you, what have you done wrong?” Our ambition to build a national retail banking business stretching across the four corners of the nation to Djemeni, Agona Nkwanta, Kwame Danso, Twifo Praso, Wulensi, Pusiga, Nandom, etc., to support national development had become to some, too big for a Ghanaian investor to take on.
Even a $20 million facility with the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) which we had been negotiating for 3 years to support our expansion could not be disbursed due to the crisis.
The customers we planned for years and invested millions to get close to, in their panic, became desperate and aggressively came for their deposits. No deposit taking financial institution in this world can stand if all its customers showed up one day to collect their deposits. We became toxic in a few months. For some customers, a “friend” had become an “enemy”.
The wrong we did? Today, GN Savings with all of its challenges, has more assets than liabilities. And thousands have started making new deposits across the country!
Questions: In implementing “tough” measures and policies, must the taxpayer be made to pay to collapse a national retail deposit taking entity; with 300 locations and more than one million customers; employing over 2,000 people, paying taxes?
Why not support it, strengthen such a significant private sector investment? Sure, there are people out there shouting “close them down!” for different reasons. We will not go into that here. Why not use the taxpayers’ money to pay the contractors, to pay the company, for the company to pay the depositors and as a result, preserve GN Savings, the jobs of employees and keep needed infrastructure projects going? Our story, for now. We shall return.