Twenty-five years ago, a family reunion for the descendants of Meredith discussed a dream of setting up a bank to serve the people of Samoa.
It was a dream that could have easily turned into talks and forgotten as time passed by. But that dream was never forgotten.
Instead it was pursued some five years later by Dick Meredith and George Meredith, who started the National Bank of Samoa in the mid 1990s. That dream lives on today with the National Bank of Samoa celebrating a milestone of 20 years of service to Samoa on Friday at the Sheraton Samoa Aggie Grey’s Hotel and Bungalows in Apia.
It was a success story of the family business that has grown and now owned by local shareholders and operated by locals.
One of the founding board members, Matai’a Lynette Netzler, who is also the Chair of the N.B.S. Board, was there and part of the bank’s humble beginnings.
The bank opened its first branch at Craig Meredith’s building in Tamaligi and the first board meeting at George Meredith’s office. The Asia Development Bank provided technical assistance in management and training for the first banking system.
“It was a tough journey,” said Matai’a. “We had ups and downs like anything else. When first started up the bank we needed certain amount of money to kick start and so we had to come in afterhours to put more money in the bank…we had banking even after 5 o’clock because we were trying to build up the equity of the bank.”
According to the Chairman, financing of the bank came from their businesses.
“I’m a business woman and all the people who started it up were business people,” she said.
“All of us were just starting up our business then and we didn’t have that much but Dick Meredith had the money.
“He owned bread bakery and wholesale and had the money to run the bank and we had the inner knowledge to get it going and we had this motto that we wanted to do something for locals to develop and help local businesses and whoever is trying to make ends meet and struggling that is where we come in.”
Fast forward to twenty years later the bank is doing its best.
“We have stepped up,” said Matai’a. “Our C.E.O is a local and it says a lot about the potential of our own people. They are well educated and have the knowledge to run the show…you just have to support them and given them the okay.”
Matai’a maintained that the bank was established for the local people and “we don’t want our people to feel that they are poor and don’t have money.”
Today, N.B.S. is proud to offer full range of personal and business banking services including international services needed by the local community.
“Our success is reflected in our profitability and is retained in Samoa and can be reinvested in local community because we are the bank of Samoa people and we are proud of our Samoan heritage.”
The Chairman thanked their shareholders and valued customers including those in Savai’i.
Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi was also there. He spoke about the government’s experience in operating the then Bank of Western Samoa. “
“Government’s around the world are not the best at managing and operating commercial banking businesses,” he said.
“When it was closed down, the ANZ saw the opportunity to come in. N.B.S. has grown to be the key infrastructure asset playing important role helping grown Samoa economy and helping wider community.”
Tuilaepa recalled that back in 1980s and early 1990s the government decided to divest its shareholding in Bank of Western Samoa to the bank of New Zealand.
“It also privatized the post office savings bank which was sold to American Samoa family following a public tendering process,” he said.
“The American family has been the backbone of N.B.S. since the privatization. However to increase banks loan by over 400 times that is 40,000 percent, N.B.S. has to continuously change to be responsive to the needs of customers.”
Tuilaepa also commended the bank for appointing Tu’u’u Amoramo Sialaoa two years ago as its Chief Executive Officer.
“The company’s first to lead the bank and to have someone with ability of Tu’u’u to head the bank that Samoa is coming of age in producing home grown talent but offering career path to keep our career leaders in Samoa,” he said.
“N.B.S. leads in another way the first of local banks with palagi C.E.Os to turn Samoan talent for top job.”
He challenged the shareholders of N.B.S. to explore opportunities for collaborating with the Samoa Commercial Bank another locally owned to use their combine successful experience in banking to expand to other Pacific islands.
Lastly he applauded the achievement of N.B.S. and its shareholders as well as customers for their service to the people.
N.B.S. employs 85 people including the staff in the big island of Savai’i.
It has five branches located at Tamaligi, Vaitele, the Accident and Compensation Corporation building, Manase and Salelologa Savai’i.