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First Nations Bank's national vision on schedule.

By Marie Burke

Windspeaker Staff Writer


In its second year of operation, the First Nations Bank is on its way to meeting the goal of becoming a national bank with the opening of a third branch in Walpole Island, Ont.

"There's great opportunity for a bank that is focused on the First Nation market. The bank is growing and expanding to be First Nations driven and owned," said David Ross, president of First Nations Bank of Canada.

The First Nations Bank held its annual general meeting of shareholders in Regina last month. Students in the business administration program at Saskatchewan Indian Federated College were invited to attend and ask questions.

The meeting was held on the same day as the National Aboriginal Achievement Awards and business students were also invited to be guests of the bank at the gala, said Ross.

The First Nations Bank opened its head office and first branch in Saskatoon on Sept. 23, 1997. The proposal for the bank came from the Saskatchewan Indian Equity Foundation that was established by the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations in 1993.

The Toronto-Dominion Bank offered a proposal as a financial institutional stakeholder. It was accepted by SIEF and the FSIN, but the two Aboriginal organizations reportedly made it clear to TD Bank that it wanted to be an equal partner and no less.

The TD Bank agreed to a business partnership with SIEF and the FSIN. The announcement of their intention to form the bank came in 1996.

The First Nations Bank functions as a subsidiary of the TD Bank. TD Bank provides operational support through its branches and access through their network of automated banking machines.

First Nations Bank offers the full range of services that any other bank in Canada does, including investment services for individuals, businesses and communities.

"Over time TD's interest needs to be brought down, but that hasn't changed much yet. We just really started offering shares to Aboriginal groups," said Ross.

When the bank first opened, it was anticipated that it would take 10 years to repay the TD Bank's investment.

The expansion of the shareholder base is needed to raise the capital of First Nation shareholders, said Ross. An offer of memorandum is provided to interested Aboriginal groups for an opportunity to purchase shares.

The board of the First Nations Bank currently consists of four directors appointed by the common shareholders and four directors appointed by the TD Bank.

"The James Bay Cree expressed an interest in banking, which led to the opening of a branch in Chisasibi, Que. Matthew Coon Come is one of our board directors," said Keith Martell, chairman of the board of the First Nations Bank. Coon Come is the grand chief and chairman of the Grand Council of the Crees of Quebec.

While the bank offers its services to non-Aboriginal customers as well, the common share ownership is restricted.

"We have the shares as a private offering to Aboriginal people as defined in the constitution, to protect us from foreign investors," said Martell.

Common share ownership starts at $500,000 and is directed at Aboriginal groups or corporations, he said.

"We have a $5 million target for this offering, that is to achieve a 58 per cent common shareholder base and a 42 per cent base in Saskatchewan," said Martell.

The one thing the First Nations Bank wants to make clear and make people understand is that this is not just a Saskatchewan bank, said Martell.

"What's really important is the vision, an Aboriginal institution for Aboriginal people. We want them to deal with us because we offer the best services," said Martell.
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Author:Burke, Marie
Publication:Wind Speaker
Date:Apr 1, 1999
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