BANK South Pacific on Tuesday became one of the first financial institutions and major businesses in Papua New Guinea to return to Arawa in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville since the Bougainville crisis 23 years ago.
Banking services in Arawa ceased around July 1989 when all major businesses and banks pulled out as a result of the looming crisis.
When BSP closed its doors then, it was a quiet exit, due to security concerns, and yesterday as it re-entered, there was a celebration and the bank was welcomed back with open arms.
BSP group chief executive officer Ian B Clyne, deputy chief executive Robin Fleming, head of security George Loverock, general manager retail banking Frans Kootte and manager branch operations John Brutnal travelled to Arawa to hand over the new BSP branch.
It is a containerised branch, a concept first delivered by BSP in 2010 when it opened a similar branch in Motukea outside Port Moresby.
Prior to the crisis, BSP Arawa had more than 30 staff and a good customer base.
Today, there are eight personnel and the bank is confident of growing its customer base again.
Clyne said BSP was back in Arawa after 23 years and the feedback received so far from customers and the people of Central Bougainville was one of appreciation and huge relief, as it eased the burden to travel out of Arawa to do their banking.
“BSP’s presence so far has made a huge difference by bringing this very essential service to the community,” he said.
“We have had very positive comments from the locals from as far as Buin and Siwai, who can now travel to Arawa to do their banking and return home on the same day as opposed to going to Buka where they would have to spend a night and return home the next day.
“The business community here in Arawa are also very happy about the branch because it is making banking easier for them in terms of cost, security and time spent and other costs involved in travelling to Buka.
“It is also interesting to note how technology has changed since 1989, where BSP Arawa now has two ATMs.
“BSP is the first to bring ATMs into Central Bougainville, that is because we mean business and it shows our commitment to bring banking services into the heart of the community.”
The bank is also aggressively rolling out its BSP Rural network throughout the country, and in Bougainville BSP is set to open two rural branches in the next few months in Wakunai and Buin