Butterfield Bank: A half-century of service to Cayman

Butterfield Bank may deal in dollars and cents, but its impact on Cayman has been immeasurable.

As part of the pioneering group of banks, financial services and law firms that created Cayman’s financial services industry, the bank and its leaders have made an indelible mark on our “community, its people, the economy and the financial services industry as a whole,” as former head of private banking Chris Duggan told the Compass this week.

In the 50 years since the bank first opened its doors in George Town’s West Wind building in November of 1967, it has grown to become the largest – and among the most highly-regarded – of Cayman’s six retail banks.

Butterfield played a significant role in transforming Cayman from the islands that time forgot and into a global economic player. Mr. Duggan, who now is vice president for community development at Dart Enterprises, had a front-row seat to that transformation. He is the son of the late Nick Duggan, who, as Managing Director and later as a member of the bank’s board of directors, helped shepherd the bank (and our community) through more than three decades of growth.

Many Cayman residents would recognize Chris Duggan’s description of his father as a “fiercely loyal” and “passionate banker” who valued relationships above all and felt a deep responsibility to provide opportunities for small businesses to develop and grow. Even today, he says, business leaders approach him to say it was Nick Duggan who gave them the support they needed to start their businesses.

Today, Butterfield employs hundreds of people on island, serves thousands of retail and corporate clients and supports countless causes in Cayman.

Last year, the Butterfield Group, which also operates in Bermuda, The Bahamas, Guernsey, Switzerland and the U.K., went public on the New York Stock Exchange, giving them a new platform for continued growth. But essentially, Butterfield’s Cayman operations will stay rooted in the community, Mike McWatt, Managing Director of the Cayman bank, told our editorial board this week.

“We view ourselves as a community bank, serving, first and foremost, the Cayman community,” he said.

In addition to its large corporate banking department, the bank’s retail operations have flourished since Butterfield’s 1989 merger with Washington International Bank, Mr. McWatt said. In recent years, Butterfield Bank (Cayman) Ltd. has repeatedly been named Cayman’s “bank of the year” by The Banker magazine, which is a Financial Times publication. Butterfield earned the distinction, yet again, this year.

It would be impossible to list all the causes, organizations and individuals that have benefitted from Butterfield’s generosity. Their beneficiaries include groups in every domain from athletics to education, from health to arts and culture. Butterfield supports public and private schools, young leaders, excellent students at all levels, and elderly residents. They give back to the community by sponsoring events such as the Butterfield 800m Sea Swim and St. Patrick’s Day 5K Irish Jog. The annual Christmas decoration of the Butterfield Roundabout is one of the season’s most anticipated displays.

“We view one of our main responsibilities as giving back to the community,” Mr. McWatt said. That commitment is as clear as it has been consistent.

In addition to their regular philanthropic efforts, this year Butterfield Bank donated an additional $50,000 to Meals on Wheels as part of their 50th anniversary celebration.

Throughout the decades, under such distinguished leaders as Nick Duggan, Conor O’Dea and Mike McWatt, the bank has been a steadfast model of corporate responsibility and philanthropy.

So, again, congratulations to Butterfield on its “golden” anniversary in the Cayman Islands. Here’s to your next 50 years …

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