Building for the future

One of the most remote islands in the world, St Helena is truly a remarkable place to visit with its subtropical climate, mountainous terrain and micro-climates that creates an astounding diversity of landscapes. It has frequently been labelled as ‘a bucket list destination’, ‘unspoilt’ and a ‘breath of fresh air’, recently recognised by the international marine conservation non-profit Mission Blue as a Hope Spot in honour of the islands’ ongoing initiatives to manage and monitor its marine environment as well as grow a sustainable economy. Bank of St Helena endeavours to play its part in ensuring visitors enjoy the overall experience by supporting their banking needs.

The introduction of the St Helena Tourist Card in 2023 has been a wonderful and exciting addition to the current suite of banking products offered. Designed to meet customer needs in the absence of normal mainstream banking methods, it has enabled visitors to travel with ease knowing they can have access to their funds at any time for whatever experience St Helena has in store for them.

As a virtual e-wallet product, visitors manage their finances before leaving their homes for the long trek to the island. The use of the Tourist Card can start upon arrival for those who require to pay an entry fee. Prior to the card’s introduction, paying by cash was the norm, not just when entering, but for most of the St Helena experience. This virtual alternative has reshaped the financial norm for both tourists and the island’s tourism sector and was the island’s first step to virtual banking for tourists.

The Tourist Card utilises the local payment platform ‘St Helena Pay’, the majority of local businesses on the island readily accepts the Tourist Card which has allowed an expansion from a local customer base with new visitors coming in to the island with each flight, equipped with their Tourist Card. This has also been a welcomed change for our sister island Ascension, 700 miles north of our location where Bank of St Helena resides as the main banking hub for the small community, allowing their visitors to tap into the Tourist Card.

We developed the Tourist Card to be user friendly with a quick and straight-forward registration process, users can top-up their balance, view their transactions and unload funds back to their banks when on-island, or after their trip. Their full journey can be viewed with ease on their app or online portal.

Since its introduction, we have noticed an increase in tourism-based businesses offering St Helena Pay to ensure they offer a banking alternative to our visitors who arrive equipped with their Tourist Card. By better serving their customers and enhancing the visitor experience, this has transitioned into a greater benefit to all. Once they get a taste of what St Helena has to offer, we fully anticipate our visitors to return and the Tourist Card is ready for them when they do.

Improving customer standards and career development is a driving force within the bank and we recognise personal and professional development is critical to the Bank’s success. Besides having personal development plans for staff, Bank of St Helena has the good fortune to be supported by an excellent workforce who are dedicated to providing the highest standard of customer service. We support the commitment to training and development initiatives to develop skills to meet the ever-growing demands of regulations development and customer expectation.

The development of products by the Bank has a large element of staff input at various stages hence encouraging support at roll-out. The introduction of the Tourist Card has been no different, staff proudly assisting in its promotion and this along with marketing support by other stakeholders locally and internationally has driven the success of the card in its first year.

Up until October 2023, access to affordable internet communication was somewhat stifled for the island community and the Bank knew many of our customers were unable to the take full advantage of the digital products we had on offer. Additionally, recognising the local demographics showed an aging population with many of these customers living in outlining areas, thus coming into the island’s capital, Jamestown presented a number of inconveniences.

The Bank decided to take banking to these customers through a scheme we call ‘Remote Banking’, this service is provided at various ‘satellite offices’ around the island once a month to facilitate the in-person payment of bills, drawing of cash and other essential banking services required by the island population.

With more customers now utilising digital methods for payment such as online banking which is available 24/7, and Local Debit Cards with St Helena Pay, cash is not in as great demand as it had been previously. The Bank constantly reviews such services and will adjust its service offering in line with the island’s development.

Bank of St Helena recognises that the banking landscape is transforming dramatically and is influenced by technological advancements and changing customer behaviours, therefore, we are working towards modernisation of services to support customer’s expectation and the islands national strategic objectives.

With the first anniversary of the Tourist Card fast approaching, the Bank is developing enhanced features to the product functionality to mark this milestone. Capitalising on the enhanced internet connectivity introduced just six months ago, the next exciting project is the introduction of a Mobile Banking app for our local online banking customers, to include also our Local Debit Card app, offering a virtual payment option for the local community alongside the Tourist Card. With the accessibility of better internet connectivity, the Bank will look to embrace cloud services to improve operational efficiency and security, and where possible, look to improve on current products and services offered.