Having a financial savings plan and financial education program is something that many Gran Pacifica employees have wanted for years. In February 2019, a plan was developed by the Social Responsibility Committee at Gran Pacifica, including Angela Smetana, Holly Wilson, Carolina Angulo, and Mileyna Ballesteros Delgadillo, who was the lead on this project, as she had worked on a similar program in Leon through the Peace Corps. Together, with the support of Valeria Espinoza and Ruth Vado, several meetings were held in Managua to develop the Gran Pacifica Employee Bank Plan.
Why a Bank? – The Goal of Financial Knowledge
The First Meeting Taking Place at the Big Palapa
The primary goal of the Gran Pacifica Employee Bank Plan is to provide a savings and loan program for Gran Pacifica employees to utilize for opening a new business, medical emergencies, family emergencies, births, and funerals. The savings and loan program is also a means for employees to take out a loan, which many employees were previously unable to obtain from a traditional bank.
Another important goal of the program is to provide financial education to Gran Pacifica employees, including the importance of having a savings account, and the potential to earn interest through a savings account. Having this financial literacy is incredibly important for employees, because it empowers them to make informed decisions about their finances. With the current economic downturn in Nicaragua, having this information is invaluable.
During the planning process, the questions we asked ourselves were, “How does a person get ahead in life instead of going paycheck to paycheck? How do you save money for a rainy day?” Many people, myself included, do not receive any sort of training about the importance of saving early on in life, and it is usually not until we start paying our own bills, that we really learn how to budget and save.
The Team Having Lunch at Sea Salt Restaurant
On June 14th, we held the first employee meeting with Mileyna explaining to everybody how the bank would work. Mileyna emphasized to the employees that it is “their bank.”. Throughout the meeting, Mileyna answered all kinds of questions about the program to give attendees a better understanding of the program. Mileyna also talked about trust, confidentiality, and transparency for the bank and explained that all contributions will be recorded by one of the three officers, who would be voted on by the members at the second meeting.
During the meeting, employees were able to select a name for their new bank and decided upon “El Progreso”. At the end, we passed out surveys to asking people if they wanted to attend, if they had a bank account already, if they had ever taken out a loan, and what they might contribute to their new “El Progreso” bank account.
The Big Day – The Elect Board and First Collection
The second meeting was held June 28th at lunchtime at Gran Pacifica’s Big Palapa. Valeria and Mileyna, explained the voting process for officers and answered more questions. The voting process took quite a while, as several people who were nominated for positions declined, including myself since my Spanish is not good enough for this project. However, we ultimately were able to select our three officers:
President: Carolina Angulo
Secretary: Vanessa Gutierrez
Treasurer: Juan Artola
The Newly-Elected Officers, Counting the Money and Making Records at the Big Palapa
At this second meeting, it was also decided that we should meet once a month since Nicaraguan employees are paid on the 15th and 30th of each month. In total, 42 employees and their families signed up to participate in this unique program. One by one, as names were called, they came up to deposit money to the newly elected Treasurer, Juan Artola. Juan counted up all of the money, and at the end of the meeting, announced that members of El Progreso Bank had deposited a total of C$12,300 Nicaraguan Cordoba, equal to $367.71 US. The money collected was placed into a Mahogany box, made by Holly Wilson, which will act as the symbol of the bank.
Mileyna Ballesteros Explaining the Symbol on the Box
Members are asked to deposit a minimum of C$100 Cordobas each month. The bank will run in 6-month cycles: June-November and December-May. Some members may choose to give more money than the minimum as a way of building some nice savings. Additionally, 11 people were able to take out an immediate loan from the El Progreso bank.
Michael K. Cobb, ECI’s CEO had this to say, “So often we take for granted the basic knowledge of financial matters. We aren’t born knowing how to balance a checkbook, budget, or save for the future. We have to learn it, and therefore, someone has to teach it. I am excited by the program that ECI’s Corporate Social Responsibly team led by Holly Wilson, its full time volunteer, have created for the Gran Pacifica team. My hope is that it becomes a model of success for other businesses in Nicaragua to copy, spreading financial intelligence widely to everyone who will benefit.”
ECI Development delivers affordable luxury residence and resort communities in Central America, providing our clients with various premier lifestyle options from the Caribbean to the Pacific. ECI delivers inspired residences for adventurous souls.
Coupled with over 20 years of inherent corporate social responsibility in the communities where we work, ECI Development is building a sustainable business that is going to be around for the next 100+ years.