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Banking at the edge of the world

Whether doing a branch network tour or complying with regulation, Bank of Saint Helena boss Josephine George has a job that is like few other bankers’ anywhere.

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As the chief executive of the dominant bank in its home market, Josephine George doesn’t quite understand the grumbles of fellow bankers elsewhere about complying with banking’s know-your-customer protocols.

Though George insists her bank’s KYC observance is as rigorous or better than any best-practice operation anywhere, adherence is no big deal for her. She knows her customers well, perhaps too well.

This is because she runs the only bank in one of the least populated and most remote places in the world, a tiny island whose inhabitants rarely leave.

Bank of Saint Helena (BoSH) serves the 4,500 people who live on a 121-square kilometre sub-tropical speck that rises volcanically out of the mid South Atlantic Ocean. It is the British Overseas Territory of Saint Helena, 8,500 kilometres from London and its technical head of state, Queen Elizabeth.

A born and bred ‘Saint’ (as the locals are known) and BoSH boss since 2017, the personable George – "call me Joey" – has known many of her customers since they were born. She knows their parents, relatives and friends too.

All our customers know me.

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Eric Ellis
Eric Ellis has covered Asia for Euromoney since 2006. He is a former southeast Asia-correspondent for Fortune Magazine and Time, and an ex-Asia correspondent for Australia’s economic and business newspaper the Australian Financial Review.