Piles of memories
After listening to a series of tributes from colleagues and friends gathered in Republic Bank’s flagship Broad Street branch last Wednesday evening, Margaret Pile offered a confession when it was her turn at the microphone.
The woman, who moved through the ranks from research assistant when she started at the then Government-owned Barbados National Bank in September 1978 to become general manager responsible for operations at Republic when she said goodbye and started pre-retirement leave last week, said she “never” wanted to work in a bank.
Not even the fact that she had four sisters in banking was enough to convince Pile this was the profession for her. But fate had other plans and what might have been career in teaching turned out to be brief.
“I never wanted to work in a bank, never, and [I] spent 35 years here. I never wanted to work in a bank because I never wanted to run that cash. When I was young I had four sisters, all in banking, two at Royal [Bank of Canada] and two at CIBC, and no way I wanted to work [in a bank]. So I went into teaching [but] found myself after university in a research department in a bank and then became general manager of that bank,” she said.
“So I do thank God, I do thank everybody who gave me the opportunity. There were lots of general managers and managing directors before who would have seen something in me and pushed me a long way. You need to push yourself along that way, see where it is you want to go in life. Do not be satisfied with just sitting on your laurels and think, “Well, this is a good enough job for me’. Always aim for the highest and that is what I will like to leave with you,” Pile told bank staff attending her retirement function.
Republic Bank Barbados manager, marketing and corporate communications, Deborah Stoute, recounted Pile’s career at the bank. Her posts included research officer, senior economist in research and planning, acting economic intelligence unit manager, general manager in corporate planning, manager of financial planning and analysis in the corporate accounting department, special projects coordinator in banking operations, senior manager, administration and operations, and general manager, retail banking.
And then there was the bank veteran’s well known “shouting”, or as one long-time workmate put it – raising her voice to get the attention of others.
As far as Pile was concerned, “If I had to live again, I wouldn’t change anything”.
“None of you would believe but I was a quiet, shy person,” she said as some colleagues chuckled.
“You could hardly hear me speak until I got two culture shocks. One, I left private school, went to teach in St Thomas and for the first time I recognised [that] in Barbados you had children going to school barefooted in the 70s. Then I left there and I went to Westbury [Primary School] and then that was a whole story of its own.”
“So you had to survive and to survive you couldn’t remain quiet so you had to become loud and passionate. I do not think that I shouted, I think I was passionate. I think it’s all about my passion for the job, my passion for people to do what is right.”
Pile, who was hailed as a “fantastic cook”, skilled baker, and someone who adored flowers and gardening, said whatever she did “was in the interest of Republic Bank. It was never in the interest of Margaret Pile, never in the interest of me projecting myself as an Iron Lady”.
As she prepared to depart the organisation that she became synonymous with for more than three decades, Pile also had some advice for those she was leaving behind – especially the ones still young in their banking their careers.
“I want you to look at the bank’s core values, embrace them first in your personal life. If you don’t embrace them in your personal life you can’t practise them in this bank – it will make no sense,” she told them.
“Also you need to look at your own self-development. Do no wait for Republic Bank to send you to school. They employ you to do a job [and] you need to find your career path, determine where you want to go in the organisation.
“Republic Bank is a good place to work. It was a good place to work for me, it was the provider of all that I have in wealth and assets. In the teaching [profession] you barely had enough to cover your meals. The bank provided me with opportunities and I am sure you can make good use of those similar opportunities.”