Ortland H. Bodie Sr. was a smart, ambitious Bahamian businessman. He had to be. As a black Bahamian opening his own bank, prior to the pro-black entrepreneurship push by the majority rule government of 1967, it was, in a word, bold.
Banking in the Bahamas had long been monopolised by Canadian and British multi-jurisdictional banks. They cornered the market in attracting foreign investors and Bahamian customers. For a small black-owned bank attempting to compete with these international giants, in the early 1960s, it was almost like a mosquito, trying to compete for space, with an elephant.
SIR RANDOL FAWKES MAKES MENTION OF ORTLAND H. BODIE FROM A LEGAL DISPUTE BETWEEN THE TWO IN 1958
Sir Randol Fawkes in his brilliant book “The Faith That Moved A Mountain” writes that on the day after the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke to a capacity crowd, in Nassau, on 25th. November 1958, at the Federation Hall of the Bahamas Federation of Labour, their landlord, Ortland H. Bodie Sr., served an eviction notice, for unpaid rent, on the Federation to vacate the Federation Hall.
Fawkes, by the way, prevailed in that tenant-landlord legal dispute.
1962 – BODIE TRIES TO ATTRACT FOREIGN LAND INVESTORS TO USE HIS BANK.
In 1962, Ortland H. Bodie Sr. actively sought to attract foreign investment clients to his black-owned bank, Mutual United Bank of Bahamas Ltd.
This was an incredibly ambitious strategy considering the racial climate, not only in the Bahamas, but in America as well. Bodie advertised his bank and the tax advantages the Bahamas offered in U.S. newspapers. It wouldn’t be out of place to say that those looking for land deals in the islands, would have been predominantly white, monied investors. Would they have used a small black-owned bank to conduct international investment transactions in 1962?
Black-owned financial institutions, one and two as they were, struggled in the Bahamas, each eventually going out of business.
Mutual United Bank of Bahamas‘ brief history has been lost, overshadowed by a more popularly known, black-owned financial cooperative, The People’s Penny Savings Bank. This opened in January 1952.
Randol Fawkes was one of the founding principles for The People Penny Savings Bank, acting also as its lawyer and secretary.
(Photo of People’s Penny Savings Bank courtesy of the book The Faith That Moved A Mountain by Sir Randol Fawkes. page 63)
“Nationalism in the era of Globalisation – Issues from the Bahamas and Guyana. Working People’s Contribution to Civil Society, Good Governance and Civil Development” makes mention of the Bahamas black-owned People’s Penny Savings Bank
In the book, Nationalism in the era of Globalisation – Issues from the Bahamas and Guyana. Working People’s Contribution to Civil Society, Good Governance and Civil Development (2008), author Silvius E. Wilson, discusses the evolution of the People’s Penny Savings Bank. He writes that the bank was set up with an initial £6,000 (Sterling) divided into six thousand shares. Founding members travelled by boat and on foot, trying to encourage black Bahamians to buy shares.
1962 – MUTUAL UNITED BANK OF BAHAMAS LTD. BALANCE SHEET. President- Ortland H. Bodie Sr.
Next to nothing is known about Mutual United Bank of Bahamas Ltd. other than its published financial statements in the Bahamas Gazette.
The bank was located on Wulff Road in 1962. Ortland H. Bodie was President, Arnold Farquharson, Manager and George B. Miller, Certified Public Accountant. It had 90,000 ordinary shares
(Fort Lauderdale News, Tuesday, January 24, 1961)