Barbadians could soon get to check their credit scores, with the Barbados Bankers’ Association (BBA) announcing that the long-awaited credit bureau was one step closer to becoming a reality.
However, as the BBA mulls over which international provider will get the proposed contract, the Barbados-based Caribbean Credit Bureau (CCB) Limited has raised an objection, saying it was being overlooked.
During a heated town hall meeting Tuesday night at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, representatives of the banking sector outlined plans for the credit information service, even as they dismissed the CCB’s claims.
They said calls for proposals were sent to five companies, including the CCB, which was the only one not to respond. Two of the four that responded declined to present proposals, they said.
The bankers were tightlipped about the proposals under review, but said an announcement would be made soon as to which one had received the contract.
BBA Vice President Ian De Souza said the association had been trying for a number of years to get a full service bureau here to bring the country “up to full international standards in terms of how it operates in the credit environment” and to help the financial institutions make better lending decisions and avoid losses.
De Souza also said a credit bureau “is an absolute benefit to customers as well because you get to a point where your credit score becomes a thing of importance to you in that the better your credit score, the better access you have to credit”.
During the question and answer segment of Tuesday night’s town hall meeting, consumer rights advocate Malcolm Gibbs-Taitt and CCB Chief Executive Officer Grady Clarke objected to an international firm providing the credit information system.
Both contended that the country would lose valuable foreign exchange, and jobs would be “exported”.
Confirming that the CCB had received a request for proposal, an upset Clarke explained that his company did not responded because “a part of the proposal said that you require a company with international global experience”.
De Souza in turn explained that the international firms were being considered because, besides responding, they had operations in other Caribbean countries, meaning they were “already acclimatized to our environment”.
The BBA official acknowledged that the country would indeed lose some foreign exchange, but quickly pointed out “that is only one part of the equation.
“Do not forget that what is going to happen here is that this is a very strong experienced international company that is going to be investing in Barbados. It is not a one way transaction,” De Souza said.
“Barbados, as a result of that investment, its credit infrastructure is going to be strengthened, the financial sector is going to be strengthened and as a result of that strengthening Barbados would be put in a better place in terms of its international ratings,” he added.
The senior banker acknowledged there was currently no legislation to govern such an entity, but gave the assurance that people’s personal information would be kept safe given the code of conduct which was being developed.
He also gave the assurance that the credit bureau would operate independently of commercial banks.
He said the Central Bank was also keen to play an integral role, adding that it had been involved in the process under former Governor Dr DeLisle Worrell.
The bureau is expected to be in place within six months of the completion of the legal framework, and it will only be allowed to store information for a maximum of seven years, De Souza said, adding that commercial banks were already in a “ready state” to provide information on customers to the bureau, while credit unions had indicated their commitment.
It was in his June 15, 2015 Financial Statement and Budgetary Proposals that Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler had announced that the Central Bank would take the lead in facilitating the establishment of a credit bureau here.
A year later senior economist Dr Justin Robinson had questioned the delay in setting up the agency, saying the failure by Government to follow through with the promise made Barbados look “ancient [and] a little backward”, when compared to other global financial systems.