Barbadians, who do not have accounts with the RBC Royal Bank, will soon have to look elsewhere to have their cheques cashed.
The bank has announced that with “limited exceptions”, it is about to end the practice of cashing cheques other than for its members.
Asked by Barbados TODAY to explain the move, which is due to take effect within the second quarter of this year, the bank said it was in an effort to safeguard the financial institution against fraud and money laundering. It also said, in a written response, that it forms part of a wider transitioning process which aims to encourage more clients to “go digital”.
However, the pending move is not sitting well with some local employers who currently pay their staff by cheque.
Describing it as antisocial, Michael Brown told Barbados TODAY he was concerned about the hundreds of people who did not wish to open an account.
He accused the bank of behaving like a bully, arguing that measures to counter money laundering and fraud should not impact negatively on customers.
“The excuses that the banks use, not only Royal Bank, they have carteled themselves into a ‘we will bully you into doing what we like because it suits our purpose’. Money laundering is not a problem of the client, it is a problem of the bank, and to pass the responsibility of money laundering on to the bank’s clients is just a complete nonsense,” Brown argued.
“Our society is still very much a cash society and yet many employers pay their employees with cheques and to force all employees who are paid by cheque to open bank account is just nonsense,” he insisted, adding that “words cannot describe how ridiculous it is for a service institution like a bank, that is a for profit institution, to make their clients behave how they want them to behave”.
An incensed Brown also pointed out that his 67-year-old housekeeper, who has been working with him for the past 40 years, has never had a bank account, adding that he was concerned about what many others like her would do if they have a RBC Royal Bank cheque to change and were not able to do so.
“She doesn’t use Internet banking, hardly able to use a cellular phone. A bank has no right to do that,” he stressed.
The businessman also said while he did not think he would be changing banks as a result of the move, financial institutions should not be allowed to dictate how people here conducted business.
In the meantime, one employer in the retail business who also pays his staff by RBC Royal Bank cheques described the move as unfortunate and backward, saying he might have to consider switching banks.
“I confirmed with a representative of the bank that they propose to stop cashing cheques for anybody who does not have an account with them, and I know that the people who work with me do not have a bank account there,” said the businessman, who did not want to be identified by name.
“I may have to think about switching banks. This is not a good thing to do because not everybody has a bank account and not everybody wants one. What if they have an emergency and cannot wait for days for the cheque to clear? The money is already barely enough,” he said.
“A lot of employers pay their employees by cheque and there are people who do a part time job or a one-off and are paid by cheques. What if that cheque is a RBC cheque, are you telling me I can’t cash that cheque if I do not have an account, is this their way of forcing people to get an account with them? This should not be taking place in Barbados,” he suggested.