Amid growing complaints about bank charges, one senior banker says the ball is in the customers’ court to determine how to minimize these charges or eliminate them all together.
Scotiabank’s Senior Vice President of International Banking Brendon King was responding to increasing complaints from individuals, business operators and Government officials about the sustained increases in commercial bank fees in Barbados.
As the Central Bank prepares to meet with the banking community with a suggestion that a policy be put in place to regulate some of the charges, King defended Scotiabank’s fees, saying they were competitive.
“The cost of banking services continues to increase and it is a very competitive market here in Barbados. It is important to be competitive and we certainly are competitive with the other financial institutions here,” said King.
He said customers had the option of reducing how much of those fees they paid “or even bring them to zero”.
“All of our transactions at ATMs (automated teller machines) we don’t have fees, our transactions online, where you can do so much more, have no fees as well. So we are really encouraging customers to go online, do transactions at our ATMS, use our mobile apps and you will reduce your fees or even eliminate them. So it is really in the customers’ hands now how they want to do banking,” he insisted.
He pointed out that customers in Barbados were already driving a change towards more digital banking, with only 14 per cent of financial transactions now being done in branch.
King was speaking with journalists during a special client cocktail event at the Sandy Lane Country Club on Tuesday night.
He made it clear that the bank’s thrust towards digital expansion was driven mainly by customer demands and the fees was not a way of forcing customers to use the digital platforms.
“We are not going to force our customers. Our branches will continue to be here. We believe branches will continue to serve an important role in servicing our clients, but we are seeing the role of the branch evolve around high-value interactions, around giving advice to customers on life-changing events like buying a first home or saving for their child’s education, (or) how do they invest their surplus funds.
“So we see the branch much more oriented around those types of interactions where financial transactions will go online or via the ATM where they have no charge,” he explained.
One of the sharpest cries over increased bank fees came from Government Minister Dr William Duguid last month, who said while Government was trying to support the growth of small businesses so they could “do the right thing” and employ people and invest, commercial banks were “clawing away” at them with charges.
Stating that he heard the cries of small business owners about the bank charges, Duguid argued that despite having done well in Barbados the commercial banks continued to “grind and grind small businesses”.
While King did not address those comments specifically, he said Scotiabank remained committed to Barbados, adding that one of the goals for the financial institution for the year 2020 was for it to be even more competitive and see improved growth.
“We are very confident that is going to happen. We are very aggressively competing for all the good business in the marketplace – retail, mortgages, credit cards. Small business is very important to us,” he added.
King also gave the assurance that Scotiabank was dedicated to improving its customer service.