BANK of the Bahamas International (BOB) says it is heading into 2014 with shareholder equity topping $138 million and a robust capital ratio of 22 per cent, well above local and international regulatory requirements.
Paul McWeeney, its managing director, said the strong capital position means the bank is well-prepared for more stringent international standards known as Basel III, which will take effect over the next several years.
Created by the Basel Committee on Banking, the Swiss-based international equivalent of a central bank governing banking principles worldwide, the tougher requirements are aimed at building stability throughout the financial services system following the economic downturn.
According to the Basel III accord, banks must convert preference shares into common or ordinary shares, enabling them to maintain a liquidity ratio of 8 per cent of total assets. The Central Bank of the Bahamas has taken an even tougher stand, requiring between 14 per cent and 17 per cent of risk-weighted assets.
Via a capital infusion of $31.5 million, Bank of the Bahamas is well ahead of local and international requirements in its capital position with 22 per cent.
Mr McWeeney, though, said the cash infusion that facilitated the buy-out of bonds and preference shares has caused some confusion in the marketplace.
“In order to understand what we did and why we did it, one must have an appreciation for the regulatory regime which governs banks not only in the Bahamas but worldwide,” said Mr McWeeney.
“We deliberately took steps to ensure that our capital structure continued to meet the highest standards. Counterbalancing payouts of bonds to our major shareholder was an injection of ordinary capital, paving the way for us to reduce preference shares in favour of ordinary shares over time. This move represents a sensible, prudent and proactive step that any responsible organizsation such as ours would take.”
Bank of the Bahamas recently marked its 25th anniversary, noting its growth from some $90 million in assets in 1988 to nearly $1 billion.
“In BOB’s quarter century of existence, the bank has demonstrated that with the right mindset and careful leadership a small local organisation can thrive in a competitive space against time tested global giants,” said Mr McWeeney.
“The bank continues to chart its course of sound growth and development, rapidly approaching a new landmark of $1 billion in assets. We have faced many challenges over these 25 years and we have surmounted them all mainly for one reason; when all the noise settles, assessments completed, the inevitable conclusion is that we are a sound and viable financial institution with a team of exceptional people. We are proud of that fact. We are also very proud of the fact that we have created, and continue to create, a national asset of which all Bahamians can be proud.”
With more than 4,000 shareholders, Bank of the Bahamas is a full-service financial institution with 13 branches on seven islands and more than 350 full-time members of staff.