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Banks Move To 'Jumpstart' Clients' Dorian Recoveries

All Bahamian commercial banks were yesterday said to have implemented Dorian relief programmes to help storm-ravaged clients “jumpstart their recovery and get back on their feet”.

LaSonya Missick, chair of the Clearing Banks Association (CBA), said: “Each member of the Clearing Banks’ Association is committed to helping impacted Bahamians through this difficult time. Our members all have special relief programmes in place to provide assistance to those hardest hit by Hurricane Dorian.

“This includes loan and mortgage payment deferrals, special rate financing to assist with rebuilding, and other offerings designed to help banks’ clients get back to some semblance of normalcy as soon as possible.”

Ms Missick, who is also Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) Bahamas managing director, added that her institution is granting Abaco and Grand Bahama clients a five-month deferral of mortgage and loan payments to assist their recovery. Loan payments made after August 31 will also be returned.

“For RBC Royal Bank, we are applying automatic five-month payment deferrals on mortgages and loans to impacted clients on Abaco and Grand Bahama,” she confirmed. “In addition, to help put more money back in the pockets of these clients, RBC will be returning any payments made on mortgages and loans after August 31, 2019.

“We want our clients to have the flexibility they need during this tough time to help them start their recovery process. Clients on other islands who might have sustained damage due to Hurricane Dorian can also apply for deferrals. They simply need to visit a branch and provide appropriate documentation of damages, and we will be happy to see what we can do.

“Finally, we are offering special financing to help impacted clients jumpstart the rebuilding process to put them and their families get back on their feet.”

Ms Missick encouraged evacuees who have relocated to New Providence to visit RBC’s Prince Charles branch or Carmichael Road branches, where they have set up specialised teams to assist them.

RBC added that while its Freeport branch was closed until further notice, its automated teller machines (ATM’s) and online banking services were operational. However, its branch in Marsh Harbour, Abaco, was “hard hit” and requires “significant reconstruction”.

It will remain closed until further notice, with RBC saying: “When conditions improve and there is a better understanding of the needs on the ground, RBC will look at ways to re-establish banking services for the community while clean-up efforts get underway.”

Gowon Bowe, Fidelity Bank (Bahamas) chief financial office, said the commercial banking industry was grateful that the Central Bank had relaxed guidelines requiring borrowers to come up with a minimum 15 percent of equity, while waiving the maximum debt service ratio applied to distressed borrowers that prevents more than 40-45 percent of their income going to pay back loans.

“We’re more concerned with making sure our customers remain good customers,” he explained. “In saying that, we may be extending the deferment of payments for a period of time and we may be allowing for refinancing of current loan obligations up to a certain amount.

“Fidelity will extend relief services to Hurricane Dorian victims on a case-by-case basis, and on the basis of needs that must be met, rather than a blanket relief package across the board for all persons and in all Dorian victims’ circumstances.”

Mr Bowe reiterated that banks are not in the business of implementing set policies across the board, and each institution will have to determine what they are willing to do for their customers.

“We must ensure that all customers meet their requirements, but it is up to borrowers to come to us and ask first, and then we take it from there,” Mr Bowe said.

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