By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) yesterday unveiled a three-month deferral of loan repayments for clients in The Bahamas and wider Caribbean who were in good standing as at March 2, 2020.
The Canadian banking giant, detailing its response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, said: “Effective immediately, most RBC personal banking clients in the Caribbean will benefit from an automatic three-month payment deferral on credit facilities.
“Business and corporate banking clients are also eligible for the relief programme, following individual eligibility assessments with an RBC representative. Automatic payment deferrals will be applied as of March 17, 2020, and remain in effect until June 30, 2020, or until further advised.”
To qualify for the initiative, RBC said its personal banking, business and corporate clients must be current and in good standing with their loan accounts as of March 2, 2020. It added that clients already participating in other RBC relief programmes are excluded from the initiative.
The Canadian-owned bank said its goal was to help clients manage the potential financial fall-out from COVID-19, especially the loss of jobs or income; childcare disruption due to school closures; or dealing with the virus itself.
RBC added that it was continuing to monitor the coronavirus, and its economic impact, in all territories in which it operates and “may consider other relief measures if necessary”.
The hope among Bahamian corporate and household borrowers will be that RBC’s Canadian rivals, Scotiabank and CIBC FirstCaribbean, will follow its lead.
The three Canadian-owned banks account for the majority of the $5.756bn in private sector credit that was outstanding at end-January 2020, and repayment deferrals by the trio would ease the burden faced by hard-pressed borrowers faced with jobs and/or income losses as a result of the pandemic.
K Peter Turnquest, deputy prime minister, yesterday told the House of Assembly that Bahamian commercial banks had “reiterated to me their commitment to helping their clients through challenging times”. However, no details were provided of what this “commitment” may involve until RBC’s statement last night.
Referring to the government’s meeting with the Clearing Banks Association (CBA), Mr Turnquest said: “They have advised that if persons are experiencing financial difficulties during this period that they should contact their banks to understand the options that are available to them, such as payment deferrals, credit limit increases or other measures to offer temporary relief.
“As this issue progresses, the banks have stated their intent to offer more tailored products and services to persons who financially are negatively impacted by the economic effects of COVID-19. The banks have, however, stressed that for now, it is important that clients who - because of their changing circumstances - find themselves in financial duress, that these customers should go in before they fall into arrears so that their specific situation can be assessed and addressed within the range of the banks’ available tools.”
Translating what this meant, Mr Turnquest told Bahamian borrowers: “Don’t wait to get into trouble. If you suspect you will be laid off or your income will be affected, go and see your financial institution.”