By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
A BISX-listed commercial bank says it will not be making "grandiose statements" of "blanket" COVID-19 loan deferrals and instead plans to continue its post-Dorian "case-by-case basis" approach.
Gowon Bowe, Fidelity Bank (Bahamas) chief financial officer, pledged to Tribune Business that the institution will treat borrowers "fairly" despite declining to follow the "blanket" three and six-month loan repayment holidays offered by the likes of Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), CIBC FirstCaribbean and Commonwealth Bank.
Arguing that its Dorian response had worked well for bank and customer alike, Mr Bowe said Fidelity had found such blanket deferrals were often abused by delinquent borrowers to further avoid their "obligations" which diverted resources away from efforts to help clients truly in need.
"The reality is that we as a financial institution appreciate our customers are going to go through some challenging times, and what's most important is to make sure we engage with them to understand their financial circumstances and what is best suited to them.
"It's not to take the blanket approach. In reality we will not be making blanket statements about loan deferrals. Those in need we will assist, but not those already poor performing loans looking for any type of deferrals to further avoid their obligations. We are going to deal with customers on a case-by-case basis.
"The situation of a blanket deferral is also giving a benefit to those who don't need it, and that limits our ability to direct resources to those who do," Mr Bowe added. "We are not going to let the innocent suffer for the guilty.
"We have to ensure we are treating the customer in a manner, as those are the persons who we live and die by in our business. Our statements might not be as grandiose, but our approach is going to be far more targeted."
Mr Bowe said Fidelity Bank (Bahamas) had reduced its loan portfolio exposure to tourism industry workers to around 10 percent, having realised during the 2008-2009 recession that the sector was highly volatile and exposed to global shocks. He doubted other institutions' exposure reached as high as 20 percent.