New digital banking to cost jobs

Financial Services, Trade and Industry Minister Brent Symonette.

Financial Services, Trade and Industry Minister Brent Symonette.


Deputy Chief Reporter


THE announced discontinuation of many of Royal Bank of Canada’s in house services in a push to become more digital could signal similar actions by other banks in the country, raising concerns that more Bahamians may soon be unemployed, Minister of Financial Services, Trade and Industry Brent Symonette told The Tribune.

Realising this, Mr Symonette said in an interview yesterday, the government sought other avenues for Bahamians to be able to find work. He was referring to the controversial Commercial Enterprises Bill (CEB).

RBC has announced several changes to be implemented in January. Deposits and transfers to other RBC clients’ accounts, with the exception of RBC FINCO clients, will no longer be accepted over the counter as of January 2; fast deposits will no longer be available as of January 15; and as of January 31, wire transfers will not be processed over the counter and standing orders for credit card payments will be discontinued among other things.

Instead, the bank has advised customers to use its ATMs to deposit cash or cheques and its mobile app to pay bills, credit cards, transfer funds, send wire transfers, check credit card balances and make payments to other RBC clients.

RBC has also announced it is ending certain services for non-clients. This includes cheque cashing, bill payments, taking deposits or exchanging foreign currency.

“More banks will be doing it over time,” Mr Symonette said when The Tribune contacted him.

“But in terms of computerisation and going digital, there isn’t much the government can do.

“It’s going to affect the entire Caribbean. If you saw, Royal Bank closed its branch in Bimini and also Spanish Wells. That’s moving towards more of a digital banking system. You notice in banks all over the place automated teller machines (ATMs) are becoming more of the norm than people behind the counter and the effect there is going to be on employment of Bahamians in the traditional banking sector.

“So, I think that is something we have to worry about and look at to make sure we can find other jobs.

“This tail ends to where we were talking about the Commercial Enterprises Bill. We were trying to find other avenues for Bahamians to be able to find work. So with all this opposition is going on about the Commercial Enterprises Bill, no one is talking about making new jobs and here we are talking about it and then the PLP is here saying we aren’t doing anything for Bahamians. Well these are the exact same Bahamians we are trying to do something for.”

With the banking sector downsizing, the CEB was envisioned by the Minnis administration to compensate for the job losses, Mr Symonette said.

The bill would allow foreigners or Bahamians to receive “economic concessions” if they establish specified types of businesses in the Bahamas with an investment of no less than $250,000.

Such businesses would be entitled to a specified number of work permits for executives, managers and people with “specialised knowledge.” Attorney General Carl Bethel recently announced the bill was amended to remove the $250,000 threshold for Bahamians to take advantage of the bill’s concessions.

“We want to go out and get businesses who will look at basically the same skills these people have - computer literate, well educated and stable,” Mr Symonette said. “These are the people who will need the jobs we are aiming to create.”

Progressive Liberal Party Chairman Fred Mitchell last week accused the government of attempting to “flood the country with workers from outside the country and undercut the market for young Bahamians” with the introduction of the Commercial Enterprises Bill.

Mr Mitchell also criticised Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar for calling the PLP “crazy” for opposing the bill.

Last Thursday, Mr D’Aguilar told Tribune Business that the Minnis administration was trying to reverse brain drain of college graduates and highly skilled workers by using the bill to attract new business.

The PLP pledged to repeal the legislation when the party returns to power and warned investors and people who may accept the bill’s benefits to “think carefully” before doing so.

Debate on the bill begins today in the Senate.


proudloudandfnm 6 years, 7 months ago

This planet needs to deal with automation now before it gets out of hand. Right now there are efforts to automate aircraft, trucks, ships and taxi cabs. That is just stupid. Now is the time to nip this incredibly stupid movement in the bud....

People first!!!

Porcupine 6 years, 7 months ago

The way to do this is to assure that all humans have a decent quality of life. Automation is here to stay. We should applaud this, as now humans are thousands of times more productive than at any time in history. The problem is that the capitalist owners have managed to steal all of the gains in productivity for themselves. The statistics are there for anyone who cares to read. What needs to be nipped in the bud, is this selfish mentality that has allowed the rich to own the world, it's resources, it's people.

Clamshell 6 years, 7 months ago

Great idea, Proudloud. While we’re at it, let’s ban power tools so more Bahamians can be employed using hand saws! Let’s cut our lawns with machetes! Brilliant! Nip it in the bud!! People first!!

TalRussell 6 years, 7 months ago

Comrades! it’s just too painful how just like the PLP's, the red shirts cabinet are routinely shifting the poor to the side when they allow the foreign bankers be taking both their own customers and non-customers to the hardship cleaners.
Now, the squeeze is aimed directly at stopping the poor natives from cashing cheques drawn on their bank that don't qualify to the banks requirements to open a simple chequing or savings account. Understandably, someone with $650 million in their bank account may not relate to the hardship this adds to the already got's too much hardships of poor natives to worry about... like after working 40 hours of being underpaid, you are now told go buy some bottles liquour, before the store will cash your paycheque.

birdiestrachan 6 years, 7 months ago

These Fellows pulled the wool over the eyes of the "People's time" voters They duped them big time and they are trying their best to keep them duped. Their words the trickle down effect, the long term.

sheeprunner12 6 years, 7 months ago

The Royal Bank of Canada is looking to divest of its Caribbean domestic banking operations ....... the writing is on the wall .......... It is time to face the music and adjust - or DIE.

John 6 years, 7 months ago

The fact that the service at Royal bank has been less than royalty over the past few years and with strong and tough competition fro Commonwealth and Fidelity Banks RBC finds itself like a fish that has grown too big for a small pool. And it’s effor to downsize may be fatal.

bogart 6 years, 7 months ago

Never yet know any ATM maching to inquire as to the source of funds. Never know an ATM to be able to interact with thousands of customers and size them up for any suspicious transaction or ask simple probing questions. Cannot lock up and fine any ATM machine for being guilty.. Any unusual numbers of persons can deposit coke money, human trafficking, funds to the ATM and anyone can withdraw with the card. Will the ATMs now have an open limit to withdraw funds. Standing up in line to deposit cash at
an AtM is a recipe for robbery. If the bank is charging as determined in the lowend of the interest to provide the service of lining up inside the safety as ssfe as s bank to drposit will they now pass on the savings for not paying a teller. Etcetc.

bogart 6 years, 7 months ago

Doesnt some official in Trinidad head office not realize that our Financial Services Industry survive because we have some of the most advanced Anti Money Laundering Laws which penalyses tellers and human bank offivials who have advanced semanirs to pick out areas of laundering, proceeds of criminal action, drug proceeds from entering and currupting our banking system??? And which employs thousands of Bahamians and upkeep our reputation as the 4th biggest offshore bank sYstem? All these changes by some official who obviously does not know our second industry?? Machines can never replace humans in stopping fraud, anti money laundering, stoppkng proceeds of crime which at best even humans still are not perfect as evident by the laundering case re a education employre and 4 banks, and the recent BPL case which was caught and officials are still I imagine where othr fraud proceeds wind up etcetcetc

Porcupine 6 years, 7 months ago

You are suggesting that the laws were meant to benefit society. They weren't. You've been reading the wrong things. There is ample evidence that the "owners" are merely consolidating their ownership. The true owners, the financiers and bankers. Nothing more, nothing less. We have always had the ability and opportunity to stop money laundering. Do you think it was an accident that we failed? So long as we are distracted, and educated in their system, we will rarely get a glimpse of what they are really up to. This is not a conspiracy theory. It is the way things have worked for a long time. We have lost our critical thinking abilities to the detriment of humanity. The only thing that matters in today's world is money. Do I need to repeat this?

killemwitdakno 6 years, 7 months ago

Will the ATMs have security guards?

Can't really expect this to work without onboarding more shops and services to accept online payments.

banker 6 years, 7 months ago

Fintech technologies solves all of this bullsh*t.

sealice 6 years, 7 months ago

Royal and Scotia both suk donkey doo dads....good riddance they are moving on

Islangal1 6 years, 7 months ago

This is called the future guys. Since leaving The Bahamas I rarely carry cash. Everything is automated, you can open an account online using docu sign, scan documents everything is connected and secure though data protection. All my bills are paid online most companies don't even take cash payments here. BUT before the Bahamas moves into the 21st the government must first STOP reform their ministries and financial sectors to accommodate such a move. If my salary is deposited directly to my account and bills are paid via direct debit I need to know that my information and money are secured, if not then the Bank is liable. The cable company mistakingly billed me twice, got a call from my bank notifying of the irregularity, I confirmed there should be only 1 deduction and my money was back on my account in 24hrs. My daughter lost her card on campus, she sent them a text, the card was cancelled and a new one was sent in less than 5 days. Unless there's reform, accountability, data protection, freedom of information, transparency in the country nothing will change.

ohdrap4 6 years, 7 months ago

well, i remember the days when i had to use several lunch hours to deposit paycheque, catch the bus to pay bills, mail payments and have them get lost.

i welcome the automations, including monitoring my credit card online.

I cannot imagine people getting credit card statements 4 months late.

then there are people who have loans credit cards and current accounts in different banks and run around town managing their affairs.

ThisIsOurs 6 years, 7 months ago

How many new reasons will we get for the rushed implementation of the bill? Helping single mothers, no trained Bahamians, high paying jobs in the inner city, training for Bahamians???

The CEB was not some visionary inititiative to save jobs because banks were going digital. If you go with their other argument that these are industries that Bahamians are NOT doing, NOT trained for, how can it save jobs???

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