Mon | Oct 23, 2017

No disrespect! - Bankers say they are willing to work with lawmakers on fees

Published:Tuesday | January 31, 2017 | 12:00 AMEdmond Campbell
Nigel Holness
Jacqueline Sharp
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As debate on the vexed issue of exorbitant banking fees continues to attract widespread public attention, president of the Jamaica Bankers' Association, Nigel Holness, is rushing to the defence of the banking sector, saying its membership has not disrespected the Jamaican Parliament.

"We have the utmost respect for our parliamentarians because they represent the people of Jamaica, who are our customers, so there is a lot of respect for them," Holness told The Gleaner yesterday after a prolonged meeting with lawmaker Fitz Jackson.

"And, Mr Jackson, we commend him for what he is doing, because it's about the people, and I do believe that from this point, it's really working closer together so we can ensure that we are on the same path, because at the end of the day, it's all about the customer," he added.

 

GROSS CONTEMPT

 

In opening the debate last week, on a private member's bill, the Banking Services (Amendment) Act, 2016, opposition backbencher Jackson had accused the banking sector of showing "gross contempt for this Parliament and the concerns of the people we represent".

Jackson argued that since the motion on bank charges was first tabled in 2013 and the subsequent deliberations of a committee of Parliament, which received the input of several bankers, the banking sector not only increased fees but also expanded the range of charges to depositors.

However, after nearly three hours of rigorous deliberations between members of the Jamaica Bankers' Association and Jackson, at the Government's conference room in Gordon House yesterday, the bankers have been given two weeks to produce a formal response to the proposed a law, which seeks to introduce mandatory minimum service package to depositors.

The JBA president said that a five-point plan has been agreed between the top brass of the banking sector and Jackson.

"From here, it's about working much closer with our parliamentarians to set the stage as to how we move forward," Holness asserted.

He said the parliamentarians have been reasonable in that they have given the banking sector additional time to highlight their concerns.

"It's all about moving towards enhancing the customer experience and making our customers more satisfied with the service we deliver and reasonable pricing structures," the JBA president noted.

 

... Scotiabank said

 

Jacqueline Sharp, president and chief executive officer of Scotiabank Group Jamaica Limited, described yesterday's meeting with Jackson as constructive.

"We were able to articulate our concerns about the bill and the challenges we expect in terms of the bill and to put our view across, and we'll be coming back with recommendations."

Sharp said the banking sector still had concerns about the "Government dictating price, and by setting a minimum service package, you'll be effectively setting a price of zero for a series of services."

 

... JMA added:

 

Yesterday, the Jamaica Manufacturers' Association (JMA), weighed in on the debate arguing that the Government's role in regulating fees for an industry is debatable.

However, the JMA said that if the options available to citizens are uncompetitive and do not allow easy movement of accounts across platforms and moral suasion has failed within a regulated industry, the Government should ultimately make decisions in the interest of the consumer and development of the country.

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com