Thu | Aug 24, 2017

Letter of the Day | Banks aren’t all overcharging predators

Published:Wednesday | July 5, 2017 | 7:09 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

I have been exceedingly critical of banks and their lack of support for the productive sector, the spread between the rates they pay on deposits versus the interest charged on loans, and their high service charges.

For some time now, I have agonised over the need to declare interest by disclosing that while I have been advocating for banks to treat their customers better, I have had excellent and supportive relationships with the banks with which I have done business particularly the Bank of Nova Scotia (BNS), with which I have had a relationship for more than 30 years. I doubt that my experience is unique, but since the dominant narrative, to which I have contributed, has been on how oppressive the banks have been, I feel I have a personal duty to balance the scales by exposing another side of the reality. I share four positive experiences with the banks.

In the early 1990s into the 2000s, while involved in housing construction, I would occasionally run low on funds and needed an overdraft facility for a few days to a couple weeks. The Sav-la-Mar branch of BNS was always ready to assist, and spared me the red tape that became a feature of accessing such facilities later. I also received support from the Christiana branch of NCB in the early 2000s.

In 2015, I came across a major overseas investment opportunity and needed the help of the bank. I went to my bankers at BNS Mandeville, and the energetic and relentless Christopher Samuels went to work and his team did all they could to help me with a transaction that needed to be completed within 30 days. They literally went beyond the call of duty.

 

Solutions

 

In mid-2016 when faced with some unexpected financial dislocation, Chris Samuels again proposed a solution that served to stave off major shocks in the midst of another business undertaking.

In July 2017, Samuels called me to advise that the bank was lowering interest rates on a major loan facility. The facility was written at a fixed rate of interest, for the life of the loan, but the bank, without request or prompting from me, offered to lower the rates of interest.

There are two vital lessons here, in my view. First, while banks are engaged in questionable actions, such as charging fees on dormant accounts, they also take the interests of their customers into account even on a win-win basis where they make money off the customer and the customer is able to advance his or her interest, with their support.

The other, and possibly more important, lesson is this: The leaders of the banks are people whose sense of the good exists and can be deployed to serve the interests of their customers. This fact augurs well for future conversations on how banks may better serve all their customers.

CANUTE THOMPSON

Equity Advocate