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Jamaican banks safe

Published:Wednesday | February 10, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Dwight Bellanfante, Gleaner Writer

National Commercial Bank Group Marketing and Communications Manager Belinda Williams. - file

Leading Jamaican banks are assuring account holders and other users of banking services that their savings and investments will be safe and that they will be able to get cash and access other financial services in the event of a major catastrophe, such as a serious earthquake or hurricane.

There are also regulatory provisions in place by the country's central bank to ensure that banks and other financial entities put disaster-preparedness measures in place to physically protect the plant and banking information (electronic and paper-based), as well as ensure that they can become operational as soon as possible after a disaster.

Head of services at RBTT, Sean Parris, says that entity has an elaborate system of protective mechanisms, including alternative processing facilities in Montego Bay, St James, and offshore, that capture and preserve all banking information. He said RBTT also has a detailed business continuity plan to ensure that the bank can carry on its operations in the face of a disaster, that is constantly reviewed and updated.

"This plan is triggered whenever there is an imminent threat of a disaster, such as a hurricane, in order to ensure the bank's capacity to continue operations, including preserving property and bank information. It covers a wide gamut of measures, such as activating a management crisis committee with a range of bank stakeholders covering all aspects of operations, including data security, location and protection of safes and assistance to key staff. There are also measures such as alternative phone lines, alternative power supply systems, raised flooring for water protection, fire protection measures, alarm checking, and so on.

"Also, regular bulletins are issued through the company's communication channels to track the progress of disasters such as hurricanes, and staff are exposed to disaster drills and disaster-recovery testing is done at the alternative site and offshore periodically," Parris noted.

Disaster-protection measures

The Bank of Jamaica (BOJ) has regulations requiring financial institutions to put stringent disaster-protection measures in place, which it monitors periodically.

At the National Commercial Bank (NCB), Group Marketing and Communications Manager Belinda Williams says NCB has a business continuity plan that "is reviewed every year and is supplemented by periodic drills involving a wide range of banking personnel, and that factors the needs of customers, staff and directors in the event of a disaster".

Additionally, she notes that the bank also maintains an alternative processing facility to protect its information, while pointing to other measures, such as purpose-built safety features, to protect vital equipment.

"We are prepared for virtually any eventuality of man or nature," Williams noted.