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Butterfield denies MP claims in face of ‘active’ inquiries

Bermuda banks have agreed to continue to engage with the BMA and the Ministry of Finance on all matters pertaining to the banking sector (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

A Bermuda bank has denied having special banking exclusions for those released from prison, after MPs bought up the issue in Parliament.

During the House of Assembly session on Friday, David Burt, the Premier and Minister of Finance, also questioned the fairness of some bank policies and explained how they would come under government scrutiny.

It is not the first time Bermuda’s banks have been targeted by legislators, but two government MPs went so far as to call for a Commission of Inquiry into banking practices on the island.

When approached about that call, a spokeswoman for HSBC Bank Bermuda Ltd said that it had no comment.

Government backbencher Zane DeSilva, who represents Southampton East, complained that Black Bermudians coming out of prison were being denied an opportunity to hold a bank account.

His remarks brought supportive concern from others, including Derrick Burgess, the Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly.

After questions from The Royal Gazette, a spokesman for Butterfield, a bank specifically named during the parliamentary discussion, stated: “Butterfield has no policy that prevents the formerly incarcerated from maintaining or opening accounts with us. Each application is considered on its own merits.”

Geoff Scott, the chief executive of the Bermuda Bankers Association, said: “The BBA does not comment on matters which pertain to bank/client relationships.

“Financial inclusion and access to banking products and services is fully supported by the local banking industry.

“The BBA and our member banks will continue to engage with the Bermuda Monetary Authority and the Ministry of Finance on all matters pertaining to the banking sector in Bermuda.”

Financial institutions have been silent on the call for a CoI but the Government used the floor of the House of Assembly to reinforce its Throne Speech pledge to reform banking through legislation.

During Friday’s session, the Premier restated the pledge: “During this session, and similar to changes made in many other jurisdictions, the Government will further advance banking reform by legislating the requirement that licensed banks have a duty to provide access to basic banking services to all residents.

“Additionally, the legislature will take under consideration the regulations necessary to regulate excessive fees charged for banking services.”

Financial institutions have been on notice for some time that various changes were coming, having been told nearly three years ago of the expanding powers of the Bermuda Monetary Authority to ensure banks treat their customers fairly.

Legislation was passed two years ago towards enabling more regulatory power over banks, as the financial institutions suffered criticism.

The Premier told MPs that banking issues had been flagged up as a problem by his parliamentary back bench and members of the community and had affected “many of our constituents”.

He said it was important to make inquiries where it may have seemed that “under the guise of anti-money laundering and all those requirements, where the bank is able to be secretive over why they are taking actions, and there is not necessarily a check and balance to figure whether or not these things are actually justified or not”.

“It gets into a very complex space, but what we have seen in the Ministry of Finance recently are banks going above and beyond the requirements that have been set by the Government in issues relating to dealing with customer due diligence, AML/KYC, etc.

“And so Mr Speaker, that is something that the Government is actively looking into.“

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Published July 04, 2024 at 7:59 am (Updated July 04, 2024 at 7:25 am)

Butterfield denies MP claims in face of ‘active’ inquiries

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