Long Island in desperate need of financial inclusion, says Gibson

Long Island in desperate need of financial inclusion, says Gibson
Long Island MP Adrian Gibson.

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Long Island MP Adrian Gibson yesterday reiterated concerns over the “devastating impact” the imminent departure of Scotiabank presents for the island.

Gibson, who was addressing the Long Island Business Outlook yesterday, stressed that the island desperately needs financial inclusion.

“Like many other Long Islanders, I am fearful that Long Island will become a banking desert,” he said.

“The closure of Scotiabank means that Long Island would have physical bank branches following Royal Bank of Canada’s (RBC) pull-out several years ago. I fear that this will have a devastating impact on my people’s access to financial services. We desperately need financial inclusion; Long Island cannot be unbanked.

“The business community and the elderly will be affected immensely. Our island is comprised of largely middle-aged to elderly people, so this will affect my constituents incredibly. You can imagine the elderly may not have access to online banking or may lack digital literacy.

“I am also concerned about poor internet connectivity in parts of Long Island would make accessing digital financial services difficult for constituents. I have written to the Minister of Finance to request/suggest that the Bank of The Bahamas (BOB) be domiciled on Long Island to ensure that residents have a banking option, as Scotiabank closes its branch in the next four months.

“Indeed, there is a need for BOB to have a physical presence on islands where residents are unbanked. We’re only left now to rely on the publicly-owned bank, which should be mandated to provide a certain level of financial services to communities.”

Gibson noted that Scotiabank has assured that an automated teller machine will remain on the island and that residents will be able to withdraw funds, deposit funds, pay credit card bills and access other services.

He added that the bank will provide customer assistance/training to business persons and the elderly to prepare them for their digital platform.

“I am of the view that the commercial banks should consider creating banking hubs on the Family Islands, where they share the cost of a space, are under one roof and can [be] able to carry out some of their regular services,” Gibson said.

“Indeed, we must also modernize the Post Office banking system throughout the archipelago. I believe that more bank licenses should be issued and credit unions and cooperatives established on the Family Islands. We develop our indigenous banks and credit unions. Those are potential solutions.

“We must start considering the value of issuing more licenses to qualified persons and groups. We have to try to convey a commitment to bringing another financial institution. Indeed, before awarding future licenses, the Central Bank should require each of the major commercial banks — those existent now and in future — to have at least one physical branch on a Family Island,” said Gibson.

Gibson also encouraged Long Island residents to embrace the digital rollout of the Central Bank of The Bahamas’ Sand Dollar.