Get a bank account! (Easier said than done)

Letters to the Editor

Get a bank account! (Easier said than done)

Thursday, April 23, 2020

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Dear Editor,

It is a natural response of the human mind to be resistant to change. The impending Fourth Industrial Revolution is just such a change to many. Yet, we must be sensitive to those among us that are indifferent to digitisation.

Everyone must have a bank account — easier said than done; especially when we have yet to increase the national literacy where financial education is concerned.

The largest segment of our population is the seniors. A large majority of seniors are not with the “in thing” of online banking, smartphones, or basically reducing their lifestyles to just the press of a button. They are very peculiar about being able to review and physically handle their printed monthly bills, bank statements, etc. What of this segment?

The next fastest-growing segment is the under-18s. This possesses significant opportunities and a fair amount of challenges. Their sense of value is not based on productive priorities, rather the latest foreign fads and getting likes on social media. Many are still unbanked, simply for not attaining the age to do so, also due to their low levels of financial literacy. The young adults with bank accounts have them mostly due to the compulsory requirement from an employer for salary direct deposits. For others without bank accounts the requirements to open an account are quite discouraging. Most are neither able to meet the criteria nor have the credentials.

The prime minister's call for everyone to have a bank account is quite frivolous based on the current financial system and socialisation. The financial sector needs a proper audit before we shove anything further on an already stressed population. There is a lack of trust and confidence amongst consumers when dealing with financial institutions. This is partly due to the lack of accountability for institutions that violate consumer rights as standard operating procedures.

That is the Jamaican reality; 'perfect banking' is never accountable to consumers regardless of any egregious conduct. In over 50 years no bank in Jamaica has ever been penalised or had its banking licence revoked — an incredible feat by any stretch of the imagination. This situation is often contrary in their home jurisdiction, where penalties and fines are weekly occurrences when banks violate. Clearly, we need to set things in order for the protection of our consumers before we can advance on so grandiose of statements, “Everyone should have a bank account.”

The World Bank's review of the financial sector in Jamaica was never publicly released for whatever reason. Good or bad, we ought to use the information to light our way forward. Enough pussyfooting with the rights and protection of our people.

Michael Diamond


Consumers Intervention of Jamaica

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