More companies blocking Jamaicans overseas from doing businessFriday, October 22, 2021
As Jamaica continues efforts to bolster its anti-money laundering (AML), combatting the financing of terrorism (CFT), and proliferation financing frameworks, more ordinary Jamaicans and businesses continue to feel the pinch of the country's inclusion on the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) grey list.
The most recent firm to block the opening of new accounts for Jamaicans is US-based brokerage firm TD Ameritrade. TD Ameritrade has been the go-to brokerage firm for its ease in opening an account, which has been complemented by zero commissions on stock trades. Stock trading has skyrocketed since the novel coronavirus pandemic, with most brokerage firms in the USA seeing a surge in new account openings.
Most US brokerage firms only offer services to US citizens or residents, those with a social security number (SSN), or those in specific regions, such as Europe. As a result, Jamaicans had limited options for investing in the US markets, except through the use of local brokers, who either require high minimum amounts, such as US$2,000 ($300,000) or charge sizeable commissions ranging from US$10 to $75 per trade.
When the Caribbean Business Report sought a response on the issue, Christina Goethe of TD Ameritrade stated, “As we continue to take steps toward our future as a combined company, TD Ameritrade has implemented some changes in order to align to Schwab's International Jurisdiction policy. As a result, we will no longer open new client accounts in Jamaica. However, existing clients residing in Jamaica may keep their accounts and open additional accounts in the future. This is all part of our ongoing effort to deliver a more unified experience as we work to integrate TD Ameritrade with Charles Schwab.”
Charles Scwhab acquired TD Ameritrade in October 2020 from TD Bank which is based in Canada. The acquisition was valued at US $22 billion in an all stock deal of Charles Scwhab's shares.
Some Jamaican clients of Israeli brokerage firm Etoro had to close their accounts in January based on the firm's reference to the FATF list.
Interactive Brokers – one of the few brokers which accepts tax registration numbers (TRN) as tax identification numbers – hasn't yet started to restrict Jamaicans from opening accounts with the firm. Jamaica was recently added back to Skrill as one of the serviced countries after being removed some time ago.
This represents one of the risks that Jamaicans face due to the country's continued inclusion on the list. Barbados, Haiti, and the Cayman Islands are the other Caribbean jurisdictions which are currently on the list. Trinidad and Tobago was removed from the list in February 2020.
Jurisdictions on the FATF grey list are under increased monitoring and have committed to working with the FATF to address strategic deficiencies. Inclusion on the list means that there is an elevated risk for regulated businesses should they choose to do business with entities in those regions.
Some local businesses have complained about Jamaica's inclusion as they have been restricted from doing businesses with suppliers in places like Netherlands and Europe, while existing relationships have come under heightened scrutiny. This, amid a global supply chain meltdown, which has forced more companies to seek alternative routes to protect their operations.