Minister in the Ministry of Finance, Ryan Straughn, gets ready to cut the ribbon to officially open the newest branch of the City of Bridgetown (COB) Cooperative Credit Union Ltd. at Six Roads. He is joined by (l-r) CEO of COB, Steve Belle; COB President, Adlai Stevenson; Minister with responsibility for Culture, John King; COB Vice President, Celeste Foster; and Branch Manager at Six Roads, Suzanne Brice-Haynes. (GP)

By November next year, banking institutions will be able to transact business in real time.

This disclosure came from Minister in the Ministry of Finance, Ryan Straughn, as he delivered the feature address at the opening ceremony for the Six Road’s Branch of the City of Bridgetown (COB) Cooperative Credit Union Ltd., on Wednesday evening.

Mr. Straughn told his audience that all of the key players had been working assiduously for the past two years to get the systems going.

“We have given a mandate that we want to make it as easy for people to do business with government, and for the government to do business with people. But equally, that the coconut vendor at the side of the road on Sunday morning, the hairdresser, the barber, the person who has the small shop, and the doctor, we want to be able to onboard technologically these persons, such that we are able to break down the barriers that have barred the growth of the small business sector for too long.

“As we introduce that real time payment system, and equally as we introduce new measures for credit reporting next year, … then we know that we’ll be able to unlock access to credit, simply because we would have given any business, no matter the size, the opportunity to leverage technology, and allow them for the first time in our history to be able to go to any financial institution with credible records, such that they will be able to access credit and be able to expand.”

Minister Straughn gave the assurance that Government had been working with the credit union movement to move things along, while admitting that they do not always seem to move at the pace one would want all the time. He said the COVID-19 pandemic has taught that all must re-examine everything that they do.

He continued: “So, we have not been playing dead, so to speak, during this COVID time. We have been working, and next year, early in January, I will be laying in Parliament, the National Payment Systems Bill, which will lay the legislative framework upon which the digitisation of payments across the country will take place.

“The work to implement the Automated Clearing House is well on the way and by November of next year, all of the eight of the major financial institutions, which include the City of Bridgetown, will be a part of that,” he stated.

Branch Manager of COB Six Roads, Suzanne Brice-Haynes, giving Minister in the Ministry of Finance, Ryan Straughn, a tour of the new branch yesterday. (GP)

The Minister told his audience that Government would be seeking to allow credit unions to be brought into the deposit insurance framework, to ensure parity with respect to the treatment of financial institutions.

Minister with responsibility for Culture in the Prime Minister’s Office, John King, commended COB on its latest achievement, highlighting the critical role the institution has played in culture.

“What, however, really stood out for me is their contribution to culture and the arts.  They have, over the years, sponsored various events such as folk concerts and partnered with the Calypso Tents for Crop Over,” he indicated.

Mr. King underscored the valuable role credit unions play in the economy, noting that more families would be turning to them because of the pandemic.

President of COB, Adlai Stevenson, said the branch, COB’s fourth, had been built at a cost of $3.3 million, and would employ close to 25 persons.  

“Additionally, this building will house our virtual branch and disaster recovery centre, from where we will run our entire business in the event of an emergency, as well as drive our quest to being the fintech institution of choice for our members,” he stated.

Mr. Stevenson noted that COB was involved in the general move to electronic payment platforms and disclosed that the institution would shortly launch its contact-less international debit card, as well as a suite of merchant services.

Chief Executive Officer, Steve Belle, said this branch was COB’s first outside of urban St. Michael.

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