LETTER: Antiguan Banks Hold Public To Ransom Amidst COVID-19

Customers outside ECAB on April 9, 2020

I took sometime to write this article, since i was biding my time hoping that prudence and commonsense would have prevailed and the Banking institutions in Antigua would have got their acts together.

However, apparently,  these virtues of commonsense and prudence are non existent in the Banking institution circle in Antigua and Barbuda.
We are all aware of the crisis faced globally since the advent of this ‘pandemic’ COVID-19. Nothing has remained the same socially, economically,  or mentally. Every ambit of commerce has been affected adversely. Each person, each home, employee and employer alike have felt the woes in some way or the other.
Many have not worked since the imposed quarantine and curfew. Some have worked limited and revised hours, obviously affecting our collective financial situations negatively.  Some people are fortunate to have hefty bank savings while others just basic or very small financial reserves tucked away in our so called Banks.
My question is, does the Government of Antigua work under the dictates or mandates of the Banks or vice versa?
Apparently, our Government is answerable to these Banks.! How can the banking institutions in our country close their doors to the public for the majority of days of each week? How can two days of banking suffice the Antiguan populace in order for them to practically conclude their banking transactions?
I remember distinctly the concerns of all rational minded persons…..social distancing, no congregation or crowding. Amen to that! But go to any bank on the selected 2 days of the week that these banks choose to open and tell me what you see! This is absolutely deplorable and unforgivingly insensitive.  People start their queue at the bank even before 7 am at these Banks. Most people wait more than 2 hrs before even being able to enter the bank. How can a bank be operating from 8 am to 11.30 am , two days weekly, be able to fulfill the needs of its clients?
Are these banks aware that they are the supposed safe keepers of our money? Do they realize that they are many people in dire straits who need to access their funds in the bank to provide for staples, and other necessities?
No jobs, no salary, and damn! We are still being held ransom for our own money. This bunkum must stop!
The Banks in all countries are essential institutions.
In our hemisphere, its unheard of, that the Banks operate on only 2 days weekly.
I am not sure if i am the dunce and ignoramus here, but this situation in Antigua is totally unacceptable.  I have heard common citizenry and business community,  lamenting on this sordid situation.  Business people having back ups with cheques they have received and not able to get in the bank. Outstanding international wire transfers which are to facilitate overseas purchases for goods desperately needed, and they cannot be done with efficacy.
Come on people, wise up.
We the public are not working for the Banks,  you are working for us. Its our money you have in your decorated coffers and we must be able to access it when needed!
I call on the Government of Antigua to address this very important matter with the alacrity and seriousness it deserves. A change must be initiated to have longer hours and more banking days.
Unless, our Government is being governed by the mandates of these banking institutions!
I would rather think not, so i am sure our honorable Prime Minister will prove to us shortly who is the boss! We wait……

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  1. These bankers are NOT the boss here. They serve the people at the pleasure of the people. Looks like somebody might have to kick some ass.

  2. I agree with you 100%. Opening 2 days a week under the guise of social distancing is counterproductive.

    I love simple maths- If 100 people have to go to the bank in a week, at very best you will have 50 persons a day if the banks only open 2 days a week. If the bank was open the usual 5 days then you could ideally have 20 persons a day. Which situation do you think is most likely to result in the spread of the disease?

    Same for supermarkets. I say keep them open till 6:00pm. When socially distancing people, spreading out the time works better than limiting it.

    It also exposes the public more. With these long queues and limited hours to get business done persons will inevitably run out of time before getting through and as such will be forced to leave the safety of their home another day with no guarantee that they will be successful.

    Just my opinion.

  3. The atm machines remain open 24/7 which means you have access to your funds 24/7. Also online banking is available for you to monitor your account, transfer funds etc. How exactly does the restricted hours affect access to funds?

    • 1st of all, the ATMs should be available 24 hours per day. In most instances they’re either out of cas or not working.

      What about the seniors who don’t trust ATMs and credit cards? How do you suggest they get the required cash to buy food and other necessities?

    • Many many ordinary Antiguans don’t know ANYTHING about ATM machines or online banking. Not everybody is an elitist wannabe. Remember the ordinary people. They are the majority.

    • SERIOUSLY???????? Some person may have already depleted their funds that can be access by atm…hence the reason to try and visit the bank……..

      Let’s be realistic some persons have the option of “deposit and savings ” as all CFCCU customers …..so funds depleted on your deposit, one will have to visit the bank to access savings….

  4. Could it be intentional?

    Maybe they are afraid people will “make a run on the banks”.

    But as you rightfully said “it’s our money”.

  5. Well said!! I have been saying the same thing since the lockdown started. A&B is primarily a cash-based society. With the banks opening a few hours, 2 days per week, how are people to access their funds? In the case of RBC (RBTT) there is 1 ATM at Heritage Quay and the machine is not working most of the time. I am anxiously awaiting my next monthly statement to see if they have the nerves to deduct the monthly service charge for not providing a service and denying me access to my money

  6. Not following your logic, have you seen the lines in front of atm? Online banking is not safe, especially at ACB. Anyways, you all are dying species that is why the canadians are pulling out. No more money to be made from banking. I predict the same fate for cable & wireless years ago.

  7. Because of views like the ones I am seeing here, so loudly spouted, is precisely why we are in the situation that we are in now with this Covid19 pandemic. Everyone wants their personal advise followed, whether it makes sense or not. Now I am very sorry, but when you have, online banking 24/7 atm machines 24/7 I see absolutely no reason why an educated young Antiguan would be accessing the lines at the bank to withdraw $50.00 or to go up to a teller to ask, what is the balance on my account? Come on Antiguans, whether we want to accept it or not, we have a new normal, the sooner we get that through our thick skulls, the sooner this new normal becomes comfortable for us without putting our brothers and sisters at risk of contracting this virus. We have everything at our fingertips, ok you have no idea how to do it, sit down and read the instructions, give yourself some credit here, read the instructions, eventually you will get it right…..no instead you jump on a bus go to st John’s and put everyone along your trail and in your household at risk just because you refuse the read.

    • Antiguan at risk, I know how to used atm’s and do online banking, but my main account I don’t use it for such because of hackers. I have experience in the past with my credit cards being compromised and the bank taking forever to refund my money. To have peace of mind, I prefer manual banking.

  8. Thousands don’t have bank cards or even computers, but they have $$$ in their accounts in the banks. Take a reality check.

  9. 1)Bank Machines do not always release money when a check is deposited. So on friday workers get paid by check. How do they get the money out of the bank.
    2) If you need to collect a bank card or reset a pin for your card How do you do that online? <<<– You cant
    3) If you notice a debit or credit on your account you need to goto the bank to see whats going on. We dont have in this country as yet a very good "online presence".

    So how do these very common circumstances not get effected from limited banking hrs. Also What about the very nature of banks. They make money off peoples monies and are in a business thats regulated by the government vesting order .

  10. I completely agree with the author of this most relevant and well-written letter! Whether Antiguans are familiar with digital banking or not is a moot point: the banks should be available for them at least five days a week and for several hours a day. Access to one’s funds is a citizen’s right, and is as essential as food, gas and other services that society offers.
    Moreover, I would also suggest that forcing people to queue up for hours in the sun and heat is an affront on not only their dignity as human beings, but presents a very real health transgression: the mental and physical toll can only weaken the immune system of those who have to endure this day in and day out – and this is not the only waiting they have to do: groceries, insurance, licencing offices, it goes on and on; how can weakened citizens fight off this virus.

  11. Antiguans love the feeling of paper cash in their hands too much. They will line up for hours to take out cash or cash their cheques rather than use the ATM or online banking. Banks in the UK are closing branches because their customers are doing their banking online but in Antigua we still line up for hours simply to cash a cheque, with draw a few dollars or check the balance of our accounts. We really need to try and modernize our banking by at the very least trying to move to online banking. We all have smart phones and it will save us all from lining up several times a week.

    • The banks need to educate the public about such services. The customers determine whether you have business yes or not. When this crisis is over, alot of these banks will be out of business.

    • Comparing the banking systems of the UK and A&B is like comparing The Mighty Monarch King Short Shirt with King Bowl Face….One was a master of the craft and the other was great for laughs.

    • Wha happen when ONDCP come? Y’all think all these anti money laundering regulations are just in place to “fight terrorism, drug trafficking?” Is to keep us dependent on the banking institutions.

  12. Perhaps in the interim people should organize their time wisely so as to make use of the banking hours. Make use of the ATMs and Online banking (if you can).

    While I can understand your frustration, bank workers are people too. They have the same fears and concerns about this pandemic and are willing to open their doors to scores of people thus putting themselves and their families at risk.

    So while you lament about the opening hours, they lament about how some of the transactions unnecessary since withdrawal of cash and the use of nightly deposits are available. If I’m not mistaken, many ATM machines allow you to deposit cash.

    We really need to understand what’s happening here. Medical staff are essential and in times like these it is emotionally draining. How then do you think banking staff (not trained to deal with situations like this) are coping with having to put themselves at risk.

    You too should want to limit your exposure .

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