Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem promised on Wednesday that he will look into the possibilities to keep open the automatic teller machine (ATM) of the Windward Islands Bank (WIB) in The Bottom, Saba.
The Minister stated this in response to written questions submitted by Members of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament Aukje de Vries and André Bosman, both of the liberal democratic VVD party. De Vries and Bosman had expressed concerns about the closure of the WIB branch in Saba per late November 2016 and the consequences for the island.
Dijsselbloem, whose civil servants have consulted WIB, its mother company Maduro & Curiel’s Bank MCB in Curaçao and the Public Entity Saba, confirmed the closure and explained that the ATM would remain operational until the end of this year.
“Together with the involved parties I am looking at possibilities to keep this ATM operational next year. The associated cost and which party could maintain the ATM operational are being studied,” stated the Minister, “lamented” WIB’s departure after eight years, leaving Saba with only one commercial bank, the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) and possibly only one active ATM.
“As the sole remaining bank on the island, the RBC would have a monopoly position. That can be undesirable if this has adverse consequences, for example, for the level of financial service. My main concern is that the financial service remains sufficiently accessible and of a sufficient level,” stated Dijsselbloem.
At the same, the Minister remarked, it should be noted that on an island with less than 1,000 account holders it might not be interesting from an economic perspective to have more than one commercial bank. Talks with WIB confirmed that it was economically unattractive to have two banks on a small island like Saba.
Dijsselbloem stated that he found it important, also because of the fact that cash money plays a key role in the local economy, to keep a close tab on this matter, together with the Saba Government and the financial supervisors such as the Dutch Central Bank DNB and the Netherlands Authority for the Financial Markets (AFM), to ensure that there are sufficient ATM’s and that at least one commercial bank remains active on the island.
On the long term, Saba should be making more use of Internet banking, which is something that the Saba Government wants to promote. This would limit the use of cash and the dependency on a bank branch. WIB clients in Saba could maintain their bank account this way and they would be included in the client base of WIB St. Eustatius. WIB clients could also open a new account at the WIB branch in St. Maarten.
In a letter that Dijsselbloem sent to Saba’s Executive Council on Wednesday, he explained that the AFM and DNB have been informed of WIB’s closure. The WIB has submitted an action plan with a planning to both supervisory entities.
The Minister assured the Executive Council that a planned bank closure such as this one required a careful way of handling of its clients. “The bank has a care duty. This means that the transfer of the client base will be handled in a careful manner and that the clients receive the necessary after care.” The AFM will supervise this process.
The Daily Herald.