WILLEMSTAD / PHILIPSBURG — As part of the recurring meetings between the Centrale Bank van Curaçao en Sint Maarten (CBCS) and the local stakeholders of Sint Maarten, CBCS-president Richard Doornbosch and CBCS Sint Maarten’s director Raquel Lo Fo Wong, met with the Sint Maarten Bankers Association (SMBA) on Wednesday, February 16, 2022.
The principal aim of the meeting was to discuss the efforts of local banks to improve the banking experience of consumers in Sint Maarten. In particular, the requirements for opening and closing of bank accounts, consumer rights, and complaints procedure were being discussed.
The CBCS and the SMBA agreed that it should be possible for eligible natural persons to open a bank account within 10 business days after valid identification, proof of address, and proof of income can be provided. In a digitalized society a bank account is a key requirement for financial inclusion.
New innovations might provide alternatives in the not too distant future, but the limited interconnectedness of, for example, digital wallets restrict their functionality as a universal means of payment.
With respect to business accounts, the legal requirements for opening a bank account were discussed at length. The onboarding process tends to be more complicated and thus lengthy as the CBCS requires commercial banks to establish who is the beneficial owner and who is legally entitled to act on behalf of the company. For companies, this is not always straightforward.
The banks are in addition required by law to understand the transaction behavior of the company in order to identify unusual activity.
The commercial banks indicated that for small local businesses the opening of an account should be possible within the same 10 working days as for natural persons after receiving all the required documents. They also stated that the opening of bank accounts is a commercial decision. Some high-risk individuals and companies might not be able to open a bank account in Sint Maarten based on the risk appetite of the financial institution.
The CBCS stressed the need to have adequate identification, customer due diligence, and transaction monitoring procedures in place for all clients as the CBCS will intensify its supervision on these elements. However, these procedures should not stand in the way of excellent customer service for existing and potential clients.
Finally, the commercial banks’ complaints procedures were discussed. The CBCS and the SMBA agreed to continue their dialogue on these and other issues.