The Central Bank and Stakeholders Announce Digital Campaign

Minister of Economic Affairs, Sen. the Hon. Michael Halkitis; Governor of the Central Bank, John Rolle; Chair, the Clearing Banks Association, Denise Turnquest; Chairman, The Bahamas Chamber of Commerce & Employers Confederation and Chief Executive Officer, Mobile Assist, Donovan Moxey were in attendance at the launch of a major campaign branded as ‘Live Fast, Pay Digital’ at The Central Bank, Monday, May 27, 2024.  (BIS Photos/Patrick Hanna)

NASSAU, The Bahamas — The Central Bank of The Bahamas and executives of financial institutions from across the country unveiled plans for a major campaign branded as ‘Live Fast, Pay Digital’ at the Bank on Monday, May 27, 2024.

“It is focused on educating the public on how to get access to and how to use digital channels more actively; and it will educate them on the range of digital instruments that are available locally,” the Governor, The Central Bank of The Bahamas, John Rolle said.

He noted that the campaign will address cyber-security and anti-fraud, explaining what safeguards are followed by financial institutions and the regulators to make digital payments secure; and will emphasize the security minded practices that all customers should also follow to protect their accounts and transactions.

“For businesses, emphasis will also be set on how to do more holistic cost-benefit analysis on digital payments versus cash and cheques, around issues such as accounting and record keeping, physical safety, and handling fraud.”

Mr. Rolle said, “It draws on the public feedback that we have received regarding the state of domestic payments, including the reactions especially from the business community about the proposed elimination of cheques.”

He explained that working with a Steering Committee, in October 2023 the Central Bank announced that the emphasis had shifted from cheque elimination to encouraging continued reduction in cheque usage, giving businesses and consumers more time to adjust and to adopt increased use of digital payments.

Mr. Rolle noted that concurrently, there is an agreed emphasis on making sustained improvements in domestic payments on several key dimensions.

He said keeping the end of 2025 in sight, the first is – in objectively measured ways – to improve the ease of access to payments through digital channels, while achieving outcomes that are also more inclusive.

Mr. Rolle said, “This means ensuring that all individuals and businesses have the ability to open deposit and mobile wallet accounts through which to send and receive payments.

“It will mean very targeted regulations for a basic, cost-controlled, transactional deposit account for individuals who have limited financial means; and more rules to streamline the speed and ease of opening accounts for business and organizations.

“The Central Bank is already engaged in work on these topics, with emphasis on the standards that would apply to individuals versus other versus other categories of account holders.”

He said on performance, the ultimate target is better results through modernization of the retail payments system.

“The milestone, on which we have started to consult at the Steering Committee level, is achieving substantive progress towards fast or instant payments for all transactional facilities: that is, extending the convenience beyond the reach of existing mobile wallets to savings and current accounts at banks and credit unions.

Mr. Rolle added, “This would also extend real-time interoperability across deposit accounts and mobile wallets, including the SandDollar.

“Transformation, as much as it would impact credit unions, means that they would also be expected to become more direct participants in the payments system, so that the speed of completing transactions through credit unions is not reduced in comparison to banks.”

He said as regards the ease and cost of doing business online, the input from the business community is already helping to identify performance indicators that can be tracked.

“This includes making it easier to manage the limits that apply to online wire transfers, and enhanced capabilities to reconcile incoming electronic payments. There are also concerns about account maintenance charges, merchant fees and other transaction costs, which infrastructure improvements will help to tackle.”

Mr. Rolle explained that another subset of The Central Bank’s efforts will look at the standards around cheque services provided by banks.

He said, “A key one of these is identifying more transparent, consumer friendly approaches to the terms that govern the writing and cashing of cheques.  At present, the customer experience is varied from institution to institution.”