Guernsey’s Chamber of Commerce has raised the alarm over a creep of banking issues for local businesses which it says is “particularly acute” for those not providing financial services, with some being threatened with speedy account termination.
“In recent weeks, several local businesses that hold client money in pooled accounts such as estate agents, payroll services and others, who bank with NatWest are facing the withdrawal of their accounts, citing compliance with regulation as the reason,” it said.
Chamber said it accepts that pooled accounts pose more risk when considering due diligence and anti-money laundering measures but has urged banks and business to “work together” to ensure Guernsey remains competitive.
It wants banks to streamline account opening processes and reduce wait times to help local businesses, as well as working with firms to help them meet regulatory requirements.
Diane de Garis, President of the Guernsey Chamber of Commerce, said more barriers to business are being created and said the island does not seem to be “open for business”.
"At every point we hear deputies talk how we need to diversify industries, to attract new business to the islands and encourage start-ups but it can feel like the exact opposite in practical terms.
"It takes over 16 weeks to open an account, there is only one bank who offers credit cards and only a few banks have adopted open banking - and now this. It's just not good enough. We need to create a level playing field for all businesses in Guernsey."
Local business owners Andy and Julie Carré of Carré Property Limited have been directly affected and now face lots of work to ensure their day-to-day operations can continue.
They said: “It is extremely worrying to receive a letter notifying us about the closure of our business accounts which have operated without any issues over the last 15 years. This creates immense challenges for our day-to-day operations. Our company is registered as a prescribed business with the Guernsey Financial Services Commission and has Client Money Protection insurance.
“What adds to the frustration is the realisation that it will be nearly impossible to open another account elsewhere within the limited timescale given.”
Chamber has launched a survey to see how widespread these issues are and if anything can be done to improve the situation.
President de Garis added: “We shouldn’t need a charity, the Guernsey Community Savings, for those who are being excluded and can’t access basic financial services – and yet we do. We can and must do better for our local business and residents."
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