An increased number of locally licensed banks, reducing issues with opening bank accounts, and improving locals’ access to credit cards are among proposals being considered by Economic Development.
The Committee says it is talking to the banking sector as part of a joint approach with the other Crown Dependencies to ease banking issues being felt offshore.
It comes after multiple Guernsey businesses reported sudden and unexpected issues with their UK-based bank accounts including short notice threats of account withdrawal that threatens business-as-usual operations.
In a statement, Economic Development said it was aware of recent issues such as “account opening, credit card access and wider access to payment merchant services”.
It is also undertaking a “general review” of the banking sector “with a view to developing policy proposals” to remove troubles for businesses and individuals.
Home Affairs are also said to be considering a new electoral roll system for the upcoming 2025 election which could allow credit agencies to access data as they do in the UK. Economic Development say this is one of the issues “impacting on domestic credit card provision”.
IT upgrades at the Guernsey Registry will also include Application Programming Interface access for third parties which can assist corporates to open bank accounts, it added.
Pictured: The Chamber of Commerce is aware of the issues and has called on the States and banks to help take the pressure off.
Guernsey’s Chamber of Commerce, the island’s biggest business lobby, recently launched a survey to gauge how many people were experiencing issues with their business banking.
It had received warnings from its members that banking issues were becoming more widespread, leading Chamber President Diane de Garis to say that the island does not seem to be “open for business”.
"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,” she said.
Carré Property Limited reported that its account was going to be closed with insufficient time to open another account to keep the business operating as it had been.
“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… What adds to the frustration is the realisation that it will be nearly impossible to open another account elsewhere within the limited timescale given,” it said.
Tim Chilestone, who runs a bookkeeping firm for hospitality and small businesses in Guernsey, also weighed in on the issue noting his personal experience of issues for local companies and entrepreneurs.
“Banking for businesses in Guernsey is becoming a crisis… I’m concerned that if changes aren’t made, we will see more examples of businesses not choosing Guernsey for their operations,” he said.
He said he knows of businesses which planned to set up in Guernsey but went elsewhere after encountering banking difficulties.
“I truly worry about any new business. The island needs to be set up as an economic enabler for these new ventures, but the current state of business banking is more like an economic extinguisher.
“It is time for the States of Guernsey to mandate the provision of a basic business account for any limited company or sole trader - providing the usual exclusions of course for historical issues with that individual.”
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