Regional Vice President for the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) Financial Group Patricia Borger visited Saba on Monday, to assess and explain the challenges that plague the bank’s Saba branch and the local business community. Stationed on Curaçao, this was Borger’s first visit to Saba and her first meeting with local RBC employees and clients. She explained that the bank’s online-platform transition caused the challenges, despite Saba, Bonaire, St. Maarten and Curaçao being the last Caribbean branches undergoing this five-year-old transition.
Asked if no lessons were learnt from previous transitions, Borger stated that the latest transition went smoother despite similar frustrations. She passed on responsibility, claiming that the bank relies on outsourced technology providers of which RBC is the end-user. The major issue, she acknowledged, is that clients checking their online net-banking receive incorrect statements. She said that balances on each account are accurate. Bettina Schroeter of RS Accounting informed Borger that online balances and print statements are incorrect. Schroeter oversees the fi nancial administration of a great number of Saba businesses and explained that reconciling accounts is impossible. With printed proof in hand, she showed how NetBanking, teller-issued and ATM balances are all incorrect and inconsistent, undermining RBC’s credibility. Schroeter also relayed the lack of awareness of RBC employees and confl icting communication at various layers of the international bank with frustration about no solutions offered or timeline for resolution indicated. Schroeter also provided proof of long-delayed and unprocessed transactions, with no ability for clients to check on bank processing, unwarranted fees or even availability of client’s funds. Borger acknowledged complaining businesses which cannot reconcile their monthly balances; clients that cannot check the processing of payments made or received and said RBC is “still catching up.” She was surprised to hear that NetBanking challenges were recurrent throughout the year and only increased in the last two months. She said to understand how this makes it diffi cult to do business on Saba and explained that the new platform is intended to address the very challenges experienced.
Borger plainly stated that RBC cheques have to be accepted by all RBC branches, irrespective of the island of issue. She also pledged to look into accounts of non-Saba residents whose accounts have been transferred to RBC St Maarten without notification. She explained that while customer service is forwarded to St. Maarten, international fees apply for RBC branch-to-branch transfers, but the bank not accepting its own cheques should not occur.
Borger was informed of the scale of complaints leading the Chamber of Commerce to back actions taken by Saba Business Association (SBA). The Saba business community also approached the Ministry of Economic Affairs about the impaired financial services on the island. Representative of Economic Affairs on Bonaire Willem van der Heul forwarded the concerns to the Dutch Central Bank in seeking assistance on this matter. Understanding tight-cash flow challenges Borger advised managers, accountants as well as private clients not to rely on NetBanking, but to request daily print-statements from bank tellers when needed. These statements will be provided for free.
Probably everybody is affected by NetBanking, but the overall system is stable, Borger assured. She took note of recurrent ATM challenges and offered to extend the hours of operation of RBC’s branch and to provide additional assistance to local staff. “We will work through this,” Borger said. She advised clients to carry cash money or use other methods of payment especially while travelling abroad.
This is reflecting just a fraction of the problems experienced on and off island. I am sure that many individuals, not only business owners, have complaints as well. Were they heard?
I wonder when they will get back to a normal operation, if there was ever something like “normal” with RBC on Saba.