Commercial banks lambasted by local veteran businessman

Ambrose Gouthro 

On the heels of the Consumer Affairs Division of the Ministry of Labor announcing its intent to address the additional charges/fees being applied by commercial banks, a veteran Grand Bahama businessman has leveled harsh criticisms at the financial institutions regarding their questionable service.

A businessman in Grand Bahama since the 1960s, Ambrose Gouthro, normally a low-profile citizen, informed The Freeport News that he welcomed the Ministry of Labor through its Consumer Division, stepping in and addressing the problems many residents throughout the country have, when dealing with commercial banks.
“In my view, the word ‘service’ has gone out of banking and replaced with ‘apathy’ because, when do you see a manager or supervisor take an interest in the line of customers? How many times do you see three tellers (usually not enough), at their positions, and then one or two shut down or leave their station, only to return minutes later with not a word having been said to the next customer? And, don’t try to go into a bank on Friday or a Tuesday after a holiday weekend. It’s frustrating to say the least,” said Gouthro.
The long-time civic and sports contributor to Grand Bahama’s development accused the banks of turning to multiple charges applied against consumers for services, because of the inability to boost mortgage business. Instead of focusing on ways to encourage prospective borrowers, Gouthro claimed the local banks opted to simply pile fees on the consumers.
“Due to the drop off in mortgages, banks increased their profitability by focusing on charges for their services and reducing their costs, mainly by reducing staff and relying more on computer technology. This has become a real problem for the Family Islands (Grand Bahama etc.) as they (banks) also centralized the management of their island customers by referring matters of significance a New Providence-based committees. I refer to such services as, some customer relations, foreign exchange and loans. The authority level of local island managers have been reduced to that of filling out paperwork and referring it,” Gouthro further stated.
He noted that the one-time refreshing customer service, whereby the discretion of managers would make an appreciable difference to those doing their regular weekly and daily banking, particularly those who have been dealing with respective banks for lengthy periods, has been eliminated because of the present system.
“Computerizing their systems allows the banks to create service charges that cannot be overridden by local managers,” said Gouthro who pointed out that the reduction of staff at the banks, might well be the most egregious situation that confronts those who must go into the banks in need of certain services.
“I think, the most disturbing matter is the reduction of staff. This causes customers to stand in line for long periods of time. The senior line service is a joke. It takes a teller a longer time to take care of an older person not versed in the way of technology. This is the usual, instead of a staffer being made available to assist. Also, the tellers now perform most of the work those in the back office used to handle,” added Gouthro.
Therefore, the tellers take more time and accordingly the customers are always frustrated because of the time spent waiting on service, Gouthro lamented.
Gouthro is not alone in criticizing the kind of service, now provided by the commercial banks. The Freeport News receives complaints constantly and subsequently highlighted the situation several times in its editorial.
Perhaps the Ministry of Labor Consumers Division will be comprehensive in its approach to the communications of grievance it has received regarding the commercial banks.

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