It is no secret that the banking sector in Belize is facing some unprecedented challenges these days with ‘de-risking’ measures being taken by International banks, particularly in the United States. It is a situation that threatens the correspondent banking arrangements that have been in place over the years.
Notwithstanding, even as the Prime Minister and his financial team traveled to the United States to resolve the matter, local bankers at home were expressing optimism about the prospects of Belize’s financial sector.
One such person is Lyndon Guisseppe, Chairman of Belize Bank Limited. Guisseppe, who had accompanied the Prime Minister on an earlier trip to the United States to take up the issue with executives from the Bank of America (BOA), expressed optimism last week as he spoke with reporters from the local media. He was optimistic about the future of his own bank and the overall prospects for Belize’s banking sector.
In an interview with Channel 5 News, Guisseppe said: “Our goal is to become and to remain the preeminent banking group not simply in Belize but in Central America and the Caribbean. So when you say, maintaining our position in Belize, we have actually loftier goals than that. We want to dominate Belize, but we have aspirations of being a large player in the Caribbean and certainly certain parts of Central America. The Belize Bank continues to be the largest bank in Belize. We’ve had our challenges in the last eighteen months, as you are probably aware, with respect to the correspondent banking issue. The Prime Minister and a delegation is in Washington meeting with a number of officeholders, the FDIC, the Federal Reserve, the IMF, and the World Bank. We remain extremely optimistic that through the initiative of the Prime Minister, as well as what we’re doing, that we’re going to resolve the correspondent banking issue; and once that happens, I mean, really, the sky is the limit.”
Just as optimistic is Steve Duncan, who is the Managing Director of Heritage Bank, the institution which has just taken over the assets of First Caribbean Bank. Speaking of the assets being acquired from First Caribbean Bank, he said: “This is an opportunity we are not sure will come again and we have to try and jump on it.
My biggest challenge is to make sure that as an organization we stay within the capacity of and capabilities of our human resources. The level of growth that we will have over a weekend, from a Friday to a Monday, would normally take years to achieve. We now have the task of servicing those accounts, to retain them, and we do not want to take our eyes off the ball.”
Indeed, keeping their eyes on the ball is something the government and stakeholders in this vital sector will have to do in the days ahead.
The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and not necessarily those of the Belize Media Group.
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