THE Chamber of Commerce has criticised Standard Chartered Bank’s changes to its business banking fees in a highly condemnatory letter published in Penguin News this week; bank CEO Simon Fenton has responded to the criticisms.

Chamber Chair Mike Summers notes: “The increases due to be introduced from April 2021 will represent in some cases a 300 to 500% increase in the costs local businesses must pay to operate a local bank account, whilst there appears to be no improvement in the service levels we can expect in return, or any alternative payment and receipt methods on offer.”

He asked the bank, “to engage further with the business community, to revisit the proposed changes, and offer a solution that will provide a fairer balance and benefit us all at the earliest opportunity.”

In a scathing attack he also reproves the bank for not having the option for internet banking “either internally or for international business through SCB.”

He notes: “The SCB debit cards have limited functionality. Credit cards are unavailable. Any card-based transactions must utilise an alternative bank in the UK or Gibraltar, incurring additional fees to then transfer funds back into the Falkland Islands. This service is facilitated by the Chamber of Commerce, not the bank. SCB does not even provide a basic ATM service, with another private sector company taking the initiative to provide a service SCB might be expected to provide.”

Penguin News contacted SCB Chief Executive Simon Fenton who is now working remotely in Jersey (the new CEO has not yet arrived in the Falkland Islands) and asked him to respond to some of the criticism.

SCB responds

Mr Fenton said: “When reviewing charges, our fundamental principles are around ‘Treating customers fairly’.”

He said: “Extensive research was carried out for this review of Standard Chartered’s charges; this included analysing UK and overseas peer bank tariffs. As an example, the average charge to process a cheque was 75p, Standard Chartered remains highly competitive at 30p. We are also removing and reducing some charges for business banking customers.

“Service levels remain a focus, as an example, we have been promoting the use of ‘remote’ email banking and the post box facility to avoid customers having to visit the banking hall. Standard Chartered is constantly reviewing its internal processes in order to allow more time dealing with customer centric services.”

PN quoted to Mr Fenton that the Chamber wished for the Bank to, “engage further with the business community, to revisit the proposed changes, and offer a solution that will provide a fairer balance and benefit us all at the earliest opportunity.”

He responded that Standard Chartered had, “been engaging with the local community and promoting its current services and future plans.”

He said: “Prior to the announcement of the changes in charges, Standard Chartered consulted with a number of local businesses that have significant transactions pass through the Branch. The majority applauded the move towards digital solutions and also encourage the use of debit cards within their businesses. Our colleagues have also been speaking with businesses that do not currently offer a card terminal to consider this service. Research has shown that card terminals have a significant positive effect on turnover.”

He added: “Standard Chartered is very proud of its association with the Falkland Islands since 1983 …We encourage our customers to communicate directly with us on any matter they wish to discuss.”

The Chamber also criticised the lack of internet banking. Mr Fenton said, “eBanking is currently being designed for the Falkland Islands with testing planned during Quarter 2, 2021.”

What about the SCB debit cards having limited functionality as criticised by the Chamber?

He said: “The Standard Chartered Visa debit card can be used within the Falkland Islands with all the businesses that offer a card terminal. The card is also recognised when travelling abroad. The debit card functionality will be enhanced during 2021.”

On the matter of credit cards he said Standard Chartered bank did not provide that type of merchant banking, “we are not able to offer card terminals and the associated transaction processing.”

On cash services and ATMs he said: “Standard Chartered offers cash services within the banking hall. There are current challenges that prevent us from installing one of our preferred ATMs, including cost and reliability.”