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Fidelity to bring banking back to some Family Islands, if Exuma pilot is successful

Fidelity Bank Bahamas Ltd. is eyeing the establishment of representative branches on Eleuthera, Long Island and possibly Andros, if its Exuma pilot program performs as envisioned, the bank’s Chief Executive Officer Gowon Bowe said yesterday.

Bowe explained that the Exuma pilot is expected to launch by the end of this month or early next month. He could not give time lines on any other family island locations until the data comes back from Exuma.

Fidelity has said that the center being piloted on Exuma is not a full branch, but will incorporate some new ideas and technology that will help island residents to carry out banking services.

“By no stretch of the imagination are we putting up a full branch. We’ve communicated that in various forums,” said Bowe.

We are opening what we reference as representative branches, which literally means that there’s no teller service. Now there’s a caveat, in that we have simultaneously ventured into what I’m going to call outsourced arrangements with some of the money transfer operators, where we are now looking at implementing a solution where they will be able to process cash withdrawals and deposits, the same way we would using an ATM machine, but their merchant terminals… credit card terminal type device.

“So, a Fidelity customer with a debit card will be able to operate in these establishments the same way they would had they walked into a branch or walk into an ATM.

“The focus of the operation is really going to be on what I’m going to call the more complex and value-added services. So, looking at small, medium sized business development, whether that’s on loans, merchant services, foreign currency needs, etc.; on the individuals looking at their financial coaching financial planning, loans… and then a general education in terms of not trying to force them into digital, but sort of carrying g them into the digital world.”

Many of the Family Islands mentioned by Bowe lost the last of their commercial banks during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, though some islands like Eleuthera still have some commercial banking capacity, especially in its surrounding cays.