Developments in the Banking Industry
The Association, since its inception has taken on many functions and responsibilities on behalf of its membership to fulfil one of its many missions - undertaking overseeing developments within the banking industry that would benefit bank customers and the public at large.
Some notable industry-related initiatives that ABIF has either initiated or participated in since the beginning of this millennium are:
(a) conversion of Banks’ security documentation to a reduced, A4 dimension in consultation with the appropriate authorities, and modernising prescribed forms.
(b) establishment of a Credit Reference/Data bureau with a potential to extend coverage wider than Fiji.
(c) facilitation of improved cash transportation arrangements for its member-Banks.
(d) extensive review and parliamentary submission on the Sustainable Development Act (promulgation of this legislation since deferred pending further research by Government).
The ABIF has been actively assisting the Reserve Bank since 2001 in its initiatives to modernise the Payments System in Fiji, a programme to be accomplished in stages. As a preliminary, commercial Banks’ cheque paper now conforms to MICR standards. The new Clearinghouse Rules for Banks are also in place and are being reviewed as an ongoing exercise. Remaining stages are to be achieved with the timeframe set for the programme.
Since 1999 the Association has been involved with relevant authorities in the review of the Consumer Credit Act of 1999 to enable Government to finalise a revised legislation that would be conclusive, workable, acceptable to all stakeholders, practical for our local jurisdiction and consumer friendly.
In its objective to combat money-laundering, Government moves to put into place appropriate legislation providing for the reporting of Financial Transactions has had the full support of the Association. This regime is now operational.
The ABIF has also examining contibuted constructively Government’s proposed Industrial Relations Bill to ensure that the industry’s interests are protected.
With regard to Law and Order the Association has made representations to appropriate authorities with regard to sentencing on robberies, and robberies with violence.
In consultation with the Fiji national Provident Fund, the ABIF is proactively involved in the review of the Fund’s Housing Loan Scheme Policy guidelines for approved lenders that were jointly agreed upon in March 2001.
As part of their social responsibility member-Banks of the ABIF are fully supporting Government’s moves to expand banking services into rural areas, and the Association is progressing consultations in this discretion with the appropriate authorities.
To facilitate full disclosure, the ABIF has worked with the Reserve Bank in providing a standardised, uniform presentation in brochure form, its member-Banks’ Fees and Charges in our three major languages. The disclosures enable the public to make easy comparisons between Banks, of fees charged for various services.
The ABIF has also taken upon itself the task of communicating to concerned parties in various sectors of the community the valuable role its member-Banks play in our economy, and providing them greater explanation and education on their operations, including cost reductions. In this regard, the ABIF has held a series of presentations to the media, representative bodies, business groups and parliamentarians to communicate to them the valuable role played by the banking industry in Fiji’s economy.
To assist Police combat crime the ABIF has provided the Force with electronic data processing equipment at a substantial cost, to be installed in Police Stations around the country. The Association through its member-Banks is also considering to contribute towards Government’s more recent initiative of providing motor vehicles to the Police Department.
The ABIF fosters harmonious relations between its membership and Unions or employee organisations whose members are engaged in the banking industry. Although not directly involved in industrial relations now, the Association helps its member-Banks wherever possible by ensuring that they are adequately and properly equipped in negotiations with trade unions and employee organisations, and in proceedings of relevant industrial courts and tribunals in the determination of employment conditions covered by industrial agreements and awards. If called upon Banks, the ABIF mediates in the settlement of industrial disputes and matters between members and their employees.
Fiji’s banking system has a good reputation and the progress and advancement ABIF member-Banks have made here over time has been tremendous. It has assisted them in their endeavours to keep up with ever advancing global technology and delivery channels, products, initiatives and world best practice. It is ABIF’s mission to promote its member-Banks’ prime objective of providing Fiji with world class banking services with sophistication and professionalism. The Association’s membership comprises of good law abiding corporate entities with responsibilities to owners or shareholders to earn an appropriate rate of return for the level of their investment. Full disclosures of their operations are provided annually for public scrutiny.
ABIF’s objective is to promote its membership’s efforts to operate with increasing effectiveness and efficiency. The strong management of systematic and reputation risk is and will remain pivotal to the health and advancement of Fiji’s financial system, and ABIF supports its member-Banks in their continued efforts to play their part in advancing Fiji’s standing internationally.
The Association of Banks in Fiji has in the past, and will continue to welcome constructive ideas that could further improve the industry’s performance.