Our Readers' Opinions
June 25, 2019
FSA is desperately in need of something to justify its existence

Editor: Within recent times, accessing the services at my credit union has become quite an experience. Firstly there is that ever present, and invasive Financial Services Authority (FSA), which seems to be telling me that after working and saving for much more than half of my 50 plus years that I do not have enough net worth to deposit a small sum of money without bringing along my dead mother to swear for me. Secondly, this new requirement that I must remove my hat before entering the premises leaves me wondering if my credit union has grown so big that it can now afford to exclude me from its premises. In short, the FSA and our appointed security company Guardsman, have become barriers which have transformed an erstwhile personal and pleasant customer experience into an invasive humbug.

In September of 2018, I attempted to open a junior saver’s account with my credit union on behalf of my son. In order to complete THE VERY COMPLICATED TASK of basically transferring $500 from his school thrift to a junior savers’ account, I had to present a recent utility bill, two pieces of ID, his birth certificate and PROOF OF INCOME! I was informed that all of these are requirements of the FSA. Even as I protested that all these FSA requirements for such a small amount were unnecessary, I complied and got the account established. I am not certain what transpired but the customer service lady must have misplaced the salary slip I submitted and on every trip after that I found myself being summoned to her desk to give information as to when I would submit the necessary document. Protesting that I had already presented same did not work. Now let’s look at a few things related to this case. I have, as of last year, been a member of this institution for 38 years, two years less than its life span! Besides, my salary has been assigned there since 1994. Now can someone tell me in plain language what sort of proof of income I need in that scenario? There must be a deposit sheet in the credit union showing that I am a depositor in good and regular standing. What further/better proof do I need? Further, that foolishness about two pieces of ID is financially oppressive! There is only one piece of government ID issued free, the national ID card. Is this requirement a method of forcing everyone to get a passport or more lucrative yet, a driver’s licence? And come to think of it, what does any of those pieces of ID do that the other can’t? By the way,who says that an unemployed person can’t deposit $500? If I lived unemployed with my parents and were receiving US150 monthly remittance from two relatives what proof of income could I provide? Also, isn’t it atrocious that the same level of documentation is required no matter how small the start-up deposit?!

A few questions are on my mind. Is the FSA serious about fraudulent/suspicious transactions/money laundering etc. or, are they just nosy? Do these restrictions stop fraudulent activities? Or, are they slowing down legitimate business? Let me offer some free advice. A simple one time deposit of $500 even from an unemployed person should NOT trigger an FSA red flag. What should trigger their interest should be a series of frequent $500 deposits at several institutions simultaneously or even staggered. Or, a single $500 which suddenly becomes a deposit of $500 every few days from an ordinary person. Does the FSA have the capability to do that kind of tracking or, are they confident that once I strip naked financially at the outset I am good and proper forever after? To tell me that a person of my status has to virtually be submitting my deed in order to execute such a small financial transaction is telling me that the FSA is desperately in need of something to justify its existence and relevance, this invasion ought to stop! We as legitimate depositors MUST demand that it stops.

As a continuation of my last point above I am forced to look at a recent money laundering case (now closed), which made headlines here earlier this month. I must by necessity ask how come with all the restrictions that I must go through to save a little penny for my children, this little fellow was able to pass through the system with flying colors and over $600,000? Oh yes! I can hear FSA and FIU telling me about sting operation. I understand how that works no need to explain. But, how much of that cash did they get to seize? What did they gain? The arrest and conviction of a LITTLE guy? All this cash was allowed to slip through but the gatekeepers must stop me with $500?! Why not grant me the favor of being the subject of a sting too? If they suspect I can’t afford $500 keep watching me for a while and try to catch me and the accomplices using me to launder this HUMONGOUS SUM! The excessive documentation and initial scrutiny I underwent served no purpose. The $500 which I COULD NOT AFFORD, that huge pile of cash ($500!), apparently raised through illegal means is now lying safe and sound in the system and if there is no serious tracking to ensure that it is not growing exponentially how are they going to catch me/us?

Finally, this recent “nonsensicality” about removal of hats to enter a financial institution has to be stopped using all legal avenues for so doing. I could understand the hoody and the helmet but that hat thing disturbs me. Trinidad has a higher level of crime than us and I have not read anything in their press saying that Muslims must remove their headwear to enter financial institutions.

But truth be told, on my visits to that country for purposes of studies and later shopping I can’t remember seeing Guardsman Security there. I relate here a personal experience. On Saturday June 1, I turned up at my credit union after walking in the sun in my cap for hours only to be practically ACCOSTED by a security officer blocking my entrance to tell me that I must remove my hat. Think about the possible implications for health in that situation i.e. a hot head entering a very cold room. My nose is still stuffy since then but I can’t prove that they did this to me can I? I recall a cousin of mine who suffered with serious eczema affecting her scalp and who was allowed to wear a hat even at school. She doesn’t live here anymore and she is perhaps fortunate. Just imagine the embarrassment she would suffer going to my credit union to be TACKLED at the door and being forced to expose her scabby head! Then having complied just imagine the stares and the fears of everyone else afraid of catching her scalp infection.

Both the anti-money laundering and hat removal regimes implemented respectively by FSA and Guardsman at my credit union need to be modified or discontinued. In fact, the erstwhile friendly and personal nature of service at this institution needs to be returned. Instead the quality of said service is being is being ERODED by the aforementioned INVASIVE measures.

Lariston Antoine.