Imagine you’re a retired pensioner in Belize, collecting your monthly check. It’s your only income. That’s what you use to buy groceries, to pay your rent or mortgage, to pay utility bills. Basically everything revolves around that money which comes in around the fifteenth of every month, like clockwork. And then in mid-February you go to the bank and there’s no money in your account. That scary scenario is what’s facing pensioners right now – those who worked at Barclays Bank and collect their pensions from the UK, and also ex-pats who collect monies from the British army or government. We’re in March already and those accounts at the Heritage Bank are still empty. Not surprisingly, among pensioners there is near panic. It’s a situation we’ve been following, and so has Steve Duncan, Managing Director of the Heritage Bank. Today, he told News Five that they’ve got sort of a handle on the situation.

Steve Duncan, Managing Director, Heritage Bank

“We have been able to just about…in fact just today sort out the one from Barclays. We were working on that and we were able to trace where the breakdown occurred. So we are hoping to get those funds in to us today because the funds didn’t reach us. In the case of the British army, my understanding is that the pension actually comes to Scotiabank and then on to First Caribbean back then. We’ve checked with Scotia and the funds have actually not been received by them. So we’re waiting on those to be received. I know Scotia is working on it and they are in touch with their offices to try to understand what route it took and where the breakdown is occurring. We believe the one for the Barclays pensioners has been addressed. We just need to address the one for the British Army personnel.”

Mike Rudon

“In terms of the Barclays pensioners, would you be able to tell us…a lot of people don’t understand how money moves in the banking system. Would you be able to give us an idea of what caused the delay?”

Steve Duncan

“Actually to be very honest it moved through if I’m not mistaken three banks. In doing that information from one was left off. That was critical to getting it to us. So we had them address it and we went back to the source and we pointed it out. We’re in discussion with them now. Unfortunately they are six hours ahead of us so I have to wait until tomorrow morning to complete it. But we’ve been talking with them and we’ve now identified what is the cause and what happened with that one. In the case of the British Army we still have not identified where the breakdown occurred.”

…Heritage Bank’s Managing Director Explains

Steve Duncan

So what’s behind this crisis for pensioners early in the New Year? Well, there are only two things in banking that have changed significantly and recently – one is the loss of correspondent banking relationships and the other is the transition of First Caribbean to Heritage Bank. We asked Duncan if either, both, or none of those things are responsible for the missing pensions.

Steve Duncan, Managing Director, Heritage Bank

“I would think it is possible…and I don’t want to speculate but it is possible they both had a role to play. However I think the transition from First Caribbean to Heritage Bank…I don’t know if the banks abroad recognizing that First Caribbean is no longer in Belize changed how they used to do the transactions. And that is what we are trying to pick up the pieces to make sure it comes through smoothly. Even though there was a change from First Caribbean to Heritage Bank, there is no change in Scotiabank so at least it should have reached Scotiabank. So that is why I said I don’t want to speculate. As soon as we are able to clear up what caused it we’ll have a better understanding. In the case of the Barclays pensioners the transition did play a role. Barclays recognizing that First Caribbean is no longer in Belize decided to do something different than they did in the past. And I think it is that transition which prompted that one.”

Channel 5