Western Union counters close in Cayman

WesternUnionClosing-400x333

Western Union counters in the Cayman Islands closed without warning Friday after Fidelity Bank’s board of directors decided one day earlier to end the service, according to the bank. 

Fidelity also pulled the money transfer service from Turks and Caicos and the Bahamas. 

Services like Western Union allow people to transfer cash across borders, typically to send remittances to family overseas. Concerns over money laundering and terrorism financing have made the all-cash business a problem for regulators and for the banks that act as local agents for the money-transfer services. 

Fidelity Bank (Cayman) CEO Brett Hill said the bank had been considering dropping Western Union because the risks have increased while fees have declined. “It’s been an increasingly marginal business for us,” he said. 

Mr. Hill said in an interview this week that the fees banks could charge for money transfers have fallen significantly as competition has increased around the world. 

He said the bank’s board made the decision Thursday to stop all Western Union transfers by the end of the next business day. He said he did not know why the board decided to close the sites so quickly. 

Reached by email, Fidelity Group CEO Anwer Sunderji, who also chairs the board, said, “We had already made a decision to exit Turks in 2014 and the wider relationship was just a matter of time.” 

Customers were surprised and annoyed Monday to find a sign, in the familiar yellow and black of the worldwide brand, announcing that Western Union was closed. Western Union had counters at Kirk’s and Foster’s supermarkets and at Fidelity Bank. Representatives at the grocery stores said they had not heard why the services closed, but that they had received a letter late last week to close the counters by the end of business on Friday. 

There are three remaining money transfer services in Cayman: First Financial Caribbean Ltd., which operates MoneyGram; Green Fields Capital (Fast-Funds Money Transfer) Ltd.; and JN Money Services (Cayman) Ltd., which works through the Jamaican national bank. 

Jamaica is the largest recipient of remittances from Cayman. Last year, according to the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority, people in Cayman sent more than US$110 million to Jamaica. The Philippines, Honduras and the United States made up the other major countries for remittances, each receiving more than $12 million from the Cayman Islands last year. Total remittances topped almost $180 million last year, according to CIMA. 

Western Union found itself in trouble recently in Ireland for not having appropriate policies and procedures to prevent money laundering and detect possible terrorism financing. The company agreed to pay a fine of 1.75 million euros (US$1.9 million) two months ago. 

Jeffrey Webb, the former FIFA and CONCACAF official now facing corruption charges in the United States, worked as Western Union’s local agent. 

Representatives for Western Union in the United States did not respond by press time. 

western union1

Western Union counters in the Cayman Islands, including this one at Foster’s Food Fair’s Airport location, closed suddenly Friday after Fidelity Bank stopped offering the cash transfer service. – Photo: Jewel Levy
0
0

NO COMMENTS

  1. Jamaica is the largest recipient of remittances from Cayman. Last year, according to the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority, people in Cayman sent more than US$110 million to Jamaica. The Philippines, Honduras and the United States made up the other major countries for remittances, each receiving more than $12 million from the Cayman Islands last year. Total remittances topped almost $180 million last year, according to CIMA.

    Does the CI Govt, through CIMA, the Immigration Dept., the Labour Dept., the Finance Ministry or the Stats Dept. have any information on the gross dollar value that work permit holders bring to the economy of the Cayman Islands ?

    This could probably be worked out as a % of total GDP by the Stats Dept. if anyone found any value in doing so.

    The total revenue in work permit fees for the CI Govt. is most certainly a known number by the Finance Ministry and if it does not match or supercede the US$ 180 million being siphoned off the CI economy to support the economies of the work permit holders, then there is only one real loser here…and I’ll let our readers figure out who that loser is.

    Almost 200 million US dollars (approx CI$ 180 million using the cash conversion rate of .80 cents)is a massive sum of money being sent to support the economies of other countries from the economy of the Cayman Islands.

    When coupled with the fact that the average work-permit holder spends a minimum of their disposable income on local services, more than likely only the bare essentials, and sends the rest home to their countries of origin…

    It makes one wonder who the current economic model of the Cayman Islands is actually working to benefit more ?

    Just an interesting question for our readers to ponder on.

    0

    0
  2. Am I the only person that thinks that it is somewhat strange for the Western Union business to close so abruptly? Anyway, based on what has been said in this article, we need to get a better understanding of the position of the other remittance services as they must have to deal with the same issues that have impacted Western Union.

    0

    0
  3. This sounds like a smart move to me. Western Union has always had a rather tarnished reputation. Over a decade ago the online auction site eBay identified it as the payment method of choice for scammers. At the time UK eBay actually banned the use of Western Union as a payment method after police expressed concern about the level of fraud that particular payment method was generating.

    0

    0
  4. Ricardo.
    Those people who send money home are typically those who are only allowed to stay here for a few years before being sent away.

    They can never qualify for permanent residence. So why would they invest money in a home or permanent life here? They MUST prepare for a future that doesn’t involve the Cayman Islands.

    They come to do the jobs that others won’t do. They are the cleaners, yard workers, maids, security guards and construction workers.

    They leave behind their families and often children. Children that they must miss but can never bring here.

    But of course this is their choice.

    And when welfare recipients can collect some $10 an hour for staying at home, what incentive do they have to take a job paying less than that?

    0

    0
  5. Norman summed it up perfectly. People need to stop faulting those who send money home to support their families by coming to Cayman and doing jobs for salaries that pay even less than Welfare, knowing that they will be kicked out in a matter of years. And to think the CIG actually wants you to believe a 6 dollar an hour salary is going to change this. What Welfare recipient is going to give up 10 and hour sitting on their butts for a 6 dollar and hour job. And remember people work permits happen to be one of the most lucrative businesses for the CIG and the revenue from it contributes a great deal to supporting welfare recipients and more.

    0

    0
  6. Mr. Linton

    I’m sure that you’re familiar with the old Caribbean parable…”when you throw rock in the pig-pen, the one that holla the loudest…is him get lick”.

    Its funny that any comments that refer to work-permit holders in Cayman is seen as an attack on them…and defenses immediately go up…along with the disagree thumbs-down numbers on the forum.

    Why do you think that is the case ?

    My comments are made in relation to economic and financial data and the story they tell regarding Cayman’s economic model based on the dependency on foreign labour…numbers do not lie or hold prejudices.

    The implications of your statements that there are not Caymanian gardners, cleaners, yard workers, maids, construction workers…and security guards is a highly insulting one and give the impression that Caymanians think that some types of jobs are below them.

    Come to my place of work and I will introduce you to Caymanians in many of those jobs…and doing them as well or better than any foreign worker…and spending their money here in their own country, on their own families and helping to build their own country, not another’s.

    That there are many other factors to be considered on the social and developmental fronts is a given but my comments are totally limited to economic data, nothing more.

    On a more personal note, I would definitely have a problem if and when one of those work permit holders are in a position to knock bread out of my own mouth, in my own country…as they would, if the shoe was on the other foot.

    But then again, Cayman’s system is supposed to have built-in protections against that kind of thing, doesn’t it ?

    Or does it ?

    0

    0
  7. Mr. Davis

    Fortunately, some of us do have the capacity to see the bigger picture and can actually live above petty prejudices and discrimmination.

    As soon as any comment is made on the facts that published economic and financial data allude to…

    The reverse prejudices kick in, especially if those comments are made by a Caymanian.

    Is this what was intended when the Cayman Islands chose to follow the path that it has done ?

    The other side of that equation is equally true…that Cayman’s immigration policies is costing the country a large portion of that very $ 180 million dollars flowing out of the country in remittances.

    But no one thinks of that when the facts are presented..they are quick to assume prejudice as being the motivating factor for comments.

    Some of us find reverse discrimmination in our own country a very hard pill to swallow…

    And don’t intend to swallow it.

    Especially when we have no personal beef with anyone being here.

    We have every right to call it as we see it…in our own country.

    0

    0
  8. Ricardo
    No offense intended. of course there are hard working Caymanians.
    But please explain why any sensible human being would go to work for $6 an hour when they can stay at home and be paid $10 per hour.

    Because I certainly wouldn’t.

    There are about 25,000 expat workers here and about 3,000 unemployed Caymanians.

    It’s probably fair to say that some of these 3,000 would’t take a job if it walked up to them and smacked them in the face. And this is a WORLDWIDE problem.

    But let’s say you kicked out 3,000 expat workers and offered their jobs to the unemployed. How many would take those jobs if it meant giving up higher welfare payments?

    Is it your complaint that these low income people are still earning too much if they can afford to send money home? Or that they should not put money aside for a future that they can never have in the Cayman Islands?

    0

    0
  9. I agree with you Mr. Linton.

    Mr. Tatum’s assertion that Cayman is losing as a result of outbound remittances to the countries of origin of expats, reflects another dimension of discriminatory mentality that pervades the society. “The total revenue in work permit fees for the CI Govt. is most certainly a known number by the Finance Ministry and if it does not match or supercede the US$ 180 million being siphoned off the CI economy to support the economies of the work permit holders, then there is only one real loser here…and I’ll let our readers figure out who that loser is.

    Almost 200 million US dollars (approx CI$ 180 million using the cash conversion rate of .80 cents)is a massive sum of money being sent to support the economies of other countries from the economy of the Cayman Islands.”

    My questions to Mr. Tatum are below:

    1. Why does it matter what a person does with their money that is earned by the sweat of their brow, and spent/ transferred legally?

    2. Isn’t it a loss to other countries/ jurisdictions when their citizens wire money to OFFSHORE accounts in the Cayman Islands…illegally, sometimes? Isn’t Cayman benefitting then…?

    3. If work permit holders are such a burden to your society, why not do your own housekeeping, gardening, construction, accounting etc, instead of depending on someone else from another country to do it? Where were you all, after Hurricane Ivan struck and Cayman was left in a mess? Who cleaned-up the mess in 2004?

    4. On what basis have you deduced that work permit holders “spends a minimum of their disposable income on local services” when all WP holders pay astronomical real estate rental rates (to Caymanians), pay permit fees and buy food and clothes like everyone else – locally?

    5. Who does more damage – a work permit holder sending remittances to family members or a Caymanian going to Miami to shop for food supplies every month-end?

    6. If work permit holders have no vision of long-term residency in Cayman, why should they withhold their money and invest there?

    The regulatory bodies are free to calculate the value that WP holders bring to Cayman. You might be surprised to find out that they contribute a lot more than those born there. Before you rant about what others earn and SAVE, as against spending and living frivolously like others do, you need to focus on what Cayman would be like without these same people (WP holders) who go there to work and make lives better. “Live…and let live…”

    0

    0
  10. Mr. Linton

    You and I have always been able to have beneficial dialogue, even when our views and opinions differ; I consider that a sign of maturity and I hope that you do as well.

    Both your assumptions as to the motive for my comments are wrong.

    First of all, I only used the information in the article to highlight a fact and suggested that readers think about it.

    The fact that Cayman is a prejudiced and discrimminatory society is only greatly highlighted by the responses that my comments have received; my initial comments suggested no prejudice or discrimmination.

    I am originally by trade, an accountant, so relevant numbers are always going to catch my attention and I have been a poster of published commentary for many years now, by this and other news media.

    Since you choose to open the political pandoras box by interjecting another element to the debate…

    let me take it one step further.

    As it stands now, when this clutch of foreign workers in the Cayman Islands begin to hold positions of authority and decision making, both in the public and private sector, as some already do…

    What are the chances of them discrimminating against the local Caymanian who is competing for opportunities in this society in favour of their own people, especially when there is an open door immigration policy in place for the sake of economic gain ?

    Let me assure you that it is already happening and…

    This has nothing to do with 3000 unemployed or unemployable people…this has to do with qualified, competent Caymanian people who has to sup salt from a wooden spoon held by a work permit foreigner.

    If this is not a travesty of universal justice then you tell me what is.

    0

    0
  11. @Ricardo Tatum
    You are starting from a false premise that there are two antagonistic groups in existence:
    A "clutch of foreign workers in the Cayman Islands(who) begin to hold positions" and "the local Caymanian(s)"; therefore you arrive to the wrong conclusion that one group is responsible for the misfortune of other.
    Secondly, why do you speak on behalf of the " qualified, competent " Caymanian people who has to sup salt from a wooden spoon held by a work permit foreigner"? Who are they? How many? Why can’t they speak for themselves if they are educated, qualified and competent? Why this mysterious group of qualified and competent Caymanian people is being discriminated while others thrive? If you are talking about age discrimination, nothing new is here and it is not exactly expat’s fault. By the way people over a certain age who wish to work in the Cayman Islands are rejected by employment agencies. But those who really want it, find a way to prove their worthiness and get a job.

    0

    0
  12. Ricardo
    Again I am sorry if I have caused any offense. Never my intention.
    I have the greatest admiration for the tough and hardy Caymanians who survived and thrived when these islands were mosquito-ridden hell holes.

    Sadly some (and only some) of the younger generation don’t seem to have the drive and determination of their grand-parents.

    Meanwhile with a high paying welfare state it is smarter to collect $10 an hour than work for $6 an hour.

    How do you fix this? How do you force young people to take jobs they don’t want to do and thus avoid the need for SOME of the low paid foreign workers?

    As I have suggested many times before, we lack a vocational school to train plumbers, electricians etc. Could the government provide student loans for this necessary education to be obtained elsewhere?

    If we want the low paid to only work here for a few years and then be gone… If we refuse to allow them to bring their children here…
    Then why should they want to keep their money here? How else can they support their families back home?

    0

    0