Financial industry in more attrition

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

The Bahamian banking sector saw total on-balance sheet assets shrink by $23bn or 13.3 percent in 2021 as the industry faced regulatory and other “headwinds” that continued to chip away at its size.

The Central Bank, in its annual analysis of the financial services industry’s contribution to the Bahamian economy, confirmed that employment and other key indicators continued their trend of a slow, but steady, decline amid ongoing pressures relating to international tax and anti-money laundering initiatives.

“Data from The Bahamas’ financial services sector 2021 survey suggests that the sector continued to face headwinds, with global regulatory standards and efficiency pressures impacting balance sheet and operations consolidation,” the regulator said. “Further, amid reducing levels of employment, the international sector has settled towards re-domiciling clients and operations to emerging lucrative opportunities outside of North America and Europe.

“During 2021, the estimated balance sheet size of financial sector operations decreased, shown by a fall-off in asset holdings within the banking sector. In particular, on-balance sheet assets contracted by approximately $23bn (13.3 percent) to $149.8bn, as the reduction in international bank assets outweighed the gains in domestic bank assets. Further, fiduciary assets fell by $69.4bn (31.1 percent) to $153.8bn.”

Breaking this down, the Central Bank added: “In 2021, total domestic assets within the banking sector grew by 1.1 percent to $11bn, trailing a gain of 2 percent in the preceding year, and average annual increase of 2.2 percent over the past five years. Growth was underpinned by a rise in Government bond holdings and surplus liquid balances with the Central Bank.

“Conversely, total assets of the international banking sector reduced by 15.8 percent to $129bn. This extended the 8.7 percent fall-off from the prior year and the average annual decline of 7.2 percent over the last five years.” The report pointed to this continued attrition.