BDB goes digital in response to COVID-19

Organizations across the country have been forced to adapt to the new realities of social distancing brought about by COVID-19. The Bahamas Development Bank (BDB) is no exception. Although the doors have been closed at the Cable Beach and Freeport locations since March, all employees have been working from home, frequently into the early hours of the morning to support the economic wellbeing of the country through the government’s MSME Business Continuity Loan Program (MSME BCLP). As a participant in the Programme, BDB is committed to supporting efforts to maintain national employment levels by acting as a lender to Bahamian businesses that have been adversely impacted by COVID-19. However, even as hundreds of applications streamed in through the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) portal, the immediate administrative hurdles were readily apparent with extremely short turn-around times. As a regulated Bank, BDB has to deliver the most efficient service while fully complying with regulatory requirements. This reality necessitated innovation. In response to the demands of the crisis with the inability to meet clients face-to-face and the “new normal”, BDB created and implemented a total digital approach to processing applications by utilizing the provisions of the Electronic Communications And Transactions Act, 2003 (ECATA). Customers now receive and execute Offer Letters and Agreements electronically. The ECATA coupled with BDB’s enhanced information technology infrastructure, the experienced benefit is a significant reduction in time to produce routine documents and time to decide on loan applications once all support documents are in hand. In speaking with the Honorable Carl Wilshire Bethel, Attorney General, he stated that from a legislative point of view, the Government of The Bahamas will do even more in the short-term to give further buoyancy to the swift emergence of the use of technology and its impact on the economic landscape as a result of COVID-19. Honorable Peter K. Turnquest, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance with responsibility for The Bahamas Development Bank noted that earlier this year, he exercised his authority under the Bahamas Development Bank Act, 1974, and granted approval for Technology to be added as an “Enterprise” area. This change allows BDB to extend credit in the area of technology to businesses, to allow them to improve capacity, efficiency and ultimately contribute to economic expansion. Mr. Dave Smith, Managing Director of The Bahamas Development Bank stated that as the COVID-19 Pandemic made its way to The Bahamas, BDB “bite the bullet” and made an immediate investment in technology to enable more than 50% of staff work remotely from home. A recently conclude Pulse Survey to assess the impact of COVID-19 on working conditions of the entire staff revealed that staff are well adjusted to the change in modality of working from home. Mr. Smith acknowledges that the post COVID-19 will benefit BDB substantially from its investment in technology resulting in an improved operational environment and ability to better meet client’s expectations.