The upgrading of HSBC Financial Services (Cayman) an 'A' Class licensed bank, may have signalled the start of a new era in Cayman Islands' retail banking.
HSBC, named after its founding member, the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, which dates back to 1865, refers to itself as, "The World's local bank," a reference to their well-advertised ability to respond to the needs of a wide range of cultures and financial market.
According to HSBC, the new retail branch, being built just outside Grand Cayman's capital, George Town, will feature one-stop service. Every teller is being trained to deal with all customers' needs, avoiding the delays and confusion caused by several separate counters dealing with personal banking, loan applications, foreign exchange and all the other services modern bank customers require.
Instead of having to deal with several different tellers handling separate aspects of their banking, a customer will be able to deal with just one person.
Many financial experts see the HSBC move into the retail sector as providing customers with access to a worldwide banking network which the current six retail banks, Butterfield Bank, Cayman National, First Caribbean, Fidelity, the Royal Bank of Canada and Scotia Bank, will find it difficult to compete with.
One expert said, "There are huge advantages for someone from, say, the United Kingdom because they will be able to deal with the same retail bank that operates in their local High Street back home."
Amongst the advantages this offers, existing HSBC Premier Account customers will avoid the red tape involved in opening a new account in the Cayman Islands thus enjoying the free transfer of funds between their home account and the local branch.
They also point out that the customer will bring their credit history with them rather than having to establish one from scratch and can use on-line banking to deal with finances back in their home country or anywhere else in the world HSBC operates.
Recently, Gonzalo Jalles, the CEO of HSBC Financial Services (Cayman), said: "This is in the interests of the country. We believe that more competition is better for the consumer."
His comments were echoed by a statement made by the Leader of Government Business, Hon Kurt Tibbetts, who was recently asked why Grand Cayman needed another Class 'A' bank.
"The free market economy we have here in the Cayman Islands is based on competition. As far as we are concerned, once the proper due diligence and all the requirements have been met, my thoughts would be that the more competition the better," Mr Tibbetts said.
Critics of the existing banking system agree. Hon Charles Clifford, in his role as Minister for Commerce, went on record earlier this year, describing the existing banking arrangements on the Cayman Islands as a "cartel".
HSBC intends to have the opening of its new branch to benefit everyone on Grand Cayman.
They are currently engaged in a major recruiting campaign aimed at attracting Caymanians into their organisation. In addition to current residents, they hope to encourage Caymanians currently working abroad to return to the Islands, bringing their skills and experience back into the local financial community.
With a global organisation, HSBC also points out that Caymanian employees will enjoy worldwide job opportunities within the corporation.
The Grand Cayman branch of HSBC is scheduled to open in Spring 2008.