Published On: Sun, Apr 7th, 2024

Uncertainty looms for St. Maarten Revolut users

PHILIPSBURG — Former Member of Parliament Rolando Brison’s recent intervention regarding the availability of digital banking services in St. Maarten has sparked considerable debate, especially as local clients of Revolut find themselves facing renewed account blocks despite earlier assurances.

In order to regain access to their accounts, clients are now required to submit identification documents and additional information for review, casting uncertainty on their continued access.

Former MP Rolando Brison’s proactive motion aimed at safeguarding accessibility to digital banking services in St. Maarten. Coinciding with the approval of the 2023 national budget on December 14, 2023, Parliament unanimously supported Brison’s motion, which called upon the Minister of Finance to request clarifications and guidelines from the Central Bank of Curacao and St. Maarten (CBCS). The motion sought to address the rights and responsibilities of St. Maarten residents utilizing online commerce services, particularly focusing on platforms like Revolut.

Brison remained resolute in his belief that change was imminent, stating, “The day after the motion was passed in Parliament, Revolut sent an email to all St. Maarten users, acknowledging the seriousness with which St. Maarten is addressing the issue. It’s clear to Revolut that a Member of Parliament has highlighted that digital banking services are not illegal here. This action also caught the attention of PayPal. These services now recognize St. Maarten as a favorable environment for e-commerce.”

Brison reassured St. Maarteners with Revolut cards that they need not worry about losing access to their accounts until February 17, 2024. Revolut granted this extension while awaiting clarity from the Central Bank for Curacao and St. Maarten regarding policies and guidelines for online banking services.

The withdrawal of Revolut’s services first grabbed headlines in December 2023. Amid complaints from Revolut users, concerns over the abrupt halt in services came to the fore. Brison brought this pressing issue to light during a Central Committee meeting of Parliament on December 4, explaining the withdrawal of services by digital bank Revolut and its potential repercussions, allegedly spurred by actions from local banks.

Expressing frustration, Brison underscored the irony of local banks obstructing opportunities for economic diversification while lagging behind in Fintech innovation themselves. He called for a more inclusive approach from local banks, stressing their pivotal role in fostering e-commerce growth rather than stifling it.

While acknowledging companies’ prerogatives to make operational decisions, Brison underscored the grievances of St. Maarten residents who were affected by Revolut’s withdrawal. He shed light on the regulatory framework, noting that St. Maarten does not legally prohibit citizens from using foreign online banking services, unlike the USA.

The absence of legal restrictions has allowed services like Revolut to operate globally, providing various benefits such as easy money management and investment opportunities.

Brison revealed that complaints from local banks allegedly pressured Revolut to exit the St. Maarten market, prompting concerns about stifling financial innovation. He emphasized the need to update legislation to accommodate the evolving financial landscape while advocating for a balanced approach that supports both citizens’ needs and the growth of the local banking sector.

During the December 4, 2023, Central Committee meeting, Brison emphasized the legal perspective regarding online banking services, highlighting the absence of a requirement for external providers to obtain a specific license to operate in St. Maarten. He stressed the importance of transparency and fairness in any licensing requirements, advocating for continued efforts to regulate financial entities and encourage financial innovation.

In criticizing local banks for their lack of initiative in offering online international e-commerce solutions, Brison emphasized the importance of supporting local entrepreneurs and small businesses in diversifying the economy. He called for a concerted effort to create a conducive environment for financial innovation, ensuring that St. Maarten remains competitive in the global market.