One of the country’s fastest-growing financial services firms today welcomed the news that a credit bureau would soon be a reality in The Bahamas, declaring it would be good news for those with a good repayment history, leading to lower interest and adjustable rates for everything from business loans to home mortgages.
“What we as lenders have always lacked is reliable payment history records,” said Robert Pantry, founder and CEO of Simplified Lending Ltd. “We were forced to depend on, and trust, what the individual applicant told us or try to verify through other means. That kept interest rates at a certain level, probably higher than they needed to be for the person with a good record in order to cover the risk for the borrower whose loan or mortgage repayment history was challenged.”
Pantry’s remarks came one day after news that the long-awaited credit bureau could begin its data collection operations as early as the second quarter of this year.
“From a lender’s perspective, the availability of a quick credit report will not only allow us to offer a better rate to better payers, but to process a loan application even more quickly than we already do,” said Pantry, who formed Simplified Lending in 2018 after becoming a record-setter in commercial banking, including being the youngest in Bahamian history to be managing director of a major commercial bank when he was named Managing Director of RBC FINCO at 34. “With our mobile team going to the applicant or even on a Zoom call taking the application and with almost instant reliable information at hand, we will be able to turn around loan or mortgage applications in record time, in many cases, on the spot.”
While the availability of information about payment records will be good for good payers, those who fail to earn or maintain a good record may find it more difficult to access credit, said Pantry. But given a credit bureau’s ability to update information, the more challenged payers will have ongoing opportunity to improve their record of performance and good payers may continue to benefit with even lower rates.
“One of the important features of a credit bureau is that it is not a one-time pronouncement that saddles an individual with a score for life, but a tool that balances the past with the present, allowing the needle to move up and down as payment performance does, meaning there is always opportunity to do better, to gain greater access to capital, to lower the rate you are paying,” Pantry noted.
According to Pantry, whose firm has grown from four persons to 23 in a little more than a year despite economic challenges, the advent of a credit bureau will also be an important tool for The Central Bank.
“All of us in this industry have to applaud Central Bank for its forward-looking innovation, its introduction of the Sand Dollar, its promise of an increase in digital wallets and the credit bureau is one more tool in its kit to make the financial portrait of The Bahamas the best it can be,” he said. “It’s another step in the right direction and an important one in adaptation to current needs.”
Adaptation has led Pantry to alter his business plan, doing more direct lending as well as finding various means to help customers. The firm was one of a handful selected by government to facilitate business loans through the Small Business Development Centre emergency loan packages.