Staff at the Money Museum

CLOSE SCRUTINY: Staff at the Money Museum, left, show members of the media the security features on the new polymer $100 note yesterday following the question and answer session with Central Bank Governor Dr Alvin Hilaire. 

THERE are 14 banking days left to exchange the existing $100 bill with the new $100 polymer note.

Come December 31, the current paper-based $100 bill will cease to have value.

But there’s a limit on how much you can exchange at any point, at any of the country’s commercial banks.

For people with existing bank accounts, it’s only $50,000 per the first transaction.

For people without bank accounts, only $10,000 will be exchanged as long as they walk with national identification, proof of address and sign a Source of Funds declaration.

There are exceptions, though, said Central Bank Governor Alvin Hilaire as he spoke at a press conference yesterday morning at the Central Bank Tower, Port of Spain, where he displayed the new $100 polymer note.

For instance, for people living abroad who did not have the opportunity to exchange the money in the identified time period, Hilaire said the first port of call would be the commercial banks with a valid explanation as to why they were unable to exchange the old notes.

The Central Bank would be the last port of call for the exchange of bills.

Rapid demonetisation

Hilaire said while the time-frame was unusual for the demonetisation of a particular currency, it was being done as a “national security imperative”.

The “rapid” demonetisation was because the National Security Ministry had identified money laundering as a major problem and the Central Bank was determined to be part of the effort to curb it.

To this end, there will also be increased surveillance by the country’s Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU).

Hilaire noted that the initiative by Government was also supported in Parliament by the Opposition.

And the commercial banks were also supporting the effort despite hearing about the new currency last Thursday “just like everybody else”.

Today, the new polymer note will begin co-circulation with the old bill until the time period ends.

At it stands, there are 80 million $100 bills in circulation.

Finance Minister Colm Imbert has assured there are enough new bills to meet the full exchange. The money was transported to the Central Bank last Saturday with distribution to the commercial banks yesterday for exchange to begin today.

The assurance was echoed by Hilaire yesterday.

“It won’t run out,” he said.

Hilaire identified four factors which affected the bank’s decision on the polymer note: durability and cost savings, safety, national security and to cater for the visually impaired.

Hilaire described the new design on the $100 bill as “simple” and “futuristic” with the bill maintaining some elements like the Coat of Arms.

“We have the (oil) derrick, we have the bird and of course, we have the Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago.

“It is uncluttered...a few elements, not too much going on. It’s clean, simple and straightforward. It also respects tradition and we think that is important,” he said.

Not at ATMS

For the moment, the $100 bills will not be dispensed by automated teller machines (ATMs).

The Governor said the banks, who only learnt of the changeover last Thursday, were working to adjust their ATM machines to cater for the new bill as soon as possible.

He called on citizens to have patience while the banks made their adjustments.

He acknowledged that there would be some inconvenience to the public but that the shorter time-frame would keep down costs involved in the changeover.

“The normal sequence is you take some time (so) the machines are ready. We don’t have that luxury in this particular instance. But we have already met with the banks and with the ATM suppliers so they understand the challenge, they understand the imperative and they are pushing to get things moving as quickly as possible.”

In a statement yesterday, the Bankers Association of Trinidad and Tobago (BATT) said: “All banks are working diligently to ensure that ATMs are able to accept the new polymer ($100) note within the shortest possible time-frame.”

‘As smooth as possible’

BATT said it was committed to working with banking customers to make the transition as smooth as possible.

It issued the following notice to the public:

1.Customers are encouraged to visit their respective banks to facilitate the exchange and are encouraged to deposit the cash into their account.

2.For existing bank customers cash withdrawals or exchange of no more than $50,000 would be facilitated in the first instance. Withdrawals in excess of $50,000 will only be facilitated in line with the customer’s banking pattern. Existing customers requiring amounts larger than $50,000 are requested to advise their bank of their needs and the bank will make best efforts to provide same within 48 hours of notification. Such deposits and/or cash exchange will be subject to the standard due diligence requirements of each bank.

For individuals without a bank account and subject to a limit of $10,000, First Citizens Bank Limited, Republic Bank Ltd, Royal Bank and Scotiabank will facilitate one to one exchange of cash over the counter. Said customers will be required to: (a) provide one form of national identification which shows nationality; (b) proof of address; and (c) sign a Source of Funds declaration.

BATT said all transactions by the banks will be guided by their existing Know Your Customer (KYC) framework and Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) programmes during this process.

‘Adjust yourself accordingly’

With a tight time period, and going into the Christmas season, Hilaire advised the public: “Adjust yourself accordingly.”

Questioned on why the Christmas period was selected for the transition, he said: “There is no good time.”

He said there would be “short-term disruption.”

“The CBTT was approached. There are many things we don’t know. There are many things we don’t want to know. But we responded to the call,” he said. He said the $100 bill was part of a suite of new notes coming in 2020. Hilaire said there would also be a demonetisation of additional notes such as the $1, $5, $10 and $20. The new designs will be unveiled by March 31, 2020.

Unlike the demonetisation of the $100 bill, the other notes will be done more sequentially.

He said the bank will conduct a series of “Know Your Money” seminars this week to sensitise the public on the new notes.

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