#Providenciales, November 1, 2018 – Turks and Caicos – Residents will have to wait and see whether or not the TCI Financial Services Commission is able to protect their money from being lost in, what bears eerie resemblance to another failing financial institution for the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Rampant declines were reported as customers of Hallmark Trust Ltd tried to spend their own money using their payment cards; the declines triggered warnings from those customers on social media. The warnings were with a singular message: ‘get your money out of Hallmark’.
It sent the weary Turks and Caicos marketplace into a tailspin, most wanting to know if the rumor was true.
Magnetic Media immediately reached out to Hallmark Trust and was told the operation is not closing and a statement was coming; that was yesterday and we continue to wait on that official comment to the scores of residents who use Hallmark.
Our media house also contacted the Financial Services Commission, which on Wednesday evening issued a statement that does very little to quell fears about what will happen to monies entrusted to Hallmark.
“Financial Services Commission is aware of the disruption and inconvenience to customers caused by the suspension of Hallmark Trust Limited’s card service by MasterCard Limited. The Commission is working with Hallmark to address the disruption of this service and to ensure the protection of cardholders’ funds.”
Hallmark Trust touts, on its website, being a principal member of MasterCard worldwide, explaining that it issues the Horizon standard, Gold MasterCard and Compass pre-paid card. While Hallmark points out that it is regulated by the FSC and complies with anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism legislation; residents are far more interested in whether or not they will see their money again.
It is believed a six figure sum is held by Hallmark Trust Ltd in deposits by scores of customers in the Turks and Caicos Islands. Comments to Magnetic Media have been laced with foreboding, many simply saying: “Here we go again.”
Others talk of their Gold MasterCard being hit with theft, the inability to use their Hallmark issued card at local bank ATMs, their transactions being declined as they tried to pay bills and make purchases, then came the signs at popular Graceway Supermarket stores, which read:
“We are currently not accepting any money for the Hallmark pre-paid card. Sorry for the inconvenience. Please contact office 941-5191.”
The Turks and Caicos Islands consumer, over the past decade, has been through financial and emotional “hell” with trusted institutions collapsing while holding millions of dollars. From CLICO and British American Financial where pensions and savings were all lost, to the whopper of a closure, TCI Bank, which went down in 2009 with a reported $17.3 million in deposits.
The financial sector of these islands has also recorded the voluntary closure of International Banking Group, after a two year run from July 2010 to August 2012 and a radical change in the way ScotiaBank is doing business here. ScotiaBank in September 2018 completed the phasing out of two of its ‘brick and mortar locations’ and now, there is no branch in Grand Turk and only one serving customers in Providenciales.
The Financial Services Commission, in this case, has offered no quick fix which is disconcerting for those who wonder if they have lost everything. The Commission explained, “Further guidance will be provided to cardholders on this matter in the coming days.”