COMMERCIAL?BANKS have been accused of blatant age discrimination in declining to give long-term mortgages to people over 60.
And it is bad business too, says Barbados Ambassador in Washington John Beale, himself a former top banker, when you set this against the banks’ aggression in courting couples in their 20s.
“It just makes no sense to me, because age is not a criterion for lending money – neither too young nor too old,” Beale, until recently president and chief executive officer of Republic Bank of Trinidad and Tobago in Barbados, told the Daily Nation.
“I am sure you have 60-year-olds who are good risks and bad risks, just like you have 20-year-olds who are good and bad risks. People [banks] just shouldn’t say, ‘You are 60 years old and I can’t give you a loan’.
“What the banks should be saying is, ‘You are 60 years old, so let me look at your specific transaction. How much you are buying the property for and how much you are putting in. What’s your income and what’s your track record . . .’.
“If those things add up, then the loan should be made. You can look at it both ways: if someone is too at 20 is too young. Age shouldn’t be a factor.” Ernest Batson, president of the Barbados Association of Retired Persons (BARP) readily agreed.
“The ambassador is quite right,” Batson said. “We have long held that the bank’s policy is discriminatory and should be changed. We have asked about it, but nothing has been done.
“This is an issue we intend to take up this year again. The older person should be evaluated in much the same way as the younger person. If you have the collateral and you are eligible for a loan it should be approved.
“But apparently in Barbados there is a banking policy that if you are over 60 somehow you can’t qualify. They are careful not to say that it’s the age, but it clearly is from the practice . . . ,” Batson argued.
The ambassador, a top banker in Barbados for several years, dismissed as irrelevant, the usual banker’s rationale for the age policy which was that at 60 years old, the mortgage applicant only had a few years to live. But Beale insisted the older person “can put down considerable more money to purchase the property and that reduces your [bank’s] risks in the event he or she doesn’t pay for whatever reason”.
“The seniors have much more at stake. I like people who have money at risk. They are in the game.”
Beale, 64, bought a property in the United States since he became Barbados’ top diplomat in Washington and a bank gave him a 30-year mortgage, relying on his ability to service the mortgage.
“The bank didn’t even ask me for a life insurance policy,” he explained.