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COB: Count us out

Natasha Beckles

COB: Count us out

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Barbados’ second largest credit union says it is no easy target for criminal groups.
General manager of City of Bridgetown Co-operative Credit Union (COB), Steve Belle, was responding to suggestions from a leading Canadian chartered accountant that credit unions are soft targets for theft and money laundering.
While conceding that Malcolm D’Souza expressed valid concerns in a BARBADOS BUSINESS AUTHORITY interview, Belle said COB had taken steps to mitigate risks.
D’Souza, executive vice-president of AICA Services Inc., the company that administrates the Errors and Omissions programme for small and medium sized chartered accounting firms in Canada, said credit unions often suffered from a “lack of controls”.
However, Belle countered that his credit union had “a management team that assesses the risks the credit union was exposed to “and puts systems in place to mitigate them”.
“That is not to say there wouldn’t be misappropriation, but there are systems in place to identify it and it is dealt with swiftly,” he said.
COB has deposits of $200.2 million, and assets of more than $320 million as of March 31, 2011. Belle said that contrary to D’Souza’s statement that credit union boards did not necessarily have the financial acumen that a typical board would have, COB’s management team had the “skills, experience and qualifications” and “can match any of the large financial institutions”.
He also responded to D’Souza’s suggestion that credit union auditors often did not have experience with other financial institutions. Belle revealed that up until two years ago, COB’s financials were audited by PricewaterhouseCoopers but because of costs the credit union had switched to Skeete, Best & Co., which also has experience auditing large institutions.
When contacted, general manager of the Barbados Co-operative and Credit Union League, Anthony Pilgrim, said it was clear that D’Souza was referring to credit unions “in his jurisdiction” and he saw no need to comment.