Bermuda Set to Get First Digital Bank

HAMILTON, Bermuda — Bermuda’s first digital bank has been given the green light to start operations and could be up and running as early as September.

JEWEJewel Bank has received a full banking license that will allow it to provide core banking services, together with a license under the Digital Asset Business Act.

But a retail focus will not come immediately as the bank gets on its feet with primary functions aimed at the digital asset economy, a spokesman said.

A Bermuda digital bank has been a key feature of the fintech (financial technology) strategy aimed at diversifying the economy which has been driven by Premier and Finance Minister David Burt and his Progressive Labour Party (PLP) administration.

The bank’s initial complement of staff will be less than 40, but it will grow to about 100 within a short period of time, with training and opportunity for Bermudians.

Founder, chairman and chief strategy officer of Jewel, Chance Barnett, said he was very excited about the new venture, but his bank proposal had actually been in the wings for more than two years.

He acknowledged the support and long-term view of Burt and the experience and forward thinking of the financial services regulator, the Bermuda Monetary Authority, which received the licence application eight months ago.

He said the bank would play a major role in accelerating Bermuda’s long-term digital transformation, not just by providing services to the emerging market on the island, but by helping to promote the growth.

Bermuda currently has four banks — HSBC, Butterfield, Clarien and Bermuda Commercial.

A spokesman for the Bermuda Bankers Association (BBA), the industry’s trade organization, confirmed its members have also been looking at digital transformation, especially as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which has battered the island’s already struggling economy and left 138 people dead among more than 15,000 confirmed cases.

There have been discussions about the new entrant, including with the Jewel executive team, as any full banking licensee is eligible to join the BBA, the spokesman added.