Commercial banks are not the only ones putting measures in place to accommodate the introduction of the new polymer $100 bill. A range of enterprises, such as credit unions and private members clubs, also must adapt quickly to the new currency regime.
Credit unions are taking steps to safeguard against counterfeit bills and money laundering through their operations considering the introduction of the polymer note.
Staff are being trained to ensure no credit union becomes party to such financial crimes, president of the Cooperative Credit Union League of TT Joseph Remy assured Business Day in an interview on Tuesday.
Credit unions, just like all other financial institutions, will be affected one way or another by the change of the notes, said Remy, who disclosed the movement had had a presidents' meeting that very day and discussed the issue.
"We understand why Government did what they did, and we are in support of anything that reduces the risk of counterfeiting, money laundering and terrorist financing."
He said the movement has a very strong compliance training programme for its member units and there is no problem with the method of the currency change.
"The challenge everyone is having is with the process and the timeline given."
On Monday, the Central Bank governor, Alvin Hilaire, said the paper-based $100 note will no longer be legal tender from December 31. (However, the legal notice, dated December 8, says the date is January 1.) Commercial banks have since rolled out schedules for the exchange, including weekend openings for branches.
Remy explained the short timeline was likely because Government believes a longer time will allow people to find creative ways to get their money out of the system. He said the movement is advising credit unions to exercise as much due diligence as possible when they move money to banks for conversion to the new notes.
He said, however, the change will not have a major impact on credit unions as they do not have the kind of deposits that banks do. He added the concern was with the membership, who need to follow the timelines and do things in a timely manner.
"We do not want anyone to end up in a zero position and people caught with (old) funds on December 31."
Credit unions have been advised to work with their members to ensure no one is caught with money they cannot utilise and to implement proper timelines for people to bring in their cash.
"At the end of the day, credit union funds are members' funds. If a credit union loses $10,000, then members lose $10,000. We need to ensure all credit unions benefit and there is no loss to institutions."
He stressed it is important for members to move with a level of effectiveness and efficiency, and as fast as possible. He said credit unions have been advised to ramp up training of staff as people will be bringing money from their homes to the institutions.
"We hope no one will try to use the credit unions for money laundering or counterfeiting. We need to get staff into the place where they can recognise the differences in bills so they will not be party to any system that will want to use them for money laundering."
Remy said the movement has a strong regulatory system and has been monitoring the money laundering situation for some time. He added the movement does not see the change as a major hurdle nor a challenge that it cannot surmount.
"We are working with all credit unions to ensure they are in a better space (with the change)."
TT Members Club Association (TTMCA) president Sherry Persad said the association is looking at the situation with the change of currency very carefully.
"We are looking at all the updates and trying to work with all the parameters. Our concern is the timeline because it is a quick time to get all that money changed."
She added the crime situation is also a concern during this period of changing cash.
She explained the TTMCA falls under the Financial Intelligence Unit and therefore has a strict compliance programme and a source-of-funds declaration which will be closely monitored.
Persad agreed with the heads of other groups who expressed concerns about the timing of the change.
"Christmas time is already such a crazy time. The anxiety is a bit too much."
She continued: "But it is what it is, and we are trying to work within the parameters."
Asked if the Christmas season is particularly busy for members clubs, Persad said it was not, though clubs host parties and customer appreciation events.
She said with the new polymer $100 bill the clubs will have to change the bill acceptors on the machines, which will take some time.
"We will communicate with the Ministry of Finance towards an extension of time."