Bermuda’s banking sector, while relatively small compared to other international financial centers, plays a crucial role in the island’s economy. The nation’s prudent regulatory framework and supervisory policies have ensured a stable banking environment. Nevertheless, bank failures can still occur, which may raise concerns among international bank creditors. This essay aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of bank failures in Bermuda and outline the measures in place to safeguard creditors’ interests.

Bermuda’s banking system is regulated under the Banks and Deposit Companies Act 1999, which establishes the legal framework governing banks and deposit-taking institutions. The Bermuda Monetary Authority (BMA) is the primary regulator and supervisor for banks, responsible for ensuring the stability and integrity of the financial system.

In case of bank failure, the BMA follows provisions outlined in the Banking (Special Resolution Regime) Act 2017. This legislation provides the BMA with the necessary tools and powers to manage and resolve failing banks to maintain financial stability and minimize the impact on the economy.

Bank failure in Bermuda is defined as the inability of a bank to meet its obligations to its depositors, creditors, and other stakeholders. This can occur when a bank becomes insolvent, meaning its liabilities exceed its assets, or when the bank’s capital and liquidity are insufficient to support ongoing operations.

The BMA plays a critical role in determining bank failure in Bermuda. The BMA assesses a bank’s financial condition through regular examinations and ongoing monitoring, focusing on capital adequacy, asset quality, management capability, earnings, and liquidity. If the BMA identifies that a bank is unable or likely to become unable to meet its obligations, it can declare the bank to be failing or likely to fail.

Legal Mandate of the Bank Supervisor in Bermuda

The BMA, as the bank supervisor in Bermuda, is granted the legal mandate under the Banking (Special Resolution Regime) Act 2017 to assess and conclude if a bank is failing or likely to fail. This determination is based on the bank’s financial condition, compliance with regulatory requirements, and the likelihood of the bank’s recovery or recapitalization through private sector measures or supervisory actions.

Following the determination of bank failure in Bermuda, the BMA initiates a series of actions, including recovery planning, resolution planning, and succession planning. Recovery planning involves the bank outlining the steps it will take to restore its financial condition and continue operating. The BMA may require the bank to implement specific measures to address the identified issues.

Resolution planning involves the BMA developing a strategy to resolve the bank’s failure while minimizing the impact on financial stability and protecting depositors and creditors. This may involve the use of various resolution tools, such as bail-ins, bridge institutions, or asset separation.

Succession planning ensures the orderly transfer of critical functions and continuity of services, with the BMA overseeing the appointment of new management and the implementation of a viable business strategy.

Common Reasons for Bank Failure in Bermuda

Bank failures in Bermuda can result from various factors, such as poor governance, inadequate risk management, deteriorating asset quality, or external economic shocks. Economic downturns, regulatory violations, natural disasters, and geopolitical events can also contribute to bank failures.

Bank Supervision and Resolution Planning in Bermuda

The BMA adopts a proactive approach to bank supervision and resolution planning, which aims to preserve the critical functions of banks and ensure their continuation during financial distress. The BMA conducts regular examinations and ongoing monitoring of banks to identify potential risks and vulnerabilities. This proactive supervision allows the BMA to intervene early and require banks to take corrective actions to address any emerging issues.

The resolution planning process in Bermuda involves the BMA working closely with banks to develop credible and feasible resolution strategies. This ensures that banks maintain their critical functions and services during periods of financial distress while minimizing the impact on financial stability and protecting depositors and creditors.

Regulatory Intervention 

When a bank within the jurisdiction of Bermuda fails, the BMA, acting as the resolution authority, follows these steps:

  • Determine the bank’s failure and assess whether any alternative private sector measures or supervisory actions can restore its viability.
  • Implement the appropriate resolution tools and strategies, such as bail-ins, bridge institutions, or asset separation.
  • Coordinate with domestic and international authorities to ensure cross-border resolution and minimize systemic risk.
  • Protect depositors and creditors by ensuring their access to funds and safeguarding their interests.
  • Monitor the implementation of the resolution plan and make adjustments as necessary to maintain financial stability and ensure the continuation of critical functions.

To address bank failure, early intervention allows for efficient solutions. Such solutions include a reorganization, recapitalization, restructuring, or dissolution. The available tools include an asset separation, bridge institution, sale of business, or bail-in.

Reorganization: The BMA may require a bank to restructure its operations and improve its risk management, governance, and business strategy.

Recapitalization: The BMA can facilitate the recapitalization of a bank by requiring it to raise additional capital from existing or new investors.

Restructuring: A bank’s liabilities may be restructured, with the BMA overseeing the process and ensuring fair treatment for all stakeholders.

Dissolution: In extreme cases, the BMA may initiate the liquidation of a failed bank, selling its assets and distributing the proceeds to depositors and creditors according to the statutory hierarchy of claims.

Protection of Account Deposits and Creditor Interests in Bermuda

Bermuda’s Deposit Insurance Scheme (BDIS) protects account deposits up to a specified limit, currently set at BMD 25,000 per depositor per bank. This scheme ensures that depositors have access to their funds in the event of a bank failure and promotes confidence in the banking system.

Creditor interests are also protected by the Banking (Special Resolution Regime) Act 2017, which outlines the hierarchy of claims in bank liquidation. The BMA, as the resolution authority, is responsible for ensuring that creditors are treated fairly and equitably in the resolution process.

The BDIS is activated when the BMA determines that a bank has failed and is unable to meet its obligations to depositors. Upon activation, the BDIS ensures the prompt payout of protected deposits up to the coverage limit, thereby reducing the impact of bank failure on depositors and maintaining public confidence in the banking system.

Orderly Exit of Non-Viable Firms in Bermuda

The BMA plays a crucial role in ensuring that non-viable firms exit the market in an orderly manner. This involves the BMA closely monitoring the financial condition of banks, identifying potential risks, and intervening early to require corrective actions. If a bank is deemed non-viable, the BMA can initiate the resolution process and apply the appropriate resolution tools to minimize the impact on financial stability and protect the interests of depositors and creditors.