FINANCIAL INCLUSION

Jamaica 2018 | FINANCE | B2B

Smart and compassionate lending are vastly expanding the rate at which average Jamaicans have access to capital.

What kind of services do you provide?

MARK CROSKERY We have been around since 1973 and have witnessed many ups and downs in Jamaica. We have three segments: financial planning, brokerage services, and private wealth management. Our core focus is in private wealth and investment banking, capital markets, and private equity on behalf of clients. We do financing and dabble in venture capital. Our investment banking unit is robust, as is our private wealth department. We also have brokerage services, where the client can execute user platforms. Overall the focus is more on investment banking and private wealth because of the synergies between the two, but we also like to get out to the underserved working class through our financial planning and brokerage divisions. We have low minimums for that, at around USD80, which not all our competitors offer. It is more of the retail or distribution business. We also have a sister company called Dolla Financial Services operating in six locations and doing microfinance. Jamaica needs much more equity and capital and more depth for SMEs. Through that company, with a separate CEO, board, and management team, we are able to do the other side of the balance sheet. We are able to lend an SME or individual funds they would not previously have had access to. These are people who are underserved and might not even have a bank account.

MARCUS JAMES When we first started Access, we found a gap in micro businesses, which were underserved and could not gain access to credit for loans. We saw an opportunity to finance this particular niche. The company was set up in 2000, and our products have since evolved to serve microbusinesses as well as people who find it difficult to get consumer loans. Initially, we offered straight microfinance loans, but now offer consumer and small business loans. Currently, our portfolio is 60% individuals, 30% microbusiness, and 10% small business loans. A typical microbusiness employs between one and five people, and we use the employment size to determine the type of business. Small businesses in Jamaica typically have revenues of up to USD80,000 per annum, and we provide loans of up to USD159,400 for them. Part of our growth strategy is to build on existing partnerships while developing new ones. We have certain key partnerships that are critical for our success. These include our partnerships with the Development Bank of Jamaica and Proven Investments Limited. We also have certain key employers for whose employees we provide loans and plan to maintain strong relationships with them. Going forward we will continue to pursue both organic growth and acquisition opportunities. Over the last couple of years, we have concluded several acquisitions to achieve growth and economies of scale. Customer service is key to our operations. Because of this, we find that word-of-mouth referral is one of our primary marketing tools. In fact, the Access brand has become a household name, primarily through positive feedback delivered to others by our customers.

What do you do differently than your competitors?

MC We advertise the fact that we provide 24-hour access to our financial agents or advisors; one can reach them as needed, even on a Saturday or Sunday. We provide better access to US dollar stock market or equities market than our competitors. One of our bigger business lines is the US equity market. We give the average Jamaican right up to the wealth management plan access to Apple, Facebook, Google, and so on. We are strict on what we want to see customers going into as we predominantly encourage blue chip investments. Above all though, the thing we really do well is service. We offer the personal touch. We are predominantly a relationship-based business. We do not want to lose our clients in the organization like larger firms often do, which is something we have seen happen as our competitors have grown.

MJ We try to differentiate our company by offering excellent customer service, making our requirements flexible, and our terms convenient. If a client has a unique situation, we will work with them to get them the best financing option available. We also have a great loan turnaround time. Loans can be disbursed in as little as two hours if the clients opt for a direct deposit to their accounts. Current Access has 24 physical offices throughout Jamaica, and we continue to evaluate the landscape to identify opportunities for expansion. In November 2017, we opened a branch in Portland.