STRIKING WHILE THE IRON IS HOT

Jamaica 2018 | FINANCE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Courtney O. Campbell, President & CEO of Victoria Mutual, on the origins of financial inclusion in Jamaica, helping people get a start on their property journey, and assisting young businesses to exploit a positive business environment.

Courtney O. Campbell
BIOGRAPHY
Courtney O. Campbell has served as President and CEO of Victoria Mutual since 2016. Over the course of his career, he has held several senior executive positions, including CEO of GraceKennedy Financial Group. Prior to working at GraceKennedy, he spent 23 years with the National Commercial Bank. He has a degree in management studies from the University of the West Indies and an MBA jointly awarded by the University of Wales and Manchester Business School.

How do you help Jamaicans reach their financial goals?

We were established 139 years ago in 1878 by a group of clergymen who wanted to promote financial inclusion for ordinary Jamaicans. Financial inclusion is still a relevant issue in Jamaica in 2017. What we do is try and make it easier for customers to open accounts. More importantly, we deliver value to them through higher interest rates on savings and lower mortgage rates. Our commitment fees for new residential mortgages are 0.5%, compared to 2% and up to 3% elsewhere. We also offer a 15% discount on our evaluation services provided by Victoria Mutual Property Services. Therefore, as a complete package, our product makes it easier for a first time homeowner to get a start on their property journey.

Do you also help SMEs?

We do, particularly through Victoria Mutual Investments Ltd., via which we just launched an IPO to provide far more financing for SMEs using insurance premium financing, lease financing, and regular commercial loans. We have also been active in terms of providing corporate finance services to medium-sized enterprises through VM Wealth and helping them get listed by helping them raise equity and debt capital via bonds, among others. On these fronts, we have been very active.

Can you tell us more about Prime Asset Management, which recently rebranded to become Victoria Mutual?

It will become Victoria Mutual Pensions Management and is probably the largest independent pension fund manager, since most others operate as part of life insurance companies. The prospects of growth here are strong because only 10% of people employed by the private sector are covered by a pension plan, in contrast to government employees. Hence, there is a huge untapped market for pension fund coverage. We have an approved retirement scheme we believe is suitable for that market and intend to market it heavily in the new year; we just wanted to improve the technology we use first. Thereafter, we will be aggressively driving the growth of the approved retirement scheme for people in SMEs, the self-employed, and professionals in the markets we are going for.

What opportunities do you see for investment in Jamaica?

The macroeconomic conditions are quite favorable now; we have record low interest rates, low inflation, and public debt to GDP is still high but declining, which was made possible by more disciplined fiscal management since 2013. Therefore, the confidence level from both businesses and individuals is high, which encourages investment. We also have a competitive exchange rate that helps the productive sector. What needs to happen now is for private entrepreneurs to start taking risks and taking their good business plans off the shelves and figuring out how to exploit these positive conditions. We want to help with this in several ways through Victoria Mutual Investments Ltd. First of all, people need to insure their businesses. Second, to equip a factory or office you need to acquire and install equipment, and we can provide lease financing for this. Third, you may wish to expand by way of buying a new factory, office, or space, and we can provide a commercial loan to do so. If you are going to raise equity by way of an IPO, our team can advise you on that whole process and put the entire package together to help you with the prospectus. So far, we have not been providing a lot of underwriting services like that. The final thing we want to look at is providing private equity financing down the road. There are small companies that do not intend to go public at this point, but probably will in five or seven years. With a partner such as Victoria Mutual Investments Ltd. they could access some capital and know-how in terms of governance practices to facilitate that growth.