CREDIT UNIONS

Jamaica 2019 | FINANCE | B2B

SMEs and small investors are playing a bigger role in Jamaica's economy on the back of efforts undertaken by credit unions such as FHC and JCCUL.

Roxann Linton
ROXANN LINTON
CEO
First Heritage Co-operative (FHC) Credit Union
Winston Fletcher
WINSTON FLETCHER
President
Jamaica Co-Operative Credit Union League (JCCUL)

What have been the main accomplishments and challenges for FHC?

ROXANN LINTON FHC has spent a century in Jamaica underpinned by the idea of people helping people, so while it is a financial institution, there is a difference in our approach. We are a community bank. Within that context, FHC is one of the largest credit unions with an open bond; we serve a broad section of the Jamaican population. We are building out an improved culture of accountability and working to improve efficiency. We are implementing measures to ensure our key support functions operate as efficiently as possible.

What were the main highlights for JCCUL in 2018?

WINSTON FLETCHER In 2018, we held our annual general meeting (AGM) and convention. We also had a major business decision that required AGM's approval, fully endorsed by the membership. We have been developing an intra-credit union program, designed to provide access to members across the movement from different locations; this will be implemented by mid-2019 and will allow members to get their salaries paid directly to their credit unions. We continue to grow our loans and savings portfolio, despite market competitiveness, and our NPLs are at a relatively low level of about 5%. Moreover, in 4Q2018, we embarked on a major transformation project toward a 2025 vision. We are preparing for new regulations as we are now governed by World Council of Credit Unions standards.

How can you maximize awareness of the products and services provided?

RL We had to reexamine our organizational structure, as it relates to marketing and, while we focus on the traditional models of marketing, we have just embarked on a larger push on the digital approach, using social media for marketing activities to raise interest and so on.

Do you have any strategic partnerships as part of your transformation?

WF We are looking at how we can collaborate more meaningfully between credit unions. The interconnectivity project is one example. Our dream one day is for the movement that now comprises 26 credit unions to share one back office. We are in the process of gaining membership to the International Cooperative Alliance, a global body that oversees cooperatives. This will provide us with significant leverage.

How is FHC committed to implementing several growth strategies?

RL For a network of 11 branches, we have seen over 10% growth in our assets in the last year and a half, and our loan disbursements have almost doubled on a monthly basis. We find that our “Member at the Centre" approach is a key success factor in driving our growth.

Can you describe JCCUL's commitment to the social development of Jamaica?

WF We are integrated with our communities. For example, we have a program called CODEFCO that is focused on early childhood education. We tend to focus on education, going all the way up to tertiary, because we believe that education goes a long way towards social advancement.

What is FHC doing to improve financial inclusion in Jamaica?

RL We are currently right on the cusp of doing an upgrade to our core banking system that will position us more on the digital side. We currently have an online banking platform, though we can work more on that front. As we move along, greater investments will be made to advance on that trajectory.

What is the importance of smaller investors for your company?

WF Small investors are the origin of our existence. Most of our members are variants of the small investors who borrow when they need to, and the credit union is their bank. At present, we are seeking to develop a more structured approach to include MSMEs into our business model in an effective way.