FINANCIAL INCLUSION

Jamaica 2019 | FINANCE | INTERVIEW

First Global Bank is employing mini-branch models and agency banking to serve Jamaica's underbanked and unbanked population.

Mariame McIntosh Robinson
BIOGRAPHY
Mariame McIntosh Robinson joined First Global Bank in Jamaica as President & CEO in 2016. Prior to this, she was a private equity investor for seven years, working as a partner at Portland Private Equity, and a strategy consultant for eight years at McKinsey & Company’s Atlanta office. She currently serves as a trustee on United Way Worldwide Board and several private and public boards in Jamaica and Barbados. Robinson is also the board chair of TEACH Caribbean, an NGO she co-founded in 2006 to provide access to quality education. She has a BSc in electrical engineering from MIT, an MBA from Harvard Business School, and an MPhil in economics from Oxford University.

What were the main accomplishments and challenges for First Global Bank over the last year?

In the last 12 months, there have been many developments. We are proud of our deliberate strategic focus to drive financial inclusion as a key strategic imperative of the government. We had in fact envisioned this even before. It is always a great thing when the national priority syncs with a company's corporate strategy. Up to 30% of Jamaicans are currently under or unbanked, which prevents them from conducting transactions or taking credit. We provide our services across eight branches in urban areas across Jamaica: Mandeville, Ocho Rios, Montego Bay, and Kingston. However, a number of Jamaicans live outside the urban areas, so we reach out to communities through our brand, First Global Money Link, by serving them in two ways: mini-branch models and agency banking. We put our kiosks in an existing business, and that kiosk functions as our mini branch.

What does this agent banking represent for both the bank and GraceKennedy Group?

GraceKennedy Group is pursuing financial inclusion more broadly; it is a 96-year-old company, and a major portion of its growth comes from this country. We are headquartered here, though GraceKennedy is a global company, and the bank is its subsidiary. The financial group is pursuing financial inclusion, and we are doing this through our brand called GK One. We want to be a one-stop shop for all Jamaicans.

How do you maximize awareness of your products and services?

We are focused on two types of products: savings and credit. We currently have a payday loan, which is an unsecured product targeting salary deduction and a savings product that is a goal-based savings plan. We have significantly ramped up awareness and had a big launch. We held a Facebook live chat and have completed some plans via Twitter live chat, so we are truly pushing the envelope in terms of how we interact with the public. On the ground, we have a “feet on the street" strategy because we truly have to get close to the community and let people know we are here. Our vision is to be the best retail bank with an enviable culture by 2020.

2018 was one of the best years in Jamaican history. How has this helped change the profile of your client base?

There is definitely optimism and positive results in some instances in the economy as a whole. Interest rates are decreasing and it is a great time to be an SME or large corporation seeking to expand. The cost of capital to a business owner looking to expand is much lower than it was five years ago. Our client base is currently looking at expansion plans; many are going in and looking to either pivot to an adjacent business or expand their existing one.

What are your goals for 2019?

Our main goal is to open up to 25 bank agents across Jamaica by the end of the year and reach communities across the island, and if we can do that well, we will change not just the face of First Global Bank but also how the public views the banking sector. Another goal is to increase our employee engagement score, which is in the high 50s. The best score globally is 63%, so my main goal is to produce a culture where everyone feels valued and appreciated.