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First Global targets unbanked with first agent bank outlet

BY JOSIMAR SCOTT
Observer writer

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

GraceKennedy is aiming to increase the GK ONE and agency banking outlets within its financial services network to 30 locations by 2019 the group's CEO, Don Wehby, announced Thursday.

“We are going to create an environment — offices, locations — where Jamaicans from all walks of life can access our micro-insurance, our micro loans, our bill payment [services], our foreign exchange trading”, he said.

Speaking at the launch of First global Bank's (FGB) first agent bank outlet — and first of its kind in Jamaica — at the Boulevard Supercentre in Kingston, Wehby said, “Agent banking is another innovation from the GK Group as part of our business mandate of actively participating and leading the financial inclusion drive as challenged by the GOJ.”

Quoting statistics, the GK Group CEO identified what he called gaps to attain financial inclusion. Among them he noted:

• 34 per cent of Jamaicans are unbanked;

• Only 30 per cent save with a regulated financial institution;

• Only 11 per cent of Jamaicans and 27 per cent of SMEs access formal credit; and

• 80 per cent have limited access to low-cost, efficient and user-friendly services.

These conditions, Wehby argued, were not just challenges, but also opportunities for which the financial service division was “perfectly placed”, through its strong and well-known brands, to take advantage of.

“So we have decided to tackle the challenge of making agency banking a success in Jamaica, primarily focusing on two of the four pillars identified by the Government and the central bank; the first one being financial access and usage through electronic instruments,” he shared, adding that GK MPay mobile wallet was created to address that need.

The other pillar, Wehby pointed out, was financial resiliency, which can be resolved by providing Jamaicans with access to basic financial products such as insurance, savings and retirement plans. Jamaicans can anticipate seeing more of the GK ONE brand emerging in the near future, he said.

He revealed that based on discussions with First Global Bank President and CEO Mariamme Mcintosh Robinson and Grace Burnett, CEO — GraceKennedy Financial Group, “the target is actually 30 (GK ONE) locations” islandwide by year end 2019.

“We have 150 locations and our strategy is very, very clear. We want to ensure that Jamaicans from all walks of life can access GK ONE… so the end being 2022, we want at least 50 per cent of the GK Western Union locations to offer agency banking,” Wehby disclosed.