Creditinfo Jamaica gets down to business


Sunday, April 08, 2012

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CREDITINFO Jamaica is the first company to be approved for a licence to operate a full service credit bureau in Jamaica.

The company was granted a licence by the minister of finance on March 7, 2012 based on the recommendation of the Bank of Jamaica. Creditinfo Jamaica will bring to market within a six-month period a range of products and services that will transform the way credit providers conduct business in Jamaica.

Creditinfo Jamaica is a joint venture between Creditinfo Group Hf of Iceland and local partners Coalesce Credit Solutions Limited.

Speaking at Creditinfo's CEO Breakfast Meeting, held at the Jamaica Pegasus last week, the company's chairman Reynir Gretarsson said he started the Creditinfo parent company with two colleagues back in 1997 as a result of a lack of a centralised credit registry and credit management in Iceland.

"Lending was done on the basis of how people looked and what family they came from. This is not a reliable way to assess a credit risk. My partners have vast experience in this business and in fact sold a company for £240 million to Experion which
is the biggest company in the risk management industry.

"I am now approaching 40 and though that is not very old, I have vast experience in this industry. Jamaica is the fifteenth country that I have been involved with in establishing a credit bureau," said Gretarsson.

He stressed that a credit bureau organisation such as his, has to be flexible when working in small markets and has to adjust to what is specific for that territory. Gretarsson noted that the common credit bureau model in most parts of the world was to just exchange data between banks and the main financial institutions.

As far as Jamaica is concerned, he declared that he wants his company's credit bureau to service the entire business community, integrating all business and consumer information. The aim now is to engage with all the utilities and land registry institutions on the island.

"Creditinfo is currently in 10 countries with our own credit bureaus. Our aim is not to be big but rather to be good. Last year we sold a company in Central Europe, which had about 100 employees because we were not really the best there. We want to be the best wherever we are. My business philosophy is that one should specialise until you become the best and that has worked for us.

"We have around 250 employees and we have revenues of J$1.4 billion with our profits being 25 per cent of that figure. We are financially strong even though we are not very big. Jamaica is now my key project and we will be making it a success," said Creditinfo's chairman.

In a few countries where it enjoys a presence, Creditinfo has been providing software particular to the likes of the IMF, IFC and the World Bank. It doesn't just provide a credit bureau; it also offers services in credit risk management. The company looks to convert the information into intelligence by using decision analytics and scoring models from its experts in Monaco.

In some countries Creditinfo works directly with banks and their internal processes creating scoring models for them. In fact it has a software company in the Czech Republic, which has 70 employees.

Speaking of Jamaica, Gretarsson said: "I told my partners in Monaco that I had found a new market, namely Jamaica. They were initially not happy about it talking about someone who did business there and never got paid. I said I will make the investment there myself if I have to, to which they said no way! They did not want to miss out on a great opportunity. As things are turning out, Jamaica was the right decision."

Creditinfo will not be granted the sole licence to run a credit bureau in Jamaica. There very well may be three other licences granted, thus bringing stiff competition to Creditinfo. How does Gretarsson feel about this prospect?

"It's good for us if we believe we run faster than our competitors. Any horse racer will tell you competition improves your time better than running alone."

Creditinfo Jamaica's CEO Megan Deane said that her company would now be sitting down with many of the country's leading companies and their risk-management teams to give a full perspective of its entire process. She said that the company went through a rigorous vetting process, which took a full year. Gretarsson said in other countries in which they are based, the longest it took was 30 days. Deane stressed that the benefits gained from this exercise cannot be understated and in fact is testimony to why it has the best system because there were other companies that applied for a licence before Creditinfo, but it was approved before them.

She said the company went through the full fit and proper, FBI, Interpol screening. The integrity and capital base of the company was also scrutinised and deemed to be sufficient.

In August 2010, Parliament passed The Credit Reporting Act to "provide for the sharing of credit information between specified bodies, the licensing of credit bureaus and for connected matters".

The Act is created to "ensure that credit reporting is done through reasonable procedures that meet the needs of commerce for credit information in a manner that is fair and equitable to the consumer".

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