FORMER National Commercial Bank (NCB) manager Julian Patrick anticipates a billion-dollar loan portfolio in at least five years for his microfinance outfit, as the market for short-term micro borrowers expands throughout the region.
Patrick left NCB in August to join Insight Financial Services, the payday loans company he co-founded in May 2012 with four partners.
"We have grown our loans more than three-fold in the space of a year and based on our business strategy, expect our portfolio to be valued at a billion dollars in four to five years," said Patrick, who spent five years at NCB in various management roles, most recently as manager of marketing strategies and execution.
Insight Financial is a provider of unsecured micro loans to salaried professionals with short-term cash needs. It gives loans from $10,000 to $100,000 through two products — advances of up to $50,000, repayable at the next pay day; and instalment loans, repaid in monthly instalments over a maximum of six months.
Patrick's wife Jeneve, who had many years' experience in the hospitality industry with Air Jamaica; Howard James, a certified accountant; Renic Coke, former business development manager at Jamaica Producers; and logistics expert Andrew Lewin are the other partners in the business.
They decided to form the company after becoming increasingly frustrated with the corporate world and convincing themselves of the viability of channelling their combined energies and efforts into their own organisation, Patrick said.
"We were bold enough to say, 'guys, we have been doing this for others, why not do it for ourselves," he told Caribbean Business Report at the company's Holborn Road office in New Kingston.
Insight Financial attempts to differentiate itself from other financial service providers through customer service, keen on distancing itself from inflexible and rigid requirements typically associated with the industry.
"As professionals, we have applied for loans at various financial institutions and felt like we are begging, having to give your DNA and sacrificing your children at the altar; we were convinced that we could do better," Patrick explained.
But despite the relaxed policy in a harsh economic climate, the company says that it has managed to maintain a relatively low delinquency rate of nine per cent and has not had a borrower default on a loan in more than six months.
James, however, admits that this was not always the case, noting that the delinquent rate is coming down from over 30 per cent.
"Our (high) delinquency ratio was incurred when we were learning, as we spent some time to understand the nuances of the business," James acknowledged.
"What we did that was critical to turning around that delinquency rate is that we personally began to handle all applications, screening, etc," he continued. "We can know from interviewing a potential client whether they would be in good standing."
Going forward, the company is looking to increase its presence in the market through the addition of another branch, and plans to become a complete digital consumer lending company in at least a year.
"We are looking at locations that are optimised, close to banks, city centres etc," Patrick said, adding, "one of the things that we want to do is to keep our cost compact; we are aiming to become a digital consumer-lending company driving most of our businesses through technology rather than brick and mortar."
What's more is that the company is looking across the border, with eyes on other Caribbean territories, and is considering raising capital on the Jamaica Stock Exchange Junior Market.
"We are currently in discussion with three brokers," Patrick said.
Patrick is not the first former NCB executive to launch a microfinance institution. Former CEO Aubyn Hill in 2008 started Nation Growth Micro Finance, reportedly making loans between $10,000 and $500,000.