Government is in the process of rebranding the Self Start Fund (SSF) with an aim to position the state microfinance agency as a primary lender to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).
The SSF was established by the Government in 1983 to spur entrepreneurial development but for years has been troubled by high delinquency rates and losses.
Ammesha Samuels, SSF's credit analyst and marketing Officer, said that the rebranding exercise — which is also in commemoration of its 30th anniversary this month — has included a staff overhaul, more prudent risk management and customer service enhancements to make the entity more attractive to entrepreneurs in need of financing.
Samuels noted that one of the major constraints for SSF in the past was that it was not equipped with adequately trained staff members. Against this background, bringing the right personel on board has been a key area of focus for the agency, she said.
"Our approach has to be different from what it was before — it was more lax. We didn't have the staff in place to do what was supposed to be done," Samuels noted.
"Now we have a new staff and are taking steps to aggressively manage risks and pursue clients to pay pack," she said
What's more is that SSF has done a lot of training with staff to improve customer service, according to Samuels, who also noted that the agency is looking to strategically place itself in areas of great demand for micro financing.
The agency specifically identifies an opportunity in the proposed logistics hub project. SSF is looking to create innovative business products for small business owners who wish to grow their business by providing services within the hub.
Self Start Fund offers business loans only, at an interest rate of 23 per cent per annum on the reducing balance. Loans range up to a high of $750,000.
Sezvin Hamilton, general manager of SSF, hopes that the agency can reposition itself along with the changing landscape of the financial core that provides for MSMEs.
"MFIs (Micro Financing Institutions) have evolved into the providers of many types of financial services to micro and small entrepreneurs and individuals, who are lacking access to traditional banks and near banking services. As such, MFIs provide some form of banking service to the underemployed or low-income individuals or groups of individuals, who do not have the means for traditional funding or banking services," Hamilton said.