Jamaica's first agent banking facility opens at Boulevard Supercentre

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Jamaica's first agent banking facility opens at Boulevard Supercentre

Thursday, September 06, 2018

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KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) — Finance and the Public Service Minister, Dr Nigel Clarke, today officially opened Jamaica's first agent banking facility, which is operated by GraceKennedy (GK) Group subsidiary — First Global Bank (FGB) at the Boulevard Supercentre, Washington Boulevard, St Andrew.

The launch is consistent with the Government's Financial Inclusion Strategy (FIS), aimed at expanding access by persons and businesses to affordable and convenient financial products and services.

Clarke said that the facility will serve residents and other stakeholders in the communities of Pembroke Hall, Duhaney Park, Marverly, Hughenden, Patrick City and Washington Gardens, particularly First Global clients who normally have to go to Liguanea, Cross Roads or downtown Kingston to conduct business.

“With agent banking now opened here (at the Boulevard Supercentre)… this will allow for much broader coverage and improved access for customers and will help us to diversify the base of persons who have access. Agent banking is a win-win for (all) the parties involved,” the minister contended.

Clarke noted that the Government is keen on seeing the expansion of agent banking, which is deemed pivotal to Jamaica's growth and development.

“I want to assure the entire financial sector of the Government's determination to continue to support the market's development that can be the foundation for growth… and will continue to ensure that the financial sector operates efficiently and effectively, and is supported by a robust and responsive regulatory framework,' he added.

Agency banking is where a commercial bank appoints a third party (agent) to transact business on its behalf, such as deposits and withdrawals, payment of bills and loan repayments, electronic transfer of funds, among other things.

FGB, which acquired the island's first agent banking licence earlier this year, has appointed Stapharm Services Limited as its representative.

Stapharm, which is headed by the father-daughter team of Patrick and Tanya Brissett, operates GraceKennedy's flagship Bill Express/Western Union/FX Trader services outlet at the Boulevard Supercentre.

GraceKennedy Group Chief Executive Officer, Senator Don Wehby, said that agent banking is another GK Group innovation and is consistent with the company's mandate of actively participating in and supporting the Government's financial inclusion thrust.

He pointed out that financial inclusion is about providing the appropriate products and services to a wider cross section of Jamaican consumers and businesses, “to facilitate their right to financial stability, growth and protection”.

He noted that with 80 per cent of adult Jamaicans having limited access to low-cost, efficient and user-friendly financial services, 34 per cent being unbanked; 30 per cent saving through regulated financial institutions; and only 11 per cent of individuals and 27 per cent of micro, small and medium enterprises having access to formal credit, agent banking will be a game changer “if we get [it] right”.

Wehby said GK and FGB would be looking to expand the number of agent banking locations to over 30 by the end of 2019, adding that “[by] 2022… we want at least 50 per cent of the GraceKennedy Western Union locations to be offering agent banking”.

For his part, operator of Stapharm Services Limited, Patrick Brissett, welcomed the partnership with FGB to deliver a wide range of products and services to clients, and commended the dedication of staff attached to the Boulevard Supercentre outlet.

Marverly resident, and FGB client, Desayo Smith, welcomed the opening of the agent banking outlet.

He said that he previously had to travel to FGB's Liguanea or Cross Roads branches to transact business.

“When I saw the [agent banking] sign… I was so excited… [because] it's [now] really convenient for me. I'm going to spread the word about this new facility, because I [know] a lot of people who live in the area who have FGB accounts and who can also benefit from this new location,' he told JIS News.

Another customer, Ann-Marie James, also welcomed the new outlet, which she said now affords her the convenience of making lodgements to her savings account, among other transactions.

Agent banking was introduced under the Banking Services Act 2014, and the accompanying Regulations in 2016.

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