BUILDING the capacity of business owners is even more important than giving them a loan, said Patsy Latchman-Atterbury, vice-president of Scotiabank's Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) Unit.
While Jamaicans burn with the "entrepreneurial fire", Latchman-Atterbury said, "if you don't understand how the market is changing then you are not going to be able to create a product that will keep up with market demand," she said. "No market demand, no business."
Scotiabank's SME unit, a sponsor of the recently concluded Jamaica Observer Mogul in the Making programme, is "predicated on the understanding that if small businesses do not grow and flourish, then the longevity of the retail side of the bank is compromised," Latchman-Atterbury said.
The importance of this sector cannot be stressed enough, she said, as "we will be as independent as our small businesses allow us to be. Across the world, there is a very large bit of gross domestic product that is contributed by small businesses".
"If the sector doesn't grow, then the economy doesn't grow and the bank doesn't grow in the very long term," she said.
Out of challenges will come opportunity, she said. "I'm not saying that every small business will succeed, get big or that every small business wants to get big" but the capacity to make it happen must be there.
"When we developed our small business we decided that we are here to help you grow your own capacity and capability," she said, "Therefore, you will be able to manage an operation instead of just borrowing money from the bank."
Scotiabank's SME unit officially started in 2007 and allows businesses to access development planning, Internet banking services and lines of credit, among other services.
"We provide opportunities for small business owners to be a part of workshops and other learning opportunities," said the bank's executive. "We have to ensure that the businesses can repay the loan."
Latchman-Atterbury served on the distinguished panel of experts that selected one of Three to Watch businesses for Mogul in the Making.
"This is another great vehicle to create entrepreneurs and give them impetus to go forward. It's a great vehicle to give them exposure and network and grow their business," she said. "It provides great support for 21 businesses that could be very successful and bigger in the future. As such, we felt it was a great opportunity to see how best we can share with them."
While many entrepreneurs are hesitant to approach banks for loans, this should not be the case, she says. Scotiabank's SME unit assesses each business on a "case by case basis", where collateral isn't the only consideration for a loan, she said. "We have, in fact, given loans without the requisite collateral because the business will deliver on its commitment."
Additionally, the turnaround time for responses to loan applications is "very fast, once all the documents are in order."
Scotiabank believes it has gotten the message of record-keeping and capacity building to small businesses and that it's time to address another major concern: poor customer service.
"We're going to now take it to another level and focus on customer service because that's one of the areas where we really see a lot of complaints," said Latchman-Atterbury. "We want to provide them with the capacity so they can make even more money to save and repay the loan."