JMMB: THE GIFT OF LOVE
Business Leader: Corporate Philanthropy: Nominee No 2
In retrospect, Joan Duncan would have been well within her right if she had eponymously named the financial institution she founded in November 1992.
Back then, Duncan faced the Herculean task of prying open an industry that was in its embryonic stage of development and which had remained inaccessible to the vast majority of Jamaicans.
The corporate identity — Jamaica Money Market Brokers — would have created no uncertainty in the minds of the public as to the purpose of the venture and the nature of the service that the business pioneer was proposing to take to their doorsteps.
From cramped office space decked with used furniture in downtown Kingston, the folksy, unconventional entrepreneur set about to demystify what existed of the money market. And she did with aplomb — transforming the arcane indulgence of the wealthy into an investment magnet that pulled hundreds of thousands of Jamaicans into its centre of gravity, and JMMB prospered.
That this company, which began with capital base of $30 million, has been and remains an unqualified financial and cultural success story is beyond dispute. It earned net income of $2.3 billion for the financial year that ended March 31, 2016, and has built up shareholder equity of $22.7 billion as at balance sheet date — thanks largely to annual profits accumulated over its many years of operation.
Happily, Joan’s two eldest children — Donna Duncan-Scott and her twin brother Keith Duncan — who between them have traded top leadership over the past several years have shepherded the company towards what other enlightened, forward-thinking institutions that reap success do: give back to society — $203 million over the past 10 years.
It took 14 years for JMMB to find a way to immortalise its founder who passed away in 1998. But those who remember this highly spiritual character who eschewed the trappings of wealth would think of no more fitting tribute to her work and memory than having a philanthropic foundation in her name.
Three-quarter of the $203 million that JMMB has donated to charitable causes since 2005/06, has come since 2012, the year the money market pioneers launched the Joan Duncan Foundation.
The vehicle through which JMMB now channels expenditure on corporate social responsibility, the Joan Duncan Foundation is headed by another of Joan’s children, Patricia (Duncan) Sutherland as chairman of the board of directors, while the day-today operation is managed by a CEO Kim Mair.
The beneficiaries of its corporate philanthropy can be found far and wide across the country though there is heavy emphasis on education and generally, activities that JMMB believes provide a direct and efficient route to personal and economic transformation.
“The foundation’s support of various initiatives is guided by its mission and vision,” the company says in response to questions posed by the Business Leader Award programme. “In a continued effort to support nation-building, the Joan Duncan Foundation remains dedicated to educational initiatives, entrepreneurship, institutional strengthening and community development, which the foundation believes are critical to transforming and empowering individuals to maximise their potential.”
JMMB has inexorably tethered its giving to its business success, committing a minimum of one per cent of its annual profit to good causes — a policy rarely seen even at the most beneficent First World organisations. It has budgeted $62.6 million for charity during the current financial year that ends in March 2017.
Not unlike its founder, the public and private persona of this institution hews closely to the spiritual. Its high-minded vision statement codifies this unusual corporate meme, and the regular pronouncements of its leaders further reinforce this value.
“This is an opportunity for JMMB Group to be true to its vision of love,” the company declares in explaining part of the motivation for its work of charity.
Its mission, JMMB stresses, is to help Jamaicans “tap into their potential for greatness and have their greatness impact their own lives and enhance the lives of their communities”.
So in furtherance of this ethereal goal, some 200 students at primary, secondary, tertiary and special needs institutions have been given more than $14 million in scholarships over the past three years.
For the September 2016 academic year the foundation awarded 70 educational scholarships to primary, secondary, tertiary and special needs students.
But the JMMB gift that best exemplifies its laudable corporate mantra is the US$1-million endowment it awarded to the University of the West Indies — money that is now earmarked to help fund research that the university itself hopes will ultimately yield insights that will guide future regional development.
“Sixty-five per cent of this endowment will be allocated toward scholarships in perpetuity so that the Caribbean region can continue to engender rich talent, innovation and business acumen,” JMMB explains.
In part because so much of its giving is funnelled through third-party organisations, JMMB says it is hard for it to measure the true impact or to even begin quantifying the number of individuals who are touched each year by its generosity. The best guesstimate is
that the number runs into the thousands.
A m o n g t h e m a j o r beneficiaries:
• Child Resiliency Programme,
• Youth Upliftment Training and Employment (YUTE) Programme,
• Jamaica Football Federation (JFF),
• Mustard Seed Communities,
• Committee for the Upliftment of the Mentally Ill (CUMI). Others include Jamaica Cancer Society, the Heart Foundation of Jamaica, as well as service organisations like Rotary and Kiwanis clubs, churches’ outreach, and medical institutions.
One noteworthy dimension of JMMB’s philanthropy is the programme it has in place to suffuse its workplace with a culture of charity. So, for example, each month the foundation selects 10 projects in which employees participate and at one project during the month of September the staff donated more than 80 pairs of shoes to the National Youth Service (NYS) shoe drive.
“In addition, in collaboration with our internal marketing communications team, our team members are invited to engage in initiatives driven by the Foundation such as 5Ks, treats for children, for example ‘Dare to Care Movie Treat’, Christmas treat and donations to institutions,” the organisation says.
JMMB says that in addition to the physical structures and institutions that its donations
help to create, it has seen where individual human lives have been directly transformed for the good because of the help that many of them have received.
“It feels good to help persons in need,” the company declares, “especially when they share their stories of accomplishment and how the assistance provided by JMMB has positively impacted their lives.”
JMMB acknowledges that corporate giving is in part driven by enlightened self-interest and that its brand equity has been enhanced by the public good it does.
“The company also benefits from the positive publicity generated around the work being done by the entity to impact the lives of others,” JMMB argues. “This shows how the brand remains true to its vision.”
Individuals and institutions seeking assistance from the Joan Duncan Foundation may apply in writing via e-mail or hardcopy. The foundation says that each request, once it falls within the guidelines, will be
considered based on its individual merit and budgetary allocation.
Moses Jackson is the founder of the Jamaica Observer Business Leader Award programme and the chairman of the Award Selection Committee. He may be reached at email@example.com