Shirley optimistic about Dolla Financial's purpose

Shirley optimistic about Dolla Financial's purpose


Sunday, June 28, 2020

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JACK Shirley is challenged but not overwhelmed by his latest sojourn in the field of finance which sees him functioning, by his admission, “24 hours on call”, as executive chairman of Dolla Financial Services Ltd.

It may even seem like a minor job for the elder statesman of finance, former executive director of the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Commission, and top executive of leading Jamaica financial institution, National Commercial Bank for 35 years, yet it is anything but that.

Shirley, whose mother gave him the Christian name Andral at birth several years ago, became the head honcho at Dolla Financial mere months ago at a time when the novel coronavirus forced the global world to sit up and take note. His role in the fledging money-lending organisation, among other things, is to institute good corporate governance for the company, which includes trying to improve, and not undo, what the organisation has already achieved.

Although Dolla Financial is an unregulated entity, the company has an exemption under the Money Lending Act which enables it to charge interest at a specific rate of 52 per cent annum. Because it is a subsidiary of a regulated entity, First Rock Capital Holdings, which owns 75 per cent of the shares, the subsidiary is allowed to operate as a regulated company.

“Since Dolla's results are a big part of the holding company First Rock's results, everything that we do have to fall in line as a regulated entity,” Shirley told the Jamaica Observer in an interview last week. “Dolla has always practised, to the best of its ability, as a regulated entity, because it is hoping that one day it might be able to go to the stock market also. When that time comes for the transition it will be easy because it would have been already practising what a regulated entity ought to do.

“It's for me to assist the company with policies, manuals, guidelines, and importantly on the anti-money laundering and POCA legislation which applies to us also to ensure that in our practices…we apply those strict guidelines,” Shirley said.

Chief Executive Officer Kadeen Mairs, described by Shirley as “a sharp entrepreneur”, focuses on business development expansion by way of branches or locations and products. Mairs started the company on his own before offloading majority shares to First Rock.

Describing NCB, from which he went on pre-retirement leave in 2000 after serving as general manager of the main branch, as the “best training school”, Shirley went on to head three other banks before he took on the job of running the BGLC day to day from 2013 to 2016, after a change in the Government.

“I got my grounding from NCB. If you look at the heads of many of the financial institutions around, they got NCB training. When I joined NCB I had to go to training school for three weeks. The training that I got from NCB has propelled my career in the financial industry.

“After 35 years at NCB I started First Global (formerly Trafalgar Commercial Bank) and became the first managing director. I spent three years there. Then JMMB asked me to [do a] due diligence exercise for them. They owned 50 per cent shareholding in a bank in Trinidad – Intercommercial Bank Limited (IBL), now fully owned by JMMB – and after the due diligence they asked me to stay on as managing director for a year and a half. Then Bank of Nevis asked me to come there, and I accepted the job of general manager for a year,” he revealed.

Following the Nevis experience he lived in Florida for a while, returned to Jamaica in 2009, and soon after worked for COK Credit Union by assisting the institution with managing its non-performing loans portfolio; followed by a stint at Capital & Credit Merchant Bank on a similar assignment for just under a year.

It was after smelling the aroma of retirement all over again the Government at the time asked him to run BGLC.

Shirley, who credits his success to having good people skills, sees a positive future for Dolla Financial.

“Although we are part of the microfinance industry, we are a microlending company. The distinction is that as a micro loan company we just give loans only. Microfinance companies, they engage in other types of financial activities as well.

“We give all types of loans, which don't normally last beyond a six-month to one-year payback period. Our main activity is in the west and our head office is in Montego Bay. We cover the hospitality industry, mainly the BPO industry, and offer several payroll-type loans. The BPO industry is easy to get salary deductions. We have a good niche in the hospitality side, not just the hotel industry, but the transportation side,” Shirley stated.

The company, according to Shirley, has no loan ceiling, and even if the need arises to lend a client $50 million, for example, Dolla's parent company would make the funds available.

“We welcome all borrowers. Where we have the edge is the ability to lend quickly– we can go under a day. In fact, the client determines how fast we can respond. We also go to clients, so they don't have to leave their workplaces to come to us.

“I'm retired, but I'm working harder and longer these days. There are certain loans over certain levels which require my approval and I am available 24 hours to give a response. We have an excellent software system to deal with loan applications, which enables us to respond with alacrity to our customers' demands,” said Shirley, who works mainly from home.

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