WILCO Finance inks equity deal with JASMEF
Boosted by an injection of capital from the Jamaica Actus Small and Medium Enterprise Fund (JASMEF), microcredit institution WILCO Finance Limited (WILCO) is eyeing growth in both its brick and mortar and digital footprints.
Having provided microfinancing services in the Corporate Area since 2010, WILCO last month signed off a on an investment deal with JASMEF for an undisclosed amount that will see the fund taking a “significant minority stake ownership” in the company upon completion of the transaction.
JASMEF is a private equity fund financed by the World Bank, VM Investments and the Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ) and which is focused on investing into scalable and fast-growing micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
“WILCO has embarked on a strategic growth initiative to scale its business operations. This will enable the company to become a key player within the microfinance sector, whilst adding value to the lives of individuals and small business owners, and supporting further growth of the Jamaican economy,” CEO & Executive Director Nikisha Walters informed the Jamaica Observer in an e-mailed response.
With this in mind, she welcomes the arrangement with JASMEF as a “significant and strategic” partnership that augurs well for the company’s sustainable growth plan. Since her appointment in 2020 Walters has been working with WILCO Chairman Patrick Thompson to steer the company on a growth path.
WILCO became an accredited microfinance partner of the DBJ in 2020, and has since been a touchpoint for businesses to access a number of credit facilities including the MSME Serve, Go-Digital, and SME Loan programmes. To date, disbursements to MSMEs operating within the local productive sector total in excess of $70 million.
WILCO is also a partner in the DBJ’s Credit Enhancement Facility (CEF), which allows MSMEs to access a guarantee to satisfy shortfalls in loan collateral requirements.
In 2022, the company applied for its microcredit operating licence from the Bank of Jamaica and, having received the central bank’s approval for the continuation of its business operations, WILCO is now awaiting the finalisation of the licensing approval process.
Still, WILCO is seeking to increase the visibility of its own suite of customised business and personal loan solutions to MSMEs and employed individuals. The company plans to accomplish this “through enhanced use of effective marketing tools, whilst delivering an efficient customer service experience”, Walters shared.
“While there are clear operational efficiencies that must be pursued where technology is concerned, there is no doubt that WILCO’s short- to medium-term growth plans will include an integrated approach involving [adding] branch locations, [offering] virtual financing, and [growing its] partnerships,” she explained further to Business Observer.
On this note the CEO said the company will continue to pursue debt/equity capital raises with other key strategic partnerships which have already been identified.
WILCO currently employs 10 personnel and foresees faster growth in its employees, clients, and loan portfolio during the short to medium term.
In the meantime, president and director of JASMEF I Murat Tasci, said: “WILCO is a well-positioned company in the Caribbean microfinance sector. We are confident that JASMEF’s investment will unlock WILCO’s growth potential through different product lines and improved service for its clients.
“It will also help to improve access to finance in Jamaica, which is the key ESG [environmental, social, and corporate governance] goal of our backers at the World Bank and Development Bank of Jamaica’s Access to Finance Project (A2F).”