Access Financial secures microcredit licence
Access Financial Services Limited has received approval from Bank of Jamaica to operate as a microfinance institution.

Access Financial Services Limited (AFS) has received approval from Bank of Jamaica (BOJ) to operate as a microfinance institution (MFI) as laid out in the Microcredit Act, 2021 and Microcredit (Licence Form of Application) Rules, 2021.

Sharing this development on the Jamaica Stock Exchange website, the company noted: "This means that AFS is approved to provide microcredit services, such as the granting of loans or business advisory services to individuals and MSMEs [micro, small and medium enterprises]. AFS will continue to ensure that we meet all regulatory obligations to provide greater financial inclusion, improved customer service, and greater disclosure to customers."

Since July last year, the Microcredit Act, 2021 and Microcredit (Licence Form of Application) Rules, 2021 have served as the guidelines for microfinance institutions to operate and secure an operating licence from the BOJ. The Microcredit Act and the rules have replaced the Moneylending Act — which previously regulated the activities of MFIs — and names the BOJ as the governing entity.

As part of the application, MFIs must indicate if they are listed on the Jamaica Stock Exchange and must outline the governance structure of their operations.

Executive chaiman of AFS Marcus James, commenting on the approval of the licence, told Jamaica Observer, "It differentiates from the competition and it should inspire confidence in our clients that we are using best practices and guidelines of the BOJ."

He added that the company has put in a lot of work since its inception and that those efforts have translated into AFS receiving the licence.

During the application process, the company provided documentation outlining its internal processes and the fit and proper status of members of its leadership team.

The application process, which James described as "comprehensive and rigorous", was led by AFS's CEO Frederick Williams; Catherine Thomas, manager, operations and credit; and paralegal Carla Stephens.

For the year ended March 31, 2022, AFS earned $1.98 billion in revenues or nine per cent more than the $1.82 billion generated in 2021. From this the company generated consolidated net profit after tax of $438 million, which was 65 per cent higher than the prior amount of $266 million.

"We have long established that the success of our company is inherently tied to the success of our customers. Therefore, guided by our mission and our 'Customer First' core value, we remain focused on providing affordable products and services and building strong relationships with our customers. This is even more critical as we approach the implementation of the Microcredit Act, which has as its core tenet, greater transparency and consumer protection in the microfinance sector," Williams wrote in the company's 2022 annual report.

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