GraceKennedy strategises to strengthen money services business digital service partnership and expansion of Western Union network coming
Don Wehby, Group CEO of GK, provides update at a virtual investors' briefing held on March 13.

GraceKennedy Limited (GK), impacted by lacklustre performance in its money services business during 2022, said it will this year unlock new strategies aimed at recouping lost earnings and returning growth to the portfolio.

Group Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Don Wehby, speaking at the company's investor's briefing on Monday, said among the slew of strategies being prepared to boost revenue growth were those focused on the build out of a superior omni-channel experience, business model transformations, network optimisation along with the forging of two new partnerships.

"We have signed with a major retail chain in Jamaica where 50 plus locations will become Western Union locations and we expect that to be announced very shortly. Our network is now over 200 and we are going to be adding 50 more locations for Western Union to make it even more attractive for customers to collect their funds. I'm very excited about this partnership we are forming which will also have Caribbean legs, through which we can further expand in the region," Wehby said.

"It [the partnership] has been long incoming, we've worked really hard on this one but finally we are now at the contractual stage to roll out," he added.

A Western Union location in Portmore. GK, through a recent partnership with a retail chain, is looking to add 50 new locations to its network. (Photo: Joseph Wellington)

Making further announcements on other plans, Wehby said that the recent signing of another deal, which was now awaiting the requisite regulatory approvals, will see GK Money Service and Western Union partner with one of the region's largest financial institutions and digital platform to offer digital remittance services.

"This is going to make a significant difference to our digital offering for our money services business. We have been working very closely with Western Union, which has been our partner for over 34 years to grow the market and make it more attractive for members of the Caribbean Diaspora across the US, Canada and the United Kingdom to send money back home," he said.

This announcement comes on the heel of digital wallet and fintech arm of the NCB Financial Group Lynk's recent launch of its remittance feature. The partnership, which commenced with international remittance service provider MoneyGram and sees Lynk becoming the first digital wallet provider to offer remittance services, the directors have said, would also in short order see the onboarding of other remittance service providers.

GK's money service business, which has been challenged by recurring headwinds including global inflationary pressures, rising interest rates and an increasingly competitive global remittance environment, saw year-on-year reductions of near 7 per cent in 2022. This, coinciding with a 1.6 per cent decline in the local remittance market according to Bank of Jamaica data and an overall 3.4 per cent reduction for the Caribbean based on additional data from the World Bank.

Wehby, however, unmoved by the challenges said that the company, in pushing pass the hurdles, will continue to develop and roll out new strategies under its MPACC plan, specially crafted to bring growth to the segment.

Contributing a little over $9 billion to the near $143 billion in revenues and $3.2 billion in profits of the conglomerate's overall performance, the margins of the money services segment were significantly compressed by reduced foreign currency inflows which adversely affected the performance of the business and resulting in profit dip of some 15 per cent.

"It's early days but we are already seeing a closing of the gap in terms of the number of transactions coming in. We expect to see some amount of improvement in our remittances this year. While there are external factors that have been impacting our remittance business, we are working very hard to ensure that we not only grow our market for Jamaica and the Caribbean.

"We're speaking about optimising networks, looking at pricing and being more consumer-centric — of which compliance and marketing will be key," Wehby said.

BY KELLARAY MILES Business reporter

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