THE National Commercial Bank (NCB) has indicated that customers of its Lynk digital wallet will be able to start using Jam-Dex in mid-July.
"The roll-out of the digital currency will take place within the next two weeks. Lynk users will be able to use the Jam-Dex currency in their Lynk wallet to pay for services, including bill payments, mobile phone credit top-ups, peer-to-peer transfers and purchases," NCB told the Jamaica Observer.
NCB made the revelation in response to queries about the state of its readiness to roll out the central bank digital currency (CBDC) after the Bank of Jamaica (BOJ) indicated that there were some issues to be resolved with point-of-sales machines to accept Jam-Dex.
"The merchants have quite a bit of work to do in order to accept [Jam-Dex]. So the POS [point-of-sales] machines that normally take the credit/debit cards, all of them have to be programmed to be able to take CBDC, and that's the challenge on the merchant side," Richard Byles told a virtual audience on June 16, 2022 during the Jamaica Diaspora Conference 2022.
Byles was making note of the challenge after his colleague Mario Griffiths, director of payment system policy and development at the BOJ, said the target was to have the digital currency in general circulation by the end of June "with the one wallet provider that we have in place". That "one wallet provider" is NCB through its Lynk digital wallet. JMMB Bank, JN Bank, and Sagicor Bank have so far publicly announced they are taking steps to develop digital wallets to distribute the digital currency as well.
However, in direct response to the Business Observer's queries about the programming of the point-of-sales machines to accept Jam-Dex, NCB was rather vague.
"National Commercial Bank Jamaica Limited and Lynk will collaborate to design and execute a Jam-Dex merchant journey, which includes the payment experience at point-of-sale machines. That activity is currently being scoped as a part of a bigger picture which includes defining the Jam-Dex product and service road map. Our immediate priority, however, is testing and optimising the wallet experience and peer-to-peer capabilities," it said in an e-mail response to a question which was seeking to find out if the the bank solved the issue of programming the POS machines to accept Jam-Dex.
In response to queries about how many point-of-sales machines have been programmed to accept the digital currency and the issues the bank is facing to get them programmed, NCB would only say, "Not applicable at this time."
The commercial bank, however, told the Business Observer that "Over 100,000 persons have signed up for Lynk so far, and Lynk has issued Jam-Dex dollars to the first 100,000 app users who qualified for the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service's $2,500 Jam-Dex incentive." It added that, "Lynk is currently in phase one of their merchant journey, which is focused on micro-merchants. There are now over 2,000 micro-merchants on board across the island. Phase two will begin within the next three months and focus on onboarding larger merchants."
The bank further stated that, along with Lynk, there has been coordination on a limited public launch of the Jam-Dex currency on Lynk. It said the opportunity is being used to bolster and optimise services in anticipation of wide-scale use across the island. "So far testing has displayed favourable results and Lynk is in the process of adding merchants to the platform along with access to key service provider partnerships to drive adoptions," NCB said.
The end of June timeline for the roll-out of Jam-Dex was not the first one that has been missed. The BOJ had targeted the first quarter of this year for Jam-Dex, but that was stalled because the legislation to make the digital currency legal tender was not passed until mid-June.
The central bank minted $230 million in the first batch of Jam-Dex in August last year, and issued $1 million worth of the digital currency to its own staff in the same month. In October, $5 million worth of CBDC were issued to NCB, which used the currency in a pilot.