The VM Group is taking aim at the Diaspora as it seeks to expand its membership beyond the borders of the island and provide Jamaicans living abroad with opportunities to invest in their homeland.
Speaking at the launch of the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association (JMEA) Retirement Account last week at the VM Group's headquarters in Half-Way-Tree, St Andrew, VM Group chief investment officer (CIO) and head of the Strategic Investment Unit Devon Barrett said that the financial group had embarked on two road shows in London, United Kingdom, and Miami, Florida, in the past two months. While giving his remarks, he added that another road show was in train in New York, USA.
"We are actually going out there to ensure that the diaspora is served. So the VM Group is not just in Jamaica. We are much wider than just Jamaica and so, our offerings are at the end of the day…is geared towards not just the three million people here. It's geared toward the world," the CIO explained.
Barrett was responding to charges from Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce Senator Aubyn Hill and JMEA President John Mahfood to create the means for members of Jamaica's Diaspora to participate in investment activities in the country.
In his address, Mahfood noted that Jamaicans living abroad are demanding more opportunities to invest in productive sectors and participate in the local economy.
"VM, I'm challenging you as well to make it easy for Jamaicans living abroad to sign up new brokerage accounts and to be able to do online trading. Because if you're living abroad, you know how easy it is to sign up with a broker and do trading, and if you can make it easy for Jamaicans living abroad — remember they're sending three and half billion US," the JMEA president stated.
"Maybe there is [US]$500 million or [US]$1 billion out there ready to come into the Jamaica Stock Exchange," he continued.
Mahfood further argued that encouraging foreign investment is one of the ways to grow the local economy, stimulate post-pandemic recovery and "re-energise" Jamaican industries.
The Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce estimates that as much as three million Jamaicans live abroad — approximately similar to the size of the country's population — and contribute US$1 billion in remittance.
As part of it revised National Diaspora Policy, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade has as a goal creating "…enabling environments that optimise Diaspora investment, trade and advocacy". Given the Diaspora's appetite for Jamaican culture, products and services, it asserts that creating a Diaspora capital markets can contribute significantly to national development by mobilising savings for investments and providing long-term alternatives to facilitate wealth creation.
According to Barrett, "What we do is invite persons to open accounts in Jamaica. So when you open an account with VM, it allows you to buy into any investment in Jamaica."
Signing up for account would not require Jamaicans abroad to travel to the country, but can be done online. Once complete, they have access to all the products and services offered by VM Group through its subsidiaries.
In this regard, Barrett pointed out that VM members who have a local account can sign up for its Wealth IPO Edge and participate in initial public offerings and other capital raises on the Jamaica Stock Exchange.
He noted, however, that the road shows not only highlight investments opportunities on the stock market.
"We are promoting Jamaica and opportunities in Jamaica," Barrett outlined adding that the events facilitate information sharing on property acquisitions, bonds and other asset classes.
Still, Barrett admitted that there is a "big expression of interest from the Diaspora, and I think that's because the stocks are performing so well", making reference to IPOs.
"So it [JSE] has attracted the interest of persons in the Diaspora because they are hearing about what's happening in Jamaica and they want to participate," he added.
Another investment vehicle that the VM Group and its investment arm, VM investments Limited, is hoping will gain traction is Jamaica Actus Small & Medium Enterprises Fund I (JASMEF). A pooled investment with UK-based Actus Partners and the Development Bank of Jamaica, the fund provides growth and risk capital financing to invest in high-growth SMEs in Jamaica, in addition to other investments undertaken in the Caribbean.
"It creates an opportunity for persons in Jamaica and the Diaspora to invest…So it's making the link between investor and the entity needing equity or capital," Barrett concluded.