The Jamaica National (JN) Group, following the launch of its latest subsidiary company— JN Bank in the United Kingdom (UK), has cited financial inclusion as well as the pursuance of correspondent banking services for Caribbean banks as being atop the list of issues to be addressed for people of the Diaspora.
Chief executive officer (CEO) of the JN Group, Earl Jarrett, in referring to a 2017 UK financial report, said that there were some 1.23 million people in Britain who were underserved or not served by banks.
“Financial inclusion is not just a Caribbean problem. In the UK, there is a working paper on how they are going to improve on financial inclusion. It is estimated that four to five per cent of the working population does not have access to banking services and those are primarily persons who have small businesses; persons who don’t feel welcomed in the mainstream banking environment,” he stated.
The JN UK bank, which was launched on October 8 after some two years in the making, represented an historical move for the company which saw them becoming the first Caribbean-owned bank to be established in the UK. This, after UK regulators had granted a full banking licence to the bank last year.
“It is our hope that through the JN Bank, we will be able to provide banking services to those individuals, whatever their racial background or wherever they are from, so they too can achieve their personal objectives,” Jarrett also said while speaking at the virtual launch event on Thursday last.
Jarrett also disclosed that the operations of bank will be mainly digital, with a physical branch to be located in Brixton, south London which can be used for community activities after banking hours.
“Digitalisation is a true enabler of inclusion. It enables everybody to participate. It is not directly subjective. In fact, it does not look at you and make a decision on how you physically look but based on your data and track record,” he added.
He listed retail savings and personal loan products targeted at the Caribbean community, as well as the wider UK market as some of the initial offerings to be rolled out by the bank. He further noted that the intention of the bank was to also provide services to Caribbean banks— several of which have had their correspondent banking relationships in the UK severed.
Jarrett, in recounting his own experience with de-risking by UK banks back in 2015, shared that the long-term objective was to provide solutions for financial entities from the region.
“We, in the Caribbean space, are all fairly small nation states which must be deeply connected to the global financial networks. Caribbean Diasporas across the world need financial services to maintain connections to their homeland,” he said.
“The global financial networks provide the ‘financial’ oxygen that is required. The current absence of correspondent banking takes away the ‘financial’ oxygen from the region, and the region, therefore, cannot breathe,” he continued.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness, in a congratulatory message, applauded the JN Group for undertaking the establishment of its UK bank. In underscoring the challenges of de-risking and lack of financial inclusion for the region, he said that the UK bank will most definitely help to resolve some of the most pressing needs for people of the Diaspora.
“As the first Caribbean-owned bank in the UK, JN Bank will not only provide financial services to strengthen the achievements of our people, but will work closely with communities to build them and create greater opportunities for people of Caribbean heritage to prosper and realise their best potential,” he said.
Asif Ahmad, Britain’s high commissioner to Jamaica, also commended the JN Group for its achievement and wished for the bank’s continued success in bridging the gap across borders.
“It’s not just about linking the Diaspora of people from Jamaica in and around the world who want to bring their resources here, but it’s also an opportunity for banks in the Caribbean to use the correspondent banking services, which JN will be able to offer. That basically means JN [bank] could be the banker to the banks,” he said.
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