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Sagicor Bank launches Jamaica’s first public-private partnership to assist local SMEs

Chorvelle Johnson Cunningham (seated, left), CEO, Sagicor Bank Jamaica, signs the memorandum of understanding that solidifies the public-private partnership between the financial institution and Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC). Looking on are (from left) Michael Willacy, vice president – retail and SME banking, Sagicor Bank Jamaica; Dr Norman Dunn, minister of state in the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce; Valerie Veira (seated), CEO, JBDC; and Harold Davis, Deputy CEO, JBDC.

Sagicor Bank Jamaica (SBJ) and the Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC) have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to form the Sagicor Bank Business Resource Centre to provide free technical, business advisory, marketing, as well as research and project management services to small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

With the JBDC being an agency of the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce (MIIC) mandated to drive growth in the sector, this move marks Jamaica’s first public-private partnership arrangement of its kind.

The partnership, officially launched on February 24, 2021, was endorsed by minister of state in the MIIC, Dr Norman Dunn, who lauded Sagicor Bank for taking action to assist the micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSME) sector, of which SMEs form a large portion. Citing his experience as a small business owner and the first-hand knowledge of the plight and varied needs of SMEs, Dunn welcomed the partnership and the support it will provide for the multi-billion-dollar sector.

“There are about 429,000 MSMEs in Jamaica, contributing 3.5 per cent to GDP and a significant revenue resource for taxes — about 70 billion dollars; but yet still, it (the sector) as always looked on differently by [most of] the commercial institutions that we have in Jamaica… This is a very strategic partnership and I want to congratulate Sagicor Bank — because small businesses turn into large businesses,” expressed the state minister.

CEO of Sagicor Bank Jamaica (SBJ), Chorvelle Johnson Cunningham, spoke to the growth potential of SMEs, the specific grouping which the Sagicor Bank Business Resource Centre will cater to.

“Sagicor Bank will be a part of the foundation of growth in this country as we work with the JBDC to serve our small businesses. The role of the SME sector is critical to the development of our country and the JBDC and Sagicor Bank will stand with business leaders to ensure that all persons in the sector receive the most suitable advice that will help them to run their businesses efficiently. JBDC will be their initial guide where they will know everything that is necessary for them to come into a bank; and for us (Sagicor Bank) it will be to continue the hand holding process,” said Johnson Cunningham.

Through the Sagicor Bank Business Resource Centre participating business owners will also have immediate access to other services such as investments, property, health and life insurance products and services offered under the Sagicor Group umbrella.

“These companies will grow as we have within Sagicor Group Jamaica, the ideal capabilities for them to be able to launch their business even further, where Sagicor Investments Jamaica can introduce the companies to the Jamaica Stock Exchange’s Junior Market when they are ready,” Johnson Cunningham noted.

JBDC Chief Executive Officer Valerie Viera said that “for a long time the MSME sector was seen as people who are in the survival business, getting one loan, to get another loan to get another loan. Today, JBDC and Sagicor Bank have come together to say they are more than a loan; they are a business possibility. Each business has its own needs and we want to customise the package, so it works for the entrepreneurs. It’s a big jump for the sector to get the fulsome support that it needs.”

Using the export market as an example of one business model previously less traversed by Jamaicans pre-pandemic, Johnson Cunningham believes the partnership is timely, as businesses owners are pivoting and tapping into innovative and creative ways to promote sustainability and growth in the sector.

The Sagicor Bank Resource Centre is located at 6C Constant Spring Road — a facility retrofitted by Sagicor Bank, equipped with an assigned JBDC representative, Sagicor Bank client care representatives, meeting and training rooms. The resource centre which is also accessible online through the JBDC and via telephone, will roll out various business modules over time.

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