Jamaica National shifts focus to technology growth

GROWTH at Jamaica National Building Society (JNBS) Group now centres around technology. It on a shift of focus from consolidation and diversification, says Earl Jarrett.

The JNBS general manager said the company is expanding its customer base and enhancing its efficiency through technological solutions, with innovation key to the development of new initiatives for bringing banking services.

“Our continued development and investment in new technology has enhanced our service delivery,” Jarrett stated. This leveraging of technology is evident in the JN Group’s areas of remittance services, online banking, self-serve facilities, a rural swipe card project and, most recently, mobile commerce.

Subsidiary company JN Money Services changed the landscape of the remittance industry in Jamaica with the launch of the country’s only Money Transfer Card in 2004. As a result, Jarrett said Jamaica has one of the highest ratios of card usage to access remittances.

Developed in a partnership with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the card provides a more convenient and cost-effective means of money transfer service to its customers, using swipe card technology. The card is supported by a state-of-the-art software, E-Money, which was developed by another JN Group subsidiary, Management Control Systems (MCS), in conjunction with Microsoft.

“We also have the distinction of being the first financial institution in Jamaica to offer remittance services via the Internet and to offer real time online banking services,” Jarrett said. These services have particular appeal for Jamaicans in the diaspora, and facilitated the growth of JN Money Services to become one of the country’s largest remittance companies, he added.

JN’s online banking portal ‘LIVE by JN’ is another avenue through which the organisation is using Information Communication Technology (ICT) to facilitate an improved member experience. He pointed out that the ‘LIVE by JN’ portal has been upgraded to enable interbank transactions, real time settlement of payments with other financial institutions, credit card and utility payments, and increased transaction limits.

“Currently ‘LIVE by JN’ is our second-largest transaction channel for financial activities outside of the use of ATMs,” he declared. “At the end of July this year, transactions valued at more than $147 million were conducted online, representing some 22,676 transactions.”

These financial services assist the company to meeting the need of members in the diaspora who want to invest and remit their earnings to Jamaica, he stated.

“The migrant community has always been a critical link for us, as approximately 50 per cent of our savings come from overseas,” the general manager said.

One innovation that is being introduced, to both local and diaspora members, is the outfitting of branches with JN Express self-serve facilities. Encouraging the use of the alternate banking channels of ATMs, drop box facilities and Internet banking, JN Express’s facilities enable speedier use of JNBS services without an extended in-branch wait.

The building society has also introduced the first cash recycler ATM machines in the Caribbean in its JN Express centres, Jarrett said. These special ATMs allow members to deposit funds directly to their accounts, which are updated instantly, with the funds being available immediately.

A rural swipe card project has also been introduced, in partnership with the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), he said. Implemented in six parishes so far, the project provides improved access to financial services for underserved communities; as well as enabling new entrepreneurs to use Point-of-Sale terminals to conduct transactions, such as paying bills and making small business loan repayments.

The society has also invested in mobile commerce, in partnership with USAID, IADB, and Solutions for Society at the Mona School of Business of The University of the West Indies. Jarrett noted that the intention is to develop a framework to allow real-time banking via cellphones; and a policy document has been developed and submitted to the Government, to assist in the design of the payment guidelines.

“Looking back at our organisation, now in its 138th year, we can relate our growth and international reach to our dedication to be active participants in ‘building’ the Jamaican people and the society,” Jarrett declared, “Jamaica National has remained true to this mandate.”

JARRETT… Our continued development and investment in new technology has enhanced our service delivery

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