Wed | Sep 20, 2017

Courts Jamaica expands micro loan facility

Published:Friday | June 5, 2015 | 6:00 AMTameka Gordon
Rudolph Brown/Photographer Managing Director of Unicomer Jamaica Limited/Courts, Dennis Harris, and Director of Consumer Credit Sharon Stephenson, at the launch of the Ready Cash consumer credit facility at the Courts Cross Road and head office, on Tuesday, June 2, 2015.

Unicomer Jamaica Limited, which operates locally as Courts Jamaica, has expanded its microlending facility, to a new offering called Ready Cash, to non-Courts customers who can now borrow more than $100,000 as personal loans.

The Ready Cash facility is an expansion of the company's Ready Finance product, which began in 2010 as a short-term consumer loan facility for "the best paying customers". Now those customers can borrow up to $200,000.

The furniture and appliance company, which says it has less than 50 per cent of the market, said the service is being extended because of increased demand for its loans.

Director of consumer credit, Sharon Stephenson, said Courts has got more than 100,000 applications for loans since the credit facility's inception in 2010, but declined to comment on projections going forward.

"We started off slowly and as the business evolved, we opened it up more and more to our customers," Stephenson said.

Monthly payments for Ready Cash can be made via salary deduction or at JN MoneyShops but Jamaica National, which owns the shops, is not a financing partner.

"We have an arrangement with JN because they are far and wide in terms of their money shops, so we have an arrangement them to accept payments," said Stephenson.

Interest rates for new loans under Ready Cash start at 40 per cent, but customers with good credit history may receive reduced rates. The programme does not target any particular niche, but requires applicants to be employed as demonstration of their ability to repay the loan.

Ready Cash provides loans for medical, educational or any other expenses, with no stipulation by Courts as to how the funds can be spent.

"When you borrow the money you can fix up your house with it; you can go and start a small business or open a cook shop," Stephenson said.

Funds for on-lending also comes from Unicomer's parent based in El Salvador, she said.

Ready Cash is currently only available at the Portmore, Cross Roads and Montego Bay branches of Courts, but will be extended to 12 other locations covering all major towns by March of next year, the company said.

Stephenson described the Ready Finance facility as the umbrella credit product, used mostly for regular hire purchase agreements, but with a spending limit.

"Ready Cash is under that umbrella. For example, if you have a Ready Finance limit of $400,000, you can access Ready Cash under that Ready Finance limit," she said.

tameka.gordon@gleanerjm.com