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GKMS says Western Union network stable despite banking snub

Published:Wednesday | September 23, 2015 | 9:00 AMTameka Gordon
A Western Union sign erected in Chapelton, Clarendon.

GraceKennedy Money Services (GKMS), the exclusive agent for Western Union, said it was unaware of concerns raised by one local operator, which indicated last week that it is likely to exit its money-transfer contract, citing reduced commissions and the banking sector's movement away from such businesses.

GKMS indicated that it was caught flat-footed by the concerns expressed by Jamaican Teas Limited, saying it has had no discussions along those lines with its subagent, nor has any other contractor expressed such concerns.

The franchise holder, in a written response to a Wednesday Business article in which Jamaica Teas said it is assessing whether to close its Westmoreland-based Western Union outlet, also said it has not lost any of its agents "either in our remittance or our cambio businesses due to the issue of correspondent banking relationships", and that business continues to grow year-on-year, despite local and international developments.

Local banks have been closing down the accounts of money -services businesses in order to maintain relationships with their foreign bankers correspondent banks. The cash-based nature of money-services businesses is seen as vulnerable to scams and money laundering.

GKMS said it recognises that its cambio and forex traders would have been impacted by the " change in position by the banks not to accept USD and foreign currency notes" but has taken steps to improve its efficiencies in order to meet customer needs.

The money-service company is owned by conglomerate GraceKennedy Limited, whose financial portfolio includes a commercial banking network.

Jamaican Teas CEO John Mahfood said in an interview with Wednesday Business last week that while remittance traffic to the outlet attached to the retail subsidiary Shoppers Delite Supermarket in Westmoreland was good, the company was disappointed with the returns and would decide by year end whether to continue the service.

GKMS said it had not been informed by the tea maker of its current position and that, "despite the challenges", it sees as an opportunity to grow business locally.

"Being a part of Western Union's global network, the changes in the business environment have caused us to redefine ourselves in order to remain relevant and competitive. GKMS is working with its agents to ensure greater levels of efficiency across the business lines while we strive to improve earning for our agents," the moneyservices company said.

For Jamaican Teas, Mahfood said whether or not the matter was raised with GKMS did not negate the issues currently facing his operation.

"My team has spoken to them about some of the problems that we are having, but that doesn't change the issues that I face," he said when reached for comment on GKMS' statement.

GKMS maintains that it continues to receive requests from businesses that want to sign up as remittance or cambio operators.

"As the local leader in money services, we continue to listen to our customers and in response to their concerns regarding fees. Western Union has been one of the most active companies at a United States and global level working to find solutions to the issue of bank account closures that are impacting money-transfer organisations," the franchise operator said.

tameka.gordon@gleanerjm.com