Wed | Aug 16, 2017

Courtney Campbell interview | VMBS to take new approach to membership, upgrade branches and systems

Published:Friday | August 5, 2016 | 8:00 AMTameka Gordon
Chief Executive Officer Courtney Campbell addresses the Victoria Mutual Building Scoiety's annual general meeting in New Kingston on Thursday, July 28, 2016.

Customers who do business with subsidiaries of Victoria Mutual Building Society (VMBS) may soon qualify to become members of the society, one of the options under consideration as the financial group seeks to expand its membership base and grow the business.

Newly minted president and chief executive officer of VMBS group, Courtney Campbell, sat down with Financial Gleaner this week to discuss a raft of plans for the mortgage bank aimed at transforming it to a "modern mutual". Those plans include integrating services between the subsidiaries.

Currently, only savers or account holders of the building society gain membership, and with it, ownership of VMBS. But this is to change as the bank pushes to create new markets and businesses, said Campbell, who took the helm in April.

"We are not satisfied that we are sufficiently integrated and that we are realising the synergies that can be realised within the group," he told Financial Gleaner.

To this end, he said the bank is exploring the option of extending membership/ownership to clients who do business with any of its four subsidiaries.

The thinking is that "once you do business with any member of the group, it will equate to membership because a strong integrated group means that you have the same standing across the group," Campbell said.

The subsidiaries include Prime Asset Management, Victoria Mutual Property Services, Victoria Mutual Money Transfer Services and VM Wealth Management.

VMBS also wants to partner with more external entities to accelerate its growth, Campbell said.

He was, however, mum on precisely what those partnerships entail and the entities targeted, saying the information would be revealed at a later date.

In May, VMBS announced an overhaul to its online banking platform and its in-branch offerings to allow members to make transfers to other local and international banks, as well as upgrades to its ATM network. Single-service cash-dispensing ATMs will be replaced with multifunctional ATMs.

Now, Campbell adds that the branch network is also under review.

"We are seeking to upgrade some branches and introduce agencies," he said, adding that some branches may be relocated.

Branch upgrades will start this year with the Duke Street and Half-Way Tree locations and will continue over the next three years in phases for other locations.

"It's a fair degree of capex that we will be doing," said Campbell, but declined to specify the amount of capital expenditure that will go into the project.

"What you will find is that we will do some significant upgrades to the look and feel of our branches to make them very member-centric," he added.

VMBS will also automate some key back-office functions such as mortgage payments, payroll/salary credits and transfers for overseas members.

"It's a lot of transactions that are flowing in(to) the back office, and we are not doing them as efficiently as we would want to, so we are doing some automation there to create straight-through processing," he said.

VMBS has just completed its mobile money pilot and is "evaluating the lessons" before proceeding to full roll-out.

"We will be processing electronic payments via SWIFT and RTGS," Campbell said.

Revamping the account-opening process

The building society's account-opening process will also be revamped and rolled out in two phases and will allow persons to open accounts online. The first phase will be implemented October 2017, while the second phase is set for the first quarter of 2018, he said.

Infrastructural and IT upgrades will mark the second and more comprehensive phase.

A banking app is also on the cards, as well as an international debit card, said Campbell.

VMBS launched its online mortgage application system in June and will add a product innovation lab shortly.

"This is so we can constantly research how to meet the needs of members and potential members and ensure that, basically, we are always listening to their feedback and responding appropriately," said Campbell.

VMBS is the second-largest of just three building societies operating in Jamaica. Soon, it will become the largest by virtue of JNBS' planned migration to the commercial banking sector.

Last year, VMBS made a surplus of $962 million, down from $1 billion the year before, but better than the $943 million reported in 2013.

The VMBS group is currently valued at just under $104 billion by total assets, around $90 billion of which resides in the society. It operates a branch network of 16 and has 18 ATMs.

tameka.gordon@gleanerjm.com