Wed | Aug 16, 2017

Street Forrest promoted, joins JSE board

Published:Wednesday | April 5, 2017 | 4:00 AMSteven Jackson
Marlene Street Forrest, now managing director of the Jamaica Stock Exchange, effective April 3, 2017.

Jamaica Stock Exchange (JSE) Group has reshaped its management structure, giving Marlene Street Forrest an upgraded title and a seat on the board.

The changes, effective Monday, April 3, also sees Street Forrest giving up duties as company secretary, a job that now falls to JSE Group legal officer Roxanne Hutchinson.

Street Forrest has led the stock exchange for more than a dozen years as general manager, including the period when the JSE demutualised and restructured as a company that eventually listed its ordinary shares on the exchange, which happened nearly four years ago.

She now oversees a market that encapsulates nearly one trillion dollars of wealth.

Street Forrest told Gleaner Business that her new job remit would allow her to help create policy, while carrying on with the general management of the JSE. She said the managing director post and shedding of the company secretary role would give her more time to focus on JSE's development and implementation of initiatives.

"It will free up more of my time to ensure that objectives are met. It will allow us to move with alacrity to develop the JSE. The appointment was an important move to allow us to move to global standards," she said.

Street Forrest, under whose leadership the JSE was named the best performing market in the world in 2015, is keen on seeing the JSE expand its outreach to investors and listing prospects beyond Jamaica's shores, and not just those to be found in the diaspora, but mainstream targets in major metropoles, she said.

Street Forrest joined the Jamaica Stock Exchange in September 2000 as deputy general manager. In addition to her JSE role, she also became general manager for Jamaica Central Securities Depository, a job she held from 2003 to 2004.

In June 2004, she was promoted to JSE general manager, succeeding Wain Iton.

COMPANY LISTINGS

Under her leadership, the Jamaica stock market more than doubled listings, especially since the 2009 debut of the junior market of the JSE, which magnetises new listing with offers of a decade of tax waivers. Additionally, some listed companies have become inclined towards preference shares, issued through the market, as fundraising tools.

Company listings currently stand at around 65, of which 30 are juniors.

At least two of the companies appear largely inactive, operationally, but they remain in compliance with JSE rules.

"To the extent that the listed companies do not violate the rules we are not prepared to delist unless it is voluntary. JSE will have no recourse, as we have done in the past, but to delist a non- compliant company," said Street Forrest, emphasising the point that the JSE would act decisively to drop from its rolls those listed companies that breach the rules.

She adds that even where a company is largely inactive, it is in the interest of minority owners to have it remain listed, providing them an opportunity to trade the stock.

"If they were to be delisted, then minority shareholders wouldn't have a market to freely sell their shares. So once they are not violating the rules then we have taken the decision to let companies remain," the JSE boss said.

The JSE Group, which operates the local stock market, recorded over eight quarters of increased profit, indicating bullish activity for investors. JSE Group attributed the rise in net profit to increased investor activity, which results in increased fee income along with the wider range of products and services.

Last year, JSE Group increased earnings by 28 per cent to nearly $224 million. Revenues jumped to $866 million over the full year compared to $708 million a year earlier due to higher cess and fee income.

The financial performance of the company comes alongside record performance of the market itself.

The JSE Main Index closed at 227,721 points on Tuesday and is up some 18 per cent year to date. However, that's down from a peak of 235,110 points that the main index hit in early February.

The combined markets - which encapsulates the main index, USD market and junior stocks - are now capitalised at around $941 billion and poised to grow with new junior listings already in the works and as stocks continue to appreciate in value.

The JSEG has indicated that its outlook remains positive. The group said it would continue to pursue growth through the promotion of "new and existing markets" and new products and services. Among the upcoming services are depository receipts, which will allow Jamaican investors to invest indirectly in foreign stocks.

steven.jackson@gleanerjm.com