Sun | Apr 21, 2019

CreditInfo expands regionally, stores information in Jamaica

Published:Wednesday | April 17, 2019 | 12:09 AMAvia Collinder/Business Reporter
Craig Stephens, CEO of CreditInfo Jamaica Ltd.

CreditInfo Group, a privately owned Icelandic company that entered the Jamaican market nearly a decade ago, is now expanding in the region.

CredInfo partnered with Coalesce Credit Solutions Limited, a local company owned by entrepreneurs Damion Franklin and Craig Stephen, to create CreditInfo Jamaica Limited, CJL, around 2010. CJL is one of three credit bureaus licensed by the Bank of Jamaica to operate in the local market.

Stephen says that Jamaica “forms the information hub for CreditInfo Group in the region” and that the foreign company will be investing in excess of US$500,000 to expand its footprint further into the Caribbean over five years.

“We are utilising a highly secure, Tier III data centre in Jamaica. The equipment is renewed every five years, and since being licensed in 2012, we have already swapped out all old equipment for newer, better technology,” he said.

CreditInfo Jamaica is 20 per cent owned by CreditInfo Group. After launching in Jamaica, the Icelandic company won the sole tender for credit bureau services in Guyana, and it is about to start operating in Barbados. Thereafter, the ­company is looking to enter Eastern Caribbean markets.

“Currently, data from Guyana and Barbados are already stored here. Also, our expertise and regional know-how is leveraged to ensure quick start-up, reduce the ­learning curve and improve the legislative environment through the ­knowledge gained from Jamaica’s challenges,” said Stephen.

CreditInfo is targeting “possibly eight more Caribbean territories to host”, he added, “and therefore have built an infrastructure to support the entire Caribbean with high availability, security and redundancy”.

He added that whereas Jamaica has three credit bureau operations, the regional countries that ­followed chose a closed tender process and selected a single bureau to serve their markets “as it was discovered that the size of the markets would not allow for a healthy credit bureau industry if there were too many players”, he said.

“What you would find is that the market would take longer to get to optimum efficiency because financial institutions would take too much time trying to select between bureaus, and you will ­create an environment of ­information asymmetry because no single entity would have all the data,” he said.

He added that for Guyana, “the authority to allow for data to be stored across borders was a direct inclusion and lesson learned from the Jamaican operations”.

In Jamaica, the central bank has oversight of the credit bureau ­market. In its recently tabled annual report, the Bank of Jamaica said the three licensed credit bureaus experienced growth as the credit reporting market expanded, citing an increase in the number of credit information providers that were exchanging their customers’ credit information with the credit bureaus as well as an increase in the number of credit reports issued.

The market now has 51 information providers, while the number of credit reports issued by credit bureau, grew by five per cent last year, from 442,712 to 466,531.

Asked about the industry’s viability as an operator, Stephen said CreditInfo Jamaica, which entered the market in 2011 as the first licensed credit bureau and became fully operational in 2013, has “grown every year since” and expects that trajectory to continue.

“In Jamaica, it is a viable industry, and we have managed to get success here and in the wider Caribbean,” he said.

avia.collinder@gleanerjm.com