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First Global looks for growth in new business

Published:Sunday | February 21, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Following through on the mantra of the GraceKennedy group to grow its core busi-nesses through the introduction of new products and services, the conglomerate's subsidiary banking business, First Global Bank, has placed two new credit cards on the market.

The bank is promising "lower interest rates and a minimal maintenance fee" for its new Visa corporate and business credit cards.

In a statement, assistant vice-president of e-business, Dalton Fowles, said the bank's decision to enter this segment was driven by research findings that confirmed that there are service gaps in the segment, on which the bank intends to capitalise.

The statement quoted Fowles as saying that the cards could be used anywhere in the world and billed in Jamaican dollars, thereby reducing the exchange-rate risk and eliminating the need to source currency.

First Global Bank will be giving companies a special six-month introductory interest rate of 35 per cent on the cards to attract business and establish a foothold in the market.

In its recently released financials for 2009, parent, GraceKennedy, noted, "The severity of the global recession had an adverse effect on the demand for our products and services," including the banking operation.

Despite this, the conglomerate reported strong profit growth for the 12 months ending December 2009, netting $2.7 billion in after-tax profit.

At a recent group-investor briefing, head of GK Investments, Courtney Campbell, who also heads up day-to-day operations at First Gobal, said this year, the bank would continue to make a concerted market push.

"We are going to be developing all the products that will ensure our superiority in the market in terms of services," he said.

He added that a partnership agreement signed between the bank and the World Bank private sector investment arm, International Finance Corporation (IFC), in January 2009, yielded not just US$20 million in equity, but also the ability for the bank to leverage the IFC's strength in terms of product and service development and delivery.

Noting that the bank would be capitalising on falling interest rates, Campbell said the new climate held significant opportunities for loan growth.

"We expect to be a leading supplier of loan financing to Jamaican businesses that are credit worthy," he pointed out.

First global recorded a 47 per cent growth in non-interest income in 2009.

business@gleanerjm.com