Tameka Gordon, Business Reporter
The Jamaica National financial services group has renewed its quest to become the nation's eighth commercial bank with the planned resub-mission of its application.
The building society, which marked its 139th anniversary on August 13, has restated its commitment to staying member-focused, as it seeks to offer new banking solutions to its clientele whose numbers top a million.
So important is the process to the group that a select committee has been tasked to man the resubmission of the application, said Earl Jarrett, general manager of Jamaica National Building Society (JNBS).
"That project has been moving very smoothly and we hope that by the beginning of the last quarter of this calendar year, we will be able to resubmit that application to the Bank of Jamaica," Jarrett reported at the institution's annual general meeting held in New Kingston on Wednesday.
"We are going to be pushing that far more aggressively," he said, noting a "significant effort" to meet the conditions of the regulators.
The nation's largest building society began its quest for a commercial licence from as far back as 2008, amid calls from the then Minister of Finance Audley Shaw for an expansion of the local commercial banking landscape.
One other financial services company, JMMB Group, is known to have a commercial banking licence application before the BOJ.
Jamaica currently has seven commercial banks with combined assets of J$690 billion and deposits totalling J$465 billion.
The number of commercial banks is down from the 11 that existed prior to the financial sector collapse in the late 1990s, when several financial-services institutions, including commercial banks, merchant banks and insurance companies, collapsed under the weight of mismatched long-term assets and short-term liabilities.
Meanwhile, JN's newest subsidiary, JN Life Insurance, "has begun to write premium business," Jarrett said. The company, which was originally incorporated in April 2008 as Blue Sapphire Limited, was renamed JN Life Insurance Company in September 2011.
JN Life is licensed to offer group or bulk mortgage protection insurance, according to an update posted on the company's website.
"This (bulk mortgage protection insurance) is a creditor life insurance policy which is acquired by mortgage companies or organisations to cover the life of a mortgagor, to enable the full repayment of the mortgage in event of the death or total disability of the mortgagor," it says.
JNBS has hired Oliver Tomlinson as general manager of the life subsidiary.
JNBS' operations span mortgages, life and general insurance, money-transfer services, microfinancing and small business loans, property services, wealth management and information technology.
The group rounded out the financial year ending March 31 with an asset base of J$144 billion, up by more than J$9 billion in a year, and equity of J$79 billion. Membership stood at more than 1.4 million served by a network of 34 branches.
Group profit fell in the period, from J$2 billion to J$920 million, largely due to a J$829-million hit from participation in February's National Debt Exchange. Revenue was close to flat at J$9.97 billion. For the society, the surplus declined from J$1.4 billion to J$313 million at FY 2012-13.
Amid what Jarrett described as improved internal efficiency in its mortgage operation, the building society made gains in the number of loans paid out over the financial year. Its portfolio grew to 17,418 loans of which 1,138 were new loans valued at over J$7 billion, a 58 per cent increase over the previous year.
The mortgage portfolio closed the year at J$46 billion, an increase of more than J$3.4 billion.