The credit union that serves Jamaica's nurses has chosen to open its membership to doctors and other medical professional as the preferred path to growth, says CEO Dr Desreen Marquis.
While other credit unions are strengthening their operations through mergers, the former Nurses Association of Jamaica Co-operative Credit Union says it has chosen to grow through expansion of its current 3,125 membership base.
With the opening of its bond to other health professionals, the credit union has been renamed the NAJ & Health Services Co-operative Credit Union (NAJ-HSCCU). Its membership is now open to all nurses, midwives, registered medical doctors and other health-care providers as well as their spouses, children, nieces, nephews, brothers and sisters.
The credit union acquired new property at the top of the year to facilitate its expansion.
Touting its differentiated services, Marquis, who holds a PhD in management, says the credit union returns its surplus to members by way of dividends; and pays loan protection and life savings on the behalf of members - services that will be used as selling points to entice new business.
"With the widening of the bond, the credit union is expecting to grow membership by 100 per cent, aggressively grow loans by 50 per cent, savings by 30 per cent, and assets by 20-30 per cent within this financial year," Marquis told the Financial Gleaner.
The credit union ended its last financial year with a smaller surplus, which was down 48 per cent from J$18.77 million in 2011 to J$9.8 million at year end December 2012.
The NAJ-HSCCU is a small credit union with J$465 million of assets and a loan portfolio valued at J$306 million. Loans were down two per cent last year, but Marquis hopes to rebuild business from its new target market.
Said the CEO: "2012 was a very tough year", explaining that nurses were inclined to borrow less during the period.
"The board of directors believes that the credit union has a wide market that is not yet tapped into, so instead of considering mergers, they proposed the widening of the bond to include more of the health-service fraternity," Marquis said.
The resolution to open the bond was passed at the company's 37th annual general meeting on June 1.
The credit union began the year with the acquisition of new offices at 6 Trevennion Park Road, Kingston, for J$30 million, but continues to operate from rented space at Winchester Business Centre on Hope Road, for now.
"Before the widening of the bond, the board of directors thought it prudent to consider the expansion of the physical structure of the credit union to accommodate future growth."
The credit union offers savings and deposit accounts, first and second mortgages, car loans, unsecured loans, and VISA credit cards, among other services.