Avia Collinder, Business Reporter
Sagicor Bank Jamaica will open a sixth branch on January 14 at the old Blue Cross Building on Hope Road held by parent company Sagicor Life Jamaica.
The building has been idle since Sagicor acquired the health portfolio and headquarters of Blue Cross of Jamaica from Dr Henry Lowe in 2009, for J$1.7 billion, but is now being retrofitted to accommodate the bank.
Managing director Phillip Armstrong also said Tuesday that said another two branches may be added over the next 18 months.
Armstrong said the new banking hall, which will be the second branch in Kingston, is intended to attract new clientele. The bank, which is the smallest of seven commercial banking operations in Jamaica, aims to change its market position by growing its network and its products.
Jamaica's commercial banking sector is valued at J$690 billion by assets, according to central bank data. Sagicor Bank's share is just under J$20 billion or less than three per cent, which is behind corporate banking specialist Citibank NA's J$22 billion. Sagicor's share of the loan market is two per cent or J$6.7 billion, which puts it at No. 6 ahead of Citibank's J$4 billion portfolio.
"This branch is just another avenue to expand our distribution channels," said Armstrong. It will be located at 85 Hope Road, just up the road from Citibank, which operates from the corner of Hillcrest Avenue and Hope Road.
"It's centrally located and it's our view the value that we will be creating will be the addition of new customers. We will employ an additional 14 or so persons," he said.
Sagicor Life had considered selling the building initially.
Armstrong would not say how much the retrofitting cost. However, a Sagicor representative told Wednesday Business that the bank will take up a portion of the building, about 5,000 square feet, and that the rest of the space has been fully committed to other clientele.
Sagicor Bank is still hunting locations to expand further.
"We intend to have one or two more branches within the next 18 months subject to us finding the right locations," said Armstrong.
"Branches are expensive to build and maintain, so we have to be convinced that each location has a chance to be profitable," he said.
Sagicor Bank Jamaica Limited is a reincarnation of Pan Caribbean Merchant Bank, which transititoned from the merchant banking sector to full commercial banking in 2008.
It was initially renamed PanCaribbeanBank Limited, but along with Pan Caribbean Financial Services, was renamed in December 2012 to align with the brand of the ultimate parent operation in Barbados, Sagicor Financial Corporation.
Also in December, the boutique bank announced its intention to compete around lower fees and new products and services.
In addition to current and savings accounts, debit cards and other standard banking services, it rolled out Sagicor Bank offers PriorityMe - a low entry-level current account with a built-in savings component, as well as 9.95 per cent auto loan facility and interest-bearing current accounts.
The bank's current five branches are located in New Kingston, Montego Bay, Mandeville, Ocho Rios, and Savanna-la-Mar.