Even as COVID-19 continues to decimate small businesses and render many companies unable to operate in general, the Jamaica National Small Business Loans (JNSB) arm has extended a hand to its many customers, especially micro-entrepreneurs whose lives have been taken away due to the pandemic .
JNSB, which describes itself as a specialized lender for small businesses, with a loan portfolio of more than $ 4 billion covering more than 20,000 customers, works with such entities that can range from a small manufacturing store to a supplier on the road that can be classified as a microentrepreneur paving the way for better days.
The company, which offers loans of up to $ 20,000, is currently the largest specialized small business lender in the Caribbean, according to JNSB general manager Gillian Hyde, who recently spoke at Jamaica Observer Business Forum.
“We serve some of Jamaica’s most vulnerable communities. These people would not have access to financial services, which include credit from commercial banks. JN spent a lot of time trying to implement the right processes and procedures for those who do not have access to traditional assets. We believe in an idea, a possibility, an opportunity and service that vision “, said Hyde to the Business Forum.
The company’s focus is to ensure that no more than 5% of its portfolio is at risk of not being paid in seven days. Due to this careful risk management, JNSB pays its customers 1.5 times more than their book value in a given year.
“JNSB has been very sensitive to their needs and works with them to repay loans, while helping them to run their businesses.
“All customers who have a relationship with JNSB must have a savings account, which is a fundamental stepping stone to putting the customer on a solid financial path. This relationship is quite different, especially since each client receives a relationship officer who goes to where they operate and works with them at that level, “said Hyde.
With the advent of COVID-19, JNSB responded quickly to its customers, especially those in the tourism sector, as the portfolio at risk over the course of a week soared to more than 50 percent at the end of March. This meant providing payment holidays, a moratorium and even debt forgiveness for some customers.
“What COVID did really reminded us that these large networks are served by micro-entrepreneurs. The micro-sector would have suffered the impacts of COVID from January to February. When COVID arrived in March, our micro-entrepreneurs suffered tremendously and continue to be impacted. We would have implemented a complete set of products and lifeline services to help these customers in difficult times.
“Our micro-entrepreneurs have really shown JN over the years that they have a strong commitment to retribution. We work with them to understand and manage debt, ”said Hyde.
Despite the initial impact of the virus, most of its customers managed to get back on a solid path and moved online to apply for the financing they need. Hyde described this as a journey that the company had to take customers, especially since most of them are not used to digital and are used to the high-contact form of business engagement.
“JNSB has made it easier for many of its customers to access the services of its affiliate JN Bank, which would include superior products, such as certain structured loans and corporate credit cards. By using these services provided by JN Bank, these customers can process payroll, automate loan disbursement to employees and access other services under the umbrella of the JN Group. There is also the added benefit of using the refund feature, which would allow customers to take some money and get it back to work. “
Even with a vaccine in sight, new testing requirements for some North American countries have threatened to undermine part of the recovery the tourism industry has been waiting for since March. Despite this, Hyde explained that the JNSB is working carefully with clients in this sector and related areas to manage its debts in this uncertain period.
“Through our support and partnership with the Tourism Enhancement Fund, we operate a strong loan portfolio on your behalf. We continue to extend special moratoriums and pay holidays and work with them individually to ensure that we see them during this period, ”she said.
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