Business

First Global Bank expanding network Global Money Link

BY JOSIMAR SCOTT
Observer writer

Friday, August 11, 2017

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GraceKennedy's First Global Bank (FGB) is pushing to increase its banking network across the country, while revolutionising the banking space, with the introduction of First Global Money Link.

Launched last Thursday at Paper Gold Ltd — a GraceKennedy Money Services partner agent — on Half-Way-Tree Road, Global Money Link provides convenience and ease of access to [FGB] customers... to do their transactions” through various retail outlets, according to Norman Thompson, vice-president of personal and business banking, in his welcoming address. He also coined the new initiative “a mini branch experience”.

The bank, so far, has four “traditional” branches in the Corporate Area — New Kingston, Manor Park, Liguanea, and downtown Kingston — as well as in Mandeville, Manchester; Ocho Rios, St Ann; and Montego Bay, St James.

“And we're getting ready to open Portmore in October. That's one of our last kind of traditional branches, and then everything else after this now is going to be the innovative mini branch or it's a mini branch by Money Link or an agency bank,” Mariame McIntosh Robinson, president of FGB, revealed in an interview with the Jamaica Observer.

She explained that the rationale behind penetrating the market with the mini branch model vis-a-vis the launch of Global Money Link is not confined solely to increasing the bank's customer base, but offering customers a superior banking experience.

“We came up with this concept early this year because we realised that there was a gap, there was a need. A number of our competitors are actually rolling out express branches for cost minimisation, so cost reduction for First Global Bank, we're doing this as a growth play. We believe that we have great products and services to offer the wider public, and this is the most cost-efficient way to do this,” McIntosh Robinson said earlier while addressing the launch gathering.

To this end the bank will be investing in user-friendly technology designed to meet customers' needs while being easy for them to figure out, as well in training of the bank's personnel to respond quickly to customer concerns.

According to the president, FGB is guided by the double bottom line concept in which the bank does well financially, while customers take advantage of banking services.

“We want to always have growth year over year, and profitable growth at that, but our goal is not to gain market share for the sake of gaining market share. Our goal is to revolutionise the banking sector — that banks treat customers the same way a shoe store treats a customer,” McIntosh Robinson stated, noting that the bank enjoys approximately five per cent market share in deposits, assets and loans.

“We recognise that people come to banks because they have to do banking, not because the enjoy [it like] buying a shoe or buying food, which is a different feeling that it invokes. But at the same time, there is a lot more that the sector can do to really treat customers as if they are customers,” she told the Caribbean Business Report.

McIntosh Robinson argued that the current set-up of banks can be very intimidating, especially with wide open spaces and various lines, leaving customers confused about where to go to get business. She also said another drawback for customers doing business with banks is the language used by those in the industry who, rather than using layman terms, confuse customers with a lot of financial jargon.

Asked if the new First Global Money Link is the manifestation of the company's thrust toward agency banking, McIntosh Robinson responded in the negative, while differentiating the two.

“This morning, what you see here today is not an agency bank. This is our own footprint sectioned off as our own mini branch offering the same services, more or less, which is withdrawals, you can do deposits, payment on anything, and you can check account balances. But the interesting thing that you can do here at the mini branch is you can also open an account. At the agency bank it's all transactional; you can't actually open accounts, which is part of the regulations. You have to open it in a mini branch or a traditional branch. So we're strategically locating the agency banks and the mini branches to support each other, to facilitate account opening, so that no Jamaican citizen is more than an hour away from any FGB location,” the FGB president clarified.

“So we're still going full speed again into agency banking, again with the goal of serving the wider Jamaican public more effectively. But we are actually currently in the process of getting approval as a bank to offer agency banking, and then we've identified four locations, for the remainder of this year, which we are going to be submitting to the regulators for their fit and proper approval. So we hope to be opening up to four agency banks by the end of this year,” McIntosh Robinson informed the CBR.

The FGB also highlighted the contribution of GKMS to the development of the First Global Money Link programme.

“GraceKennedy Money Services [is our] very successful sister company and we're honoured to be able to partner with them as we roll out more of our banking services throughout Jamaica. We have a number of locations throughout the island and the fact that we can partner not just with GKMS, but their agents whom they have a very strong relationship with, as we continue to benefit all stakeholders, is very fulfilling and rewarding to us,” McIntosh Robinson said.

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