By Cary Springfield, International Banker
Jamaica has been experiencing significant changes in its economic climate over the past decade—especially so over the past year, with a change of national political leadership in 2016 leading to consolidation of a number of government efforts designed to aid economic development. With a population of approximately 2.7 million as of the start of 2017, the Jamaican economy has been predominantly driven by exporting natural resources as well as tourism historically, and has suffered from low growth for a number of decades. However, to remedy this situation, the Government of Jamaica (GoJ) enacted a number of policies to accelerate economic growth, which included an Extended Fund Facility (EFF) from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), providing a support package of US$932 million over the course of four years. In addition, the World Bank Group (WBG) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) have provided packages of $510 million each to facilitate the GoJ’s economic-reform agenda in a collective effort to stabilize the Jamaican economy whilst simultaneously reducing the nation’s debt burden. Further to this, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) provide support specifically targeted at private-sector development. A key aim of these support efforts is to foster the conditions for growth and consistency in economic resilience. During 2015 and 2016 these support policies began yielding results, with Jamaica experiencing significant jumps in confidence ratings and credit ratings on a global platform as well as receiving substantial increases in investor-capital inflows.
A stable and accessible financial sector and banking system will be invaluable in driving economic growth forward at a faster pace. Victoria Mutual Building Society (VMBS) is a key player in the Jamaican financial sector and has been a feature of the Jamaican lending landscape for more than a century. Applying a core mission to empower Members to acquire their own homes and achieve financial independence, VMBS operates under a unified framework that focuses on providing exceptional financial services to Members who reside across the globe.
Originally founded in 1878 by Reverend G.W. Downer, Rector of Kingston Parish Church, and a group of clergymen, VMBS was established to “meet the needs of the deserving thrifty” on a foundation of strong values and principles. The founders had a vision to empower the working-class Jamaican population through a system of mutual benefit and community purpose. The idea of pooling resources to help Jamaican nationals save money and eventually acquire homes has been the staple of VMBS since that time. That objective of funding a mutual financial institution to enable all Jamaicans to achieve the goal of becoming homeowners and being financially independent remains the overarching purpose of the institution today.
In providing empowerment to Members, Victoria Mutual has historically focused on retail-banking services—in particular, traditional savings and mortgage-loan products. As one of the leading providers of savings and mortgage solutions in Jamaica and the Caribbean, Victoria Mutual Building Society and its subsidiaries have built a reputation for offering a range of financial products and services that far exceeds those of alternative building societies in the Caribbean. To consistently meet customer needs, the organisation provides innovative solutions through multiple service channels and throughout all levels of operation, and strives to meet the cultural values VM prides itself on—Member focus, integrity, teamwork, innovation and excellence.
With a solid foundation of community-building values in place, the VM Group has evolved to meet the changing needs of its Members. As such, it has expanded its product range to now include wealth-management and financial-advisory services; real-estate and commercial-property management services; money-transfer services; foreign-exchange trading; pension-administration and investment-management services; as well as property, casualty and liability insurance. VM Wealth Management (VMWM) functions with the goal of optimizing customer wealth through skilled portfolio-management expertise whilst safeguarding financial wellbeing through the application of effective risk-management measures. The VMWM team offers personalized evaluation, expert analysis and advice to clients in navigating future market and economic conditions. Prime Asset Management Limited (Prime), the retirement-planning arm of VM, is focused on the long-term financial success of clients. Once an understanding of individual needs and objectives is ascertained, Prime commits its energies towards surpassing expectations. Prime ensures that clients get maximum returns on their investments and are educated about pension matters. VM offers additional products and services through other strategic business units. Victoria Mutual Money Transfer Services (VMTS) provides remittance and payment services, while Victoria Mutual Property Services (VMPS) supports the homeownership process by providing real-estate sales and rental services, island-wide property appraisals and valuations as well as commercial-property management services. Property, casualty and liability insurance are offered through British Caribbean Insurance Company (BCIC), a Victoria Mutual affiliate.
As the largest building society in Jamaica, Victoria Mutual serves Members across the island with accessible branches and ATMs. The first VMBS office was set up in Kingston, and this has since grown to a total of 16 branches across the island. The branch network has been designed and set up in such a way that branches provide committed local points of service on which Members can rely. Victoria Mutual has always created lifelong relationships and promotes a feeling of community between branch teams and local Members so that the building society may support its Members and customers with their financial needs across their lifespans—with the reassurance of having trustworthy service at hand.
Whilst Victoria Mutual is focused on its local-community-based approach, it concurrently has a global presence through its overseas representative offices. The first VMBS overseas office was established in the United Kingdom. This was followed by offices in Canada and the United States. As the first Jamaican financial institution to establish international offices, VM has demonstrated its ability to forge ahead into new territories as part of its ongoing goal of being a modern mutual. This overseas presence has proven effective in serving the needs of diaspora Members. Victoria Mutual overseas offices serve existing and potential Members and customers by providing product and service information, facilitating the opening of new accounts, accepting withdrawal requests as well as a number of other services.
At the helm of the Victoria Mutual Building Society is its president and CEO, Courtney Campbell. With more than two decades of business-leadership experience, Mr Campbell took up the CEO role in April 2016 and brings a wealth of industry knowledge, skill and strategic vision to the organization. Formerly CEO of First Global Bank and GraceKennedy Financial Group, Mr Campbell has an established track record of successful leadership in the financial sector, which includes 23 years at National Commercial Bank in various management roles. As a dynamic leader, he is applying his vast experience to his role at VM and is focused on strategically growing the society as a strong integrated financial group, whilst maintaining the integrity of the institution’s core values. He is positioning the organization to meet the evolution of the market as a Member-focused modern mutual, by serving Members with more effective products and innovative solutions. Mr Campbell has an MBA in Finance and is also a Member of the Chartered Institute of Bankers, London.
Victoria Mutual was established on a foundation of understanding the needs of people. As such, it places high importance on the skills and values of its workforce. VM recognizes that its team members are valuable assets, and having the right people has been an important driver of its success. The building society is committed to being an employer of choice, supported by robust talent-management and career-development programs that are structured to promote professional growth for its team members. There is also a wellness programme designed to maintain a skilled and healthy workforce with the goal of ensuring continued growth. This in turn helps VM to consistently deliver the most effective and engaging service experience to Members.
In addition to VM’s ongoing objective to support Jamaicans with their home-ownership goals, it also supports the development of the local community through various corporate-social-responsibility initiatives, in line with its strategic goal of being a model corporate citizen. VM aims to have positive, significant impact on youth and community development, with the goal of promoting character-building, family life and social stability on local and national levels. One of the main initiatives that the organization supports is the National Leadership Prayer Breakfast, which provides an opportunity for the key leaders of the nation to unite in prayer and seek divine direction for the development of the country. Further, the institution provides financial support for students at different educational levels through grants, bursaries and scholarships, enabling them to have an opportunity to reach their potential and contribute to the development of the nation. Sponsored sports include football, cricket and track and field. In addition, VM participates in a number of outreach programs—such as the United Way of Jamaica Donor Option Programme, in which VM gives donations to more than 75 charities in several areas of national importance, including health, education, sports, youth and community development.
Victoria Mutual Building Society has successfully maintained an approach of balancing its core community-based values with an expanding range of innovative products and services to meet customer needs over the 138 years it has been in business. Key to future development will be the ability to maintain this balance as the economy grows and develops over the coming years. These years are likely to see significant changes with new political leadership in place. VM will need to remain sensitive to market conditions and competition whilst maintaining a strategic focus on the high standards of customer service upon which it has built its reputation. With strong cultural values and expert strategic leadership currently in place, VMBS is well-positioned to successfully capture the potential opportunities over the horizon.