Jamaica National launches UK bank to address de-risking, financial inclusion

Jamaica National Group’s newest subsidiary, JN Bank in the United Kingdom, aims to address financial inclusion for the unbanked and under-banked, and provide correspondent banking services for other Caribbean banks, according to the group’s CEO, Earl Jarrett.

JN is the first Caribbean-owned bank to be established in the UK.

Quoting a 2017 report on financial inclusion in the UK, Jarrett said there were about 1.23 million people in Britain who are underserved by banks or not served at all.

“Financial inclusion is not just a Caribbean problem. In the UK, there is a working paper on how they are going to improve on financial inclusion. It is estimated that four to five per cent of the working population does not have access to banking services and those are primarily persons who have small businesses; persons who don’t feel welcomed in the mainstream banking environment,” Jarrett said at an 8 Oct. virtual event launching JN Bank in the UK, according to a press release from JN.

“It is our hope that through the JN Bank, we will be able to provide banking services to those individuals, whatever their racial background or wherever they are from, so they too can achieve their personal objectives.”

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Jarret said digitalisation was a true enabler of inclusion, allowing everybody to participate.

JN Bank was granted a full banking licence by UK regulators last year. The bank will be digital with a physical branch in Brixton in South London.

It will initially offer retail savings and personal loan products, targeting the Caribbean community, as well as the wider UK market.

The JN Group CEO said the intent of the bank is also to provide services to Caribbean banks, several of which have had their correspondent banking relationships in the UK severed.

Recounting JN’s own experience with de-risking by UK banks in 2015, Jarrett said the long-term objective is to provide solutions for financial entities from the region.

“We, in the Caribbean space, are all fairly small nation states which must be deeply connected to the global financial networks,” he said, noting that Caribbean diasporas across the world need financial services to maintain connections to their homeland.

“The global financial networks provide the ‘financial’ oxygen that is required. The current absence of correspondent banking takes away the ‘financial’ oxygen from the region, and the region, therefore, cannot breathe,” he said.

In a message, Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness acknowledged the challenges for banks from the Caribbean and congratulated JN for taking a “bold” step to establish a bank in the UK.

“I’m proud of The Jamaica National Group for embarking on this initiative to address a pressing need of our Diaspora and people in the UK. As the first Caribbean-owned bank in the UK, JN Bank will not only provide financial services to strengthen the achievements of our people, but will work closely with communities to build them and create greater opportunities for people of Caribbean heritage to prosper and realize their best potential,”  Holness said.

Britain’s High Commissioner to Jamaica and the Bahamas, Asif Ahmad, said in a message to the group, “The challenge now is to do more, and we will be with you Jamaica National as you go forward.”

He said, “It’s not just about linking the Diaspora of people from Jamaica in and around the world who want to bring their resources here, but it’s also an opportunity for banks in the Caribbean to use the correspondent banking services, which Jamaica National will be able to offer. That basically means Jamaica National could be the banker to the banks.”

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