Jamaica’s first digital bank kicks off with free money

Jamaica’s first digital-based all-inclusive lending company has announced its presence in a big way.

The company is distributing $50,000 grants to eight people within its targeted customer base for Christmas in hopes of planting a “seed” in their lives towards financial freedom.

Seed Jamaica is run by Michael Lee-Chin Jr., the son of bank owner Michael Lee-Chin, along with banking and financial experts Andrew Paterson and Adrian Dunkley. Dunkley is known for his roles in compliance, risk management and communications.

The company is currently awaiting Bank of Jamaica approval to launch “but we can’t really wait to do that,” Dunkley said. Loop News of the grant initiative.

“We had that in our planning calendar to give out these grants. There is no expectation of profit. We are waiting for the launch, but there are people who need it and Christmas is coming. That’s why we started this initiative,” Dunkley explained.

The company has teamed up with social media influencer Danar Royal – better known as Dan Dan – for the giveaways.

“They [the applicants] make a video and tell us what they plan to do with the money [and] we’ll need a certain amount of information from them… to make sure it’s not impersonation – so there’s a know your customer (KYC) level and then there is a very simple interview, nothing big,” Dunkley said.

“The project is to enlarge it. It’s going to be a consistent offer, not just eight… We know there’s a risk. We know they can just take the money and splurge for Christmas, but we can’t really wait for someone else to do it,” Dunkley said, emphasizing the need to make a real contribution to the financial betterment of those the bank will serve.

Seed Jamaica is a digital bank that “primarily targets people who can’t get a loan from anyone else. People who have never even filled out a form [before]who really need the support, but a bank or credit union or [other] financial institution will not take any risk with them,” Dunkley said.

The grant initiative kicked off this week and is intended to be a regular feature of the company’s operations. The timing of the start of Christmas represents an opportunity to plant a “seed” in the lives of those who will benefit from the Christmas season, Dunkley explained.

“People are frustrated and not having the right opportunity to do what they need to do and we understand the time sensitivity…” he said.

“…Working in traditional financial entities, I understand the flaws in how we assess people and how we treat them,” he said of the traditional risk assessment process and of the company’s decision to go against the grain to create “financial freedom”. for its target market.

The company’s business model takes a completely different approach to traditional banking. Seed will take the risk of supporting those who are generally shunned by traditional lenders.

“We’re redefining how lending works by creating an inclusive service system that doesn’t discriminate by socioeconomic status, but based on customer needs and wants,” the company said in its press release.

“It is a question of financially supporting the newcomers. We see this uncertainty as a positive. They have untapped potential that we can basically develop, hence the name Seed,” Dunkley said.

“We take a risk on them. It’s a big risk, but it’s actually my expertise,” said the fintech executive, who worked for more than a decade in compliance and risk management.

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Seed adopts a new risk assessment methodology that is now reshaping the banking industry.

“It is a methodology that focuses on the growth of individuals over the long term. We are currently ahead of the curve in terms of ambitious goals as well as the whole approach of the organization”, a- he declared.

Dunkley, explaining the company’s approach to risk and exposure management, said he was currently pursuing his PhD “in this whole new approach to assessing the risk of individuals – so we’re covered at this topic”.

Seed does not aim to gain market share in the sector now dominated by micro-lenders, but rather to strengthen the financial situation of those who have not been reached.

“Our segment is not even on the radar of the microfinance target… There is a large segment of the population who can properly pay the loans but no one will touch them so we see ourselves as a freedom enabler finance,” he said.

Discussions of financial inclusion have typically referred to the unbanked and underbanked, but for Seed, this market segment is much more accessible than traditional banks have been willing to assume.

“There’s a gap in the market that nobody’s really trying to fill right now. They say they are, but they’re not really trying to fill it because to fill it you have to do things operationally. So it’s used more as a marketing ploy,” he explained.

Due to its business model, Seed will “in fact [be] develop the microfinance market.

“Once these people come on board and are able to grow, then they can move on to more established entities that can take the risk on them,” Dunkley said.

By Tameka Gordon