Micro lenders, credit bureau sign MOU
"A significant milestone in the journey of the micro finance sector" was how chairman of the Jamaica Micro Financing Association (JaMFA), Hurshell Cyrus, described the recent signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with credit bureau CRIF NM Credit Assure Limited.
"We strongly support a partnership with CRIF NM, because now we will be in a better position to know who we are lending to and who our micro business partners are," Cyrus said.
JaMFA and CRIF NM, a global leader in credit bureaus and decisioning solutions for consumer and SME lending, which has been operating in Jamaica since 2012, signed the MOU last week Thursday at a function at Hotel Four Seasons in Kingston. It signalled the commencement of a partnership between 11 leading micro-finance institutions (MFIs), members of JaMFA, for the provision of credit information on would-be borrowers by CRIF NM.
Cyrus said that it was the latest achievement by JaMFA in lobbying for improvements to the sector, which have included: salary deductions for repayments of loans; introduction of the Security Interest in Personal Property (SIPP) registry; and exemptions under the Money Lending Act to allow the MFIs to lend above the prescribed government rate and to access the resources of credit bureaus.
"We have been strong advocates for a credit bureau act from as far back as 2009, and I really hail this partnership with CRIF. I know that it is something that will help us grow from strength to strength and is one more step for us in becoming a fully recognised sector," he said.
Responding, CRIF NM's Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Terrence Cooper, observed that the MFAs have been faithfully filling the gap created by the lack of response to the micro financing needs
of marginalised and disadvantaged Jamaicans.
"I think that the MFIs have been filling that gap, and I think they will continue to grow and evolve into a very dominant force that has to be acknowledged and recognised," Cooper said.
He pointed out that CRIF NM has been around since 2012, when it was licensed to operate as a credit bureau by the Bank of Jamaica.
He said that Jamaica's credit bureaus have brought uniformity and consistency to the micro finance sector, by providing proper credit assessment of any person seeking a loan from these companies, as well as ensuring proper data formatting by providing a standard data format that all bureaus must conform with.
JaMFA's executive director, Raymond Gabbidon, said that the MOU with CRIF NM was the first in a series planned by the association, which are to be signed with other stakeholders, including Jamaica National Life Insurance, to insure applicants for loans from its members.
He said that JaMFA has been the voice of the micro finance sector for many years, and intends to continue promoting the ideals that are critical to the growth of the sector and trust in the lending companies.
"But our organisation is definitely not an old boys' club and it is not a talk shop. Everything that has been done to advance this sector has had its origins in the halls of JaMFA," he argued.
JaMFA was founded in October 2009, to change the image and conduct of moneylenders in Jamaica's micro-finance sector. Another of its goals was to be recognised by both private and public employers who, previously, often refused to permit loan repayments by way of salary deduction.
As of 2012, the members of JamFA had a combined loan portfolio of approximately $6 billion.
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