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C&WJ credit union charting digital future

Community & Workers of Jamaica Cooperative Credit Union, C&WJCCU, is looking towards a digital future and is already transforming some services. At the same time, CEO Joyce West-Johnson is vowing not to close any of the 21 branches.

“The one thing that is big for us is that we want to satisfy our members. We have no intention of closing any of our branches. Digitisation is adding to what we already have. It is not a replacement,” West-Johnson told the Financial Gleaner after the credit union’s annual general meeting.

C&WJCCU is the first and only credit union to list its deferred shares on the Jamaica Stock Exchange, making the community bank not only answerable to its members, but also the market.

Credit unions have had to issue deferred shares or increase membership shares in order to fall in line with Bank of Jamaica regulatory requirements.

At the meeting, West-Johnson told members that C&WJCCU had started its digital transformation by expanding member online access to counter limitations on physical access that had beset business during the COVID-19 pandemic.

C&WJCCU has also introduced its own debit card in conjunction with MasterCard, launched its own app, and revamped the company’s website.

The next frontier will be the development of digital products for distribution to members.

“We will soon be introducing mobile payments. I cannot say more on that at this time, but that will be an area of definite focus,” said West-Johnson.

The credit union’s 21 branches are spread across nine parishes and are enhanced by a mobile unit that is deployed as needed and is in operation two to three times per week.

“If one of our branches feel that they want to get a little closer to a different set of customers, then they ask the mobile branch to set up in those locations and they determine the days it is wanted,” the CEO said.

“It goes to different locations in the various parishes to support the local branches, depending on where it is needed,” she said.

C&WJCCU, which has been in operation since 1961, has just over 136,000 members with assets of $21.28 billion. Its surplus at year ending December 2021 was $259 million, substantially down from $418 million in 2020.

For the first quarter ended March 2022, the credit union reported earnings of $28 million, up 45 per cent relative to the prior year.

West-Johnson, who succeeded Carlton Barclay as CEO two and a half months ago on April 1, says the fall-off in surplus at the credit union at the end of 2021 was no different from what obtained in the rest of the financial sector.

She added that in response to the business downturn, commercial banks, for example, have looked to increased fees, credit card revenue, and foreign exchange dealings to shore up earnings.

“Credit unions are not in that space. We decided that we would not burden our members with a hike in fees, so those have remained moderate,” West-Johnson said.

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