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C&WJ credit union pushing ahead with digital initiatives

The Community & Workers of Jamaica Co-operative Credit Union Limited, C&WJ, will continue its digital buildout, but with an eye on the containment of cyberthreats, and will be targeting more young people as a source of new business, new CEO Joyce West-Johnson has said.

C&WJ has been on a digital transformation drive for several years, with one of its new initiatives last year being the launch of a chatbot called ‘Kerry’ as a customer support agent, and another the redesign of the online loan and membership application platform.

In an update for this year, West-Johnson, the credit union’s first female CEO since April 2022, said in this phase of C&WJ’s digital transformation, it “would develop a member intelligence system to generate a rich source of data for product research and creation”.

“This phase will also see the expansion of digital channels”, including online, mobile and wallets, she said, while addressing the members of the organisation at their annual meeting last week.

West-Johnson did not specify the gamut of digital innovations for this year, but previously announced that the C&WJ wanted to become part of the Jam-Dex digital currency network, offer online remittance transfers, and mobile payment Scan2Pay.

The credit union will also be embarking on a marketing campaign to deepen its relationship “with younger age demographics across the country”.

Last year, C&WJ, the only credit union with shares listed on the Jamaica Stock Exchange, made a surplus of $306 million, which was an 18 per cent improvement on the prior financial year.

Its interest income of $2.2 billion showed slight improvement, but the main component of it, loans to members, experienced a dip from $1.9 billion to $1.83 billion, due to softness in the loan market amid rising interest rates that make borrowing more costly.

At year end, total assets grew seven per cent, or $22.7 billion, with loans accounting for the majority at $13.08 billion.

Chairman Austin Brown said that the uncertainty that exists within the economy continues to be reflected in members’ relatively lower demand for loans.

“Management has been pursuing several initiatives to improve the performance of the loan portfolio, while preserving our strong credit quality,” he said. He noted that with inflation now trending down and the central bank pausing its interest rate hikes as a result, C&WJ was optimistic that loan demand from members would tick back up.

So far this financial year, in the first quarter ending March, amid an overall rise in interest income, the flows related to loans were tracking slightly higher at $465 million, compared to $446 million in the 2022 period.

The value of the credit union’s loan portfolio also recorded a small uptick to $13.3 billion.

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