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Digital payback

GRACEKENNEDY, the Jamaican conglomerate whose businesses span supermarkets to financial services, has invested more than a J$1 billion in the digitisation of its services over the last three years, which, according to its CEO Don Wehby, is helping to improve not only the experience its customers receive but the efficiency of the group.

That, in turn, is sending income to the bottom line. But, according to Wehby, this is only the start. He has projected that over the next eight years up to eight in 10 transactions at some GraceKennedy businesses will be done digitally.

“Digitalisation has grown GraceKennedy’s customer base and improved our operating efficiency,” Wehby told Wednesday Business in an interview. “Our staffing levels have generally remained unchanged; however, because we are now serving more customers in the digital space, we have effectively become more efficient. It has also allowed us to redirect some of our team members to business development … more consumer-centric with specific measurable targets.”

While he did not reveal the entirety of the metric by which the company has judged the performance or the specifics of the outcomes, Wehby said that the companies that have been impacted most by the digitisation project have seen “growth in their revenues, primarily due to increased customer and transaction numbers”.

In 2022, as it emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic, GraceKennedy reported revenue of J$142.9 billion, an increase of J$13.6 billion, or 10.5 per cent, over the previous year.

Among the products Grace has rolled out in this foray into the digital marketplace is its GK One mobile app, launched last November. Among other things, the app allows users on entering the various service platforms to receive remittances via GraceKennedy’s Western Union operation; access banking services from the group’s First Global Bank (FGB); conduct insurance business at GK Insurance; pay bills via its BillExpress operation; and shop online from its Hi-Lo supermarket.

Additionally, last year GraceKennedy entered a partnership with Haven Technologies, a cloud-based quote-to-claim insurance technology solution, to offer digital life and health insurance products across the Caribbean.

So far, payback on the investment in digitisation has been mainly efficiency gains, but according to the group’s annual report, by the end of 2022, after a mere few months of operation, J$100 million in remittance was collected via the app.

Said Wehby: “The GK One prepaid Visa card associated with the app can be used to make payments anywhere where Visa cards are accepted and at over 700 ABMs across the island.

More important, though, is what is projected for the future.

Said Wehby: “GraceKennedy will continue to invest in the digitalisation of our business as we work towards achieving our 2030 vision,” Wehby said. “By 2030 we anticipate that 80 per cent of our transactions will be executed via digital channels.”

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