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GK to make cashless push in new Caribbean markets

Aiming to deploy its cashless app across Caribbean markets for remittances and other services, GraceKennedy Money Services, GKMS, is in talks with regulators in various countries.

It’s immediate regional target markets for the GK One app are Trinidad & Tobago, Guyana, Cayman Islands, and the British Virgin Islands.

GraceKennedy started rolling out the app in Jamaica last year, but while its services are available to the general public, the app is still undergoing tests inside the BOJ Fintech Sandbox, a project that the central bank leads to facilitate private sector innovation and the smooth rollout of digital financial services.

Currently the GK One wallet permits the receipt of remittances, said GraceKennedy Group CEO Don Wehby, and persons can access their cash via the accompanying prepaid Visa card backed by First Global Bank, which is also a member of the GraceKennedy Group.

GraceKennedy is also considering cross-selling of services including loans, insurance and stock purchases via the app.

On Monday, Wehby said talks have begun with several regulatory authorities regarding approval and use of the app in prospective markets.

“From our many years of experience operating in over 10 Caribbean territories, GK has learned that the needs of our customers are different in each market. Regulations also vary from territory to territory,” he said.

“With that in mind, we are in dialogue with regulators in each territory to confirm the specific requirements so we can deploy the most appropriate solution for each market.”

GraceKennedy expects to roll out the app in at least two markets this year, and two others in the first half of 2024.

“The work towards this is ongoing and is happening simultaneously in the four markets – Trinidad & Tobago, Guyana, Cayman Islands, and the British Virgin Islands,” Wehby said.

Once the GK One app is fully approved and deployed, Wehby expects that the company’s remittance service will become a 24-hour, 365-day operation, available even on public holidays.

“This transformation of our business model towards increasing GK’s digital remittance offerings is expected to grow our market share amongst customers who value that convenience,” he said.

In November 2022, GraceKennedy rolled out the new GK One app and card to all Western Union customers in Jamaica. Once loaded, the card is said to operate like an international prepaid debit card allowing the cardholder to withdraw funds at any local or international ABM where Visa is accepted. Users can pay bills and shop online through the app.

GKMS said in April that the company has distributed almost $300 million in remittances through the app. It also noted that the repeat rate for remittance customers utilising the app was about 69 per cent.

It’s an encouraging trend for the conglomerate, whose first mobile money product GK MPay had failed to gain traction after its launch in 2017 and was eventually pulled from the market.

“There are cost savings for our business, derived from the reduction in the number of remittance transactions requiring cash,” said Wehby.

“Even customers who go in store to receive remittances have the option of loading their funds directly to their mobile wallet in the app, thereby avoiding security issues associated with carrying cash,” he said.

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