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Lee-Chin Jr’s Seed Investments lands microcredit licence

Seed Investments, a company led by Michael Lee-Chin Jr, has received approval from the Bank of Jamaica to operate as a microlender.

The company, which is the newest entrant in the microfinance sector, says it will hit the ground with loans targeted at Jamaica’s unbanked and underbanked before widening its product offerings to target a broader client?le. Its long-term goal is to enter the banking sector.

As part of its market- entry strategy, Seed Investments wants to compete on the interest rate charged on the funds it lends as well as customer-service delivery. Its loans are currently capped at $200,000.

The microfinance sector is said to be populated by over 200 operators, a good portion of which are reportedly off the radar, in a market that was unregulated until the recent passage of the Micro Credit Act 2021 and accompanying regulations that placed such businesses under the Bank of Jamaica’s regulatory umbrella.

The central bank is now responsible for general administration as well as the supervision of microcredit institutions, under the new law, while the Consumer Affairs Commission is responsible for developing a code of conduct for licensees and investigating customer complaints.

The BOJ said last November that it had more than 100 applications for licences being processed. The central bank then disclosed the names of the first five institutions to be granted licences, namely, Access Financial Services Limited, Trublu Financial Services Limited, Kingston Finance Limited, Nykhana Investment Company Limited, and Kris An Charles Investments Company Limited.

In an updated list on Friday, the central bank said 13 licences had now been issued, with the other eight being Dolla Financial Services Limited, Eppley Consumer Finance Limited, which is fully owned by investment company Eppley Limited, Stewart Finance Jamaica Limited, AIM Financial Corporation Limited, Bluestart Capital (Jamaica) Limited, Worldnet Microfinance Limited, Investment Options Un Limited and now, Seed Investments have disclosed that they, too, have received their permits, bringing the confirmed licensees to at least eight.

Lee-Chin Jr launched his company last October around a campaign in which it was seeking to issue over $50,000 in grants to approximately eight customers in different cycles.

The company, which was banking on getting the green light from the BOJ in time for the 2022 festive season, indicated that it had plans to “plant the seed of financial freedom” for potential clients needing funds to undertake various Christmas expenditure activities.

“This is the culmination of many people’s efforts, and I want to thank the BOJ for working with us to bring this dream to fruition,” said Lee-Chin Jr, the son of billionaire investor Michael Lee-Chin, in a press release.

“This is only the first step in a vision that Seed has to offer credit to those in need. We are excited to plant Seeds in hard-working people and communities, and, in turn, help Jamaica be the land we know it is destined to be,” he said.

The Seed Investments team is said to have track records in finance, technology, marketing, and communications.

Lee-Chin describes the company as a digital, inclusive financial service, which effectively means that clients will be able to complete the entire loan process online and via mobile devices.

“From sign-up to approval and disbursement of funds, you will have total digital access,” he said.

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