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NCB cuts Lynk jobs in hunt for cash to pay dividends

NCB Financial Group is restructuring its fintech subsidiary TFOB (2021) Limited, which trades as Lynk, resulting in job losses particularly among employees engaged as contractors. It is also likely to affect some department heads.

NCB has not detailed the size of the job cuts, saying that the changes are still being implemented. For now, the banking conglomerate is only reporting that the restructuring, which is a cost-cutting measure, “will affect less than 2 per cent of the total workforce” across the entire group, but reports from sources familiar with the matter say that about 30 employees attached to Lynk have been affected by the restructuring.

“In addition to these staff adjustments, our restructuring includes a thoughtful assessment of our contractor engagements … the current measures involve difficult decisions,” said NCB Financial in a statement.

It is understood that a number of departments, including Lynk’s sales, marketing, operations, and human resources, will now be managed by existing teams within NCB Financial Group.

Launched in December 2021, Lynk has made significant progress over the past two years, hitting some $10 billion in transactions since its inception while onboarding some 5,000 merchants and signing up more than 200,000 users. Its performance far exceeds that of NCB Quisk, the first mobile money solution launched by NCB in 2016. NCB Quisk is set to be discontinued effective September 30.

Despite Lynk’s performance, the fintech company was deemed to be one of the businesses within the group from which NCB could squeeze savings.

Under NCB Financial’s transitional leadership, Interim CEO Robert Almeida and Chairman Michael Lee-Chin are said to be reviewing the different divisions of the group for possible areas to cut costs, with the intention of positioning Jamaica’s top banking conglomerate to start paying dividends again after a two-year hiatus.

Prior to early 2021, the banking group paid dividends within a range of $1.2 billion to $2.4 billion on a quarterly basis. Around 60 per cent or more of those funds generally flow to Lee-Chin and his companies.

In a spillover of the bank’s boardroom affairs in public, there was a sudden upheaval in the leadership last month. Almeida, who is a business partner of Lee-Chin’s and a director of NCB Financial, was tapped on July 17 to replace to Patrick Hylton as interim boss, while Malcolm Saddler took over as interim finance chief, a role formerly held by Dennis Cohen.

Hylton and Cohen are to be replaced permanently, but Chairman Lee-Chin and NCB Financial’s board are yet to announce their formal severance from the company despite the roll-off of the initial three-week period of leave.

“Our intent and expectation is that these changes will result in a positive impact on our operations,” NCB Financial said of the ongoing review and restructuring.

“We are executing strategies to reduce our cost-to-income ratio as part of the pathway to resuming dividends,” it said.

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