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BUSINESS LOUNGE

From $10,000 to $500 million marcus james’ success story Andre Burnett - Your Money Reporter n the year 2000, ten thousand Jamaican dollars was worth a lot more than it does now, especially to Marcus James, founder and one of the directors of Access Financial Services Ltd. In fact $10,000 was the exact sum of actual cash that Mr. James had when he decided to start his company back in 2000. With this modest sum and a line of credit obtained from Development Options Ltd., Mr. James has turned Access Financial Services into a true Jamaican Success story in less than a decade. This success was further affirmed recently when Access offered a 20% stake in the company to the public though an I.P.O with a target of raising a $100 million, a target that was achieved in two working days.

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“I’ve always had the sort of entrepreneurial drive to start my own business and banking and finance is what I’ve always done, in school and in my employment experiences” said James,” Access is the midpoint of all these factors”. Mr. James holds an M.Ba in Banking and Finance from the University of the West Indies and a Bachelor’s in Banking and Accounting from Western Carolina University where he nurtured some of his entrepreneurial spirit. The Access boss said laughingly, “I used to carry all types of Jamaican t-shirts, caps and stuff to sell to schoolmates…it was a good little business, man”. Mr. James revealed to the Business Lounge that he had no real reservations about the new responsibilities of managing a publicly listed company. “Mayberry (investments), which is a publicly listed company, purchased 49% of the company in 2006 so that exposed us to the reporting and corporate governance that is necessary to make this work.” With this hurdle overcome, Mr. James has set his sights on establishing a branch of Access in every town in the country thus making the reach of Access Financial unparalleled. The Access Director pointed out that micro businesses account for about 39% of the employment in the country and he acknowledges that a company like his plays a vital role in increasing the vibrancy of the economy. When asked about measures that could be employed to make the lending process more efficient, Mr. James referred to the proposed Credit Risk Rating agency which he says he has been advocating since he started Access.

“Lending money is about managing risk and more information about a person lowers the risk and potentially lowers the rates being offered.” The business man left the Business Lounge with some wisdom regarding the interest debate in Jamaica. “We all want lower interest rates but it has to be a balancing act where it is lowered in a sustainable manner, said Mr. James,” in the past it has been lowered only to return to higher lev- Marcus James, CEO of Access Financial Serels soon after, vices places his company’s name on the trading we just have to board of the Jamaica Stock Exchange (JSE), try to do what looking on is General Manager of the JSE, Marlene Street-Forrest and Former Minister without is best for Ja- Portfolio in the Ministry of Finance, Don Wehby maica in the long run”


YOUR MONEY INSIGHTS

The gravity of governance: a look at central bANK LEADERSHIP Andre Burnett - Your Money Reporter

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here is a school of thought that posits that there is a unique relationship that links the stability of central bank leadership, central bank independence (CBI) and the attractiveness of a country with regards to foreign investment. In less than a week, Jamaica has seen the resignation of thirteen year Central Bank Governor, Derick Latibeaudiere and a Standard and Poor’s rating downgrade which some may describe as an unwarranted knee-jerk reaction. The timing of the resignation raises flags, but whether it represents a failure in the efforts of our officials or the opportunity to forge forward remains to be seen. In a 2006 paper, the Swiss researchers hypothesized that a high turnover rate (TOR) of central bank governors indicated a lower level of independence in the Central Banking system. Essentially, the instability at the helm of the central bank suggests interference or manipulation by external forces more than likely political ones. A well known example is 1980’s Argentina where the average term of a governor was close to a year. It would seem that the Central bank head changed whenever there was a change in government or even a change in the finance ministry. At first glance, Mr. Latibeaudiere’s 13 year tenure might seem to be an indicator of high levels of CBI but it must be noted that the majority of this tenure took place under one particular political regime. Thus his resignation, midway into the term of a new political power actually shows that the Central bank is not insulated from the fluidity of changing political tide. Guyana and Iceland are examples of countries that had longstanding central bank bosses who remained regardless of political changes. This indicator of low CBI impacts on Jamaica’s attractiveness to foreign investment and has already been felt with the S&P’s downgrade. The global economic crisis saw most governments having to deal with the dilemma of promoting stability by standing by the Central Bank governors or succumb to public outcry and try to infuse new blood. US Fed boss Ben Bernanke was given a second term by the relatively young presidential administration, the president choosing

to show confidence in the much maligned official’s ability to steer the US out of trouble. Iceland’s David Oddson was not as fortunate as he was largely blamed for that country’s economic situation and his position was terminated as a result. A necessary precursor to progress or an unneeded stumbling block, Derick Latibeaudiere’s resignation is sure to affect our economic outlook in one way or the other. The path towards revolution rather than the safety of stability has Bank of Jamaica building at been chosen and we can Nethersole Place Downtown, hope for the best and trust that the right decision has been made for the Jamaican populace.


AN ENTREPRENEUR’S LIFE CAN YOUR BUSINESS BENEFIT FROM THE RECESSION? Increasingly, the ‘R’ word is being fearfully mentioned by worried entrepreneurs. As reports of decreased sales and increased layoffs abound, is their any hope that the average enterprise can stay alive in these challenging times? Should business owners just batten down and hope to ride out the recession? Despite all the negative economic developments, there are some ways that smart business owners can survive and actually succeed in these difficult times: Provide better value Consumers will always need to find solutions for their problems, but now they will be looking for better value for their money. If your business can respond to changing customer demands by supplying a product or service that will give more for less, then you can benefit from increased sales from new and existing customers. For example, if you operate a restaurant you could offer a value meal with smaller portions at a lower price. Control cash flow Some of your customers might be facing their own challenges and may find it difficult to pay their bills on time. You have to keep abreast of your receivables because they can negatively impact your cash flow. Take this opportunity to encourage your customers to develop a better payment culture by offering incentives. For example, you could provide attractive discounts for upfront payments or give a reduction on the next job if the current invoice is paid on time. Improve efficiency When money is rolling in, many entrepreneurs tend to overlook expenses that could be trimmed, such as traveling or energy costs. In these tight times you have to carefully examine your bills to become more cost-effective, and try to negotiate with your suppliers for more attractive terms. For example, instead of using your landline to make cellular or overseas calls, you could ask your phone provider for a calling plan with bundled minutes at a cheaper rate. Increase marketing When looking to cut costs, business owners tend to chop the more expensive marketing budget. When your com-

petitors choose to reduce advertising, you can get ahead by doing the opposite. This is the time to creatively market your business to increase your visibility while others are absent from the radar. For example, you could create cleverly-worded ads that would imply that shopping at your business place would help consumers to defy the recession. Plan ahead History has proven that periods of recession are always followed by economic growth. Now is the time to position yourself for the expected boom, by developing your business to meet future demands. Take advantage of technological advancements to improve your service delivery, and look for new product lines that will satisfy coming consumer needs. You have to be ahead of the game when the economy shifts, not trying to play catch up at that time. For example, if you offer training workshops, you could develop webinars (internet-based seminars) to capture a more tech-savvy target market.

© 2009 Cherryl Hanson Simpson ……………………………………………………… Cherryl is a financial consultant and coach, and founder of Financially S.M.A.R.T. Services. She is currently writing her first book, “The 3 Ms of Money: How to Manage, Multiply and Maintain Your Money.” See more of her work at www.financiallysmartonline.com and www.financiallysmartadvice.com.


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