Kris An Charles Investment Company Limited, owned by Judith and Trevor Hutchinson, has expanded from one to eight branches nationally in two years, and is to open another this month.
And as it expands, the microfinancing operation says it sees its competitors in the loans market not as other micro lenders, of which there are more than 100, but the traditional commercial banks of which there are seven.
General Manager Gail Dixon says education loans in the range of J$350,000 to J$5 million represent more than 50 per cent of the company's business.
"They come to us because of the relationship," said Dixon.
"If you go to the bank and have a difficulty acquiring the loan, the likelihood of you being able to speak to the CEO is nil. Here, our loan officers are bound by policy, but the directors are empathetic."
The company now plans to grow its business-loans segment.
The lender, which started business in the Hutchinson's Kingston home 21 years ago, now has its own headquarters at 2 Eureka Crescent in Kingston, purchased for an undisclosed sum.
Kris An Charles has consolidated two Kingston branches - 6 Eureka Crescent and 15a Old Hope Road - at 2 Eureka Crescent, which was officially opened on September 5.
"I am not prepared to share our projection so as not to allow our competitors too much insight," Dixon said Friday after the official opening when prodded about targets for portfolio growth in the business segment.
Dixon, who has 20 years in accounting and financial management, several of them in New York, has grown the lender from one office in 2011 to the current eight in 2013. Staff has expanded from 14 to over 50 in the two years.
Kris An Charles operates storefronts in Mandeville, Ocho Rios, Montego Bay, Savanna-la-Mar, Port Maria, May Pen and Santa Cruz. A ninth branch is to be opened in Portmore by monthend. All stores outside Kingston are leased.
The expansions have grown revenue by 71 per cent, says Dixon, adding that her push for growth began after a shake-up of the internal culture.
"It was expressed that I tried to bring a New York culture to a Jamaican company. I love the staff but I believe in hard work. I believe that if a company has been doing well for 19 years, they can do even better," she said.
"Punctuality was one of the first things I tackled. If we open to the public at 8 a.m, I expect staff to be here at 7:45 a.m. If I ask you to stay until 8 I will be here until 8," she said.
"It was not a total win-win, but the intent was to show everyone that they will get in as much as they put in."
Branch of the year
Dixon also implemented a branch of the year award in 2012 to create a culture of competition among the branches.
The company's main credit lines are: education loans, followed by personal loans, auto loans, micro business loans, general expenses, debt consolidation and funerals.
The rates on one education loan product, Edupath, range from 11 per cent to 20 per cent with repayment periods of 28 to 24 months.
"The better the client, the lower the rate," said Dixon.
For car loans, rates can range from 14 per cent to 28 per cent depending on risk profile and repayment period agreed on. The company also does mortgage financing, providing deposits for home purchase.
Delinquency, Dixon says, is below five per cent.
"We have collection teams to ensure things are on par," she said.
Avia Collinder, Business Reporter
The Gleaner (September 11th, 2013)