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Victoria Mutual Boss Forecasts Bright Future For Jamaica

MOVES: Courtney Campbell, President & CEO of Victoria Mutual Group speaking at the Town Hall meeting in Birmingham

NEWLY APPOINTED president and CEO of the Victoria Mutual Group Courtney Campbell showed he had some slick moves at his first Town Hall meeting in Birmingham – but they weren’t all financial.

For the new boss soon had scores of Victoria Mutual (VM) members up on their feet dancing to the Chronixx classic ‘Smile for Me Jamaica’ as he proved himself to be a man with natural rhythm.

This warm-up song with such a feel-good vibe set the upbeat tone of the meeting, the first of two free Town Hall events in the UK, served with food, which gave the VM team a chance to set out their stall for the future.

Peter Reid, who is now CEO of VM’s Building Society Operations was also in Birmingham, along with Judith Forth Blake, the group’s chief customer & brand officer, who made up the third member of the audience panel.

Campbell painted a bright picture of Jamaica’s economic overview explaining how it had won praise from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for its discipline in reducing the country’s debt.

PANEL: Peter Reid, CEO of Building Society Operations addressing the audience from the panel.

“This has reduced significantly,” Campbell told the audience at the Parklands Banqueting Suite. “In 2012 we owed around 145 per cent of the total income that we produced each year and this high debt has been our biggest challenge.”

He said social spending now needed to be strengthened on education, health and poverty alleviation particularly where 20 per cent of the population are below the poverty line.

Campbell said economic growth still remained “anaemic” even though the country was doing much better economically with 15,000 new call centre jobs last year alone, investment in solar and wind farms and new hotels springing up in Negril, Lucea and Montego Bay due to investment from Spanish, Canadian and Mexican companies. He said unemployment was 13.7 per cent which was still too high.

“Consumer confidence is running high and we have record low inflation of two per cent, when it was in double digits a few years ago, but we still need to fix growth and unemployment,” he said.

“And most importantly we need to improve security and public safety if we are to grow economically, while also harnessing the power of the Diaspora.”

On Victoria Mutual’s overview Campbell explained that the future was bright with much focus on a “modern mutual” where convenience for the customer is key.

In outlining the main planks of VM’s business such as wealth and asset management, Campbell said VM’s property services was now a thriving part of the business for both residential and commercial property needs. He promised to return to the UK next year with VM’s own property experts.

He said: “Our savings rates are among the highest locally, along with our mortgage rates being the lowest, coupled with low transaction fees. He said the combined value of these benefits amounted to $400 Jamaican dollars.

“This is what we mean by making membership work for you,” he said.

VM remains the only financial institution in Jamaica to offer an online mortgage facility – it’s also running a pilot for mobile money transfer and is considering an international debit card, added Campbell.

He explained that “de-risking” among banks was a worldwide problem which had impacted particularly on the Caribbean where banks have terminated relationships, but he stressed that VM had made sound alternative arrangements and members had been written to about this.

In questions afterwards several people said they were unhappy about this situation and said more should be done to challenge this.

VM’s obvious commitment to community is evident and continues to grow, said Campbell.

He said: “For the past 31 years we have sponsored the annual National Prayer Breakfast to pray for the nation, along with supporting the aged in Trenchtown, launching a football programme in St James and offering high school scholarships to 50 students from across Jamaica annually.

“We are planning a serious period of growth and we want to grow our business in the UK with both our existing and new customers by offering you a wider variety of business.

“We have been operating in Jamaica since 1878 and came to the UK in 1981 – we were the first Jamaican financial institution to establish relations in the Diaspora, so please let us continue to serve you.”

There was applause for another valued team member – community stalwart Mrs Delores Cooper, OD, who was praised by Campbell as “a special Jamaican.” As a former community relations officer for the Jamaican High Commission and a director of VM Finance, Delores represented “all that is right with Jamaica,” said Campbell.

* The second Town Hall meeting will be held at 7 pm tomorrow night (Friday October 28) at Kensington Town hall, Hornton Street, London, W8 7NX, where special guest will be Mrs Angella Rose-Howell, Acting High Commissioner for Jamaica.

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