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Photo Caption: Leesa Kow (left), Managing Director, JN Bank and Chair of the Caribbean Association of Banks, greets Phillip Ramson, President of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce. They were attending the launch of the JCC Annual Awards at the Mercedes Benz Showroom on South Camp Road in Kingston recently. The awards banquet, which comes as the JCC celebrates its 245th Anniversary, is scheduled for June 13 in Kingston under the theme, ‘Caribbean Excellence: Celebration Achievements Embracing Integration’.

Managing Director of JN Bank and Chairman of the Caribbean Association of Banks (CAB), Leesa Kow, says the country’s narrowing trade deficit with members of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is indicative of flattening regional borders and growing opportunities for local businesses of all sizes and financial institutions. She says it as a chance for Jamaica to further expand its reach across the region.

Ms Kow (pronounced Gow), was addressing the launch of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce Annual Awards recently. The event was held at the Mercedes Benz Showroom on South Camp Road in Kingston.

She said there is need for stronger collaboration so that smaller local players can better take advantage of the improving trade with CARICOM states.

“This requires our institutions to digitalise, not in the future, but now,” Ms Kow insisted, “to make financial services more inclusive and provide more opportunities for our small and micro entrepreneurs to also participate in trade with the region,” the JN Bank managing director, who is also chairman of the Caribbean Association of Banks (CAB) argued. “These are issues that we (CAB) are focusing on intently, so that our institutions can adapt faster to support our people with the access necessary to seize opportunities here in Jamaica and across the Caribbean,” she said.

Quoting data by the Statistical Institute of Jamaica, Ms Kow noted that there was a significant narrowing of Jamaica’s trade deficit with CARICOM in 2023, with the value of exports from Jamaica up by nearly 25 per cent, and value of imports from CARICOM down by 32 per cent.

“And, although a large imbalance remains, we are closing the gap, and that is worthy of a toast,” she said applauding the trend.

Ms Kow highlighted her company’s own move to digitalise to broaden financial inclusion through its introduction of the ONE JN Passport. The technology, available as an app for download from the Google Play Store and App Store, as well as via the mobile site, currently allows persons to open regular savings accounts in major foreign currencies and apply for loans conveniently and completely without visiting a branch, even to receive the loan proceeds if approved. The process is seamless and quick.

“My reference to this app isn’t merely to gloat about the wonderful technology we’ve developed, but to underscore that placing this kind of power in the palms of our people, won’t simply give them better access to services, it allows them to make decisions much faster so they can grasp regional opportunities as they emerge,” she said.

She urged institutions to look more beyond Jamaican borders and embrace their place in the region.

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