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jnsblProfessionals in the micro and small business and tech sectors have welcomed the new JNSBL website, www.jnsbl.com, noting that the improved technology will enhance the efficacy of the loan application process and increase the access to younger, tech savvy Jamaicans.

The company, which is the largest lender in the small businesses sector, modernised its website recently, allowing persons to initiate their loan application online.

Philip Bernard, General Manager, who maintains that faster processing is critical to improving access to credit for micro and small entrepreneurs, says the site will allow people to apply for loans while they are “on the go,” as the site can be accessed from mobile devices. He says the company plans to implement full online application during the course of this year.

Harold Davis, Deputy Chief Executive Officer, at Jamaica Business Develop Corporation (JBDC), says the website is not only a move in the right direction, it is also timely, given Government’s thrust to improve internet access across communities.

“The Ministry of Science Technology Energy and Mining (MSTEM) will be establishing ‘Community Access Points,’ where people can use the internet; and, we hope to use those facilities to train our people and sensitize them about the benefits from the use of the technology,” Mr.  Davis said, noting that access to broadband internet among micro operators was still low.

“I applaud the JNBSL innovation to allow customers to apply for loans online. It is a good move, in terms of use of technology, although a large percentage of the JNSBL customers are micro traders and some may not have access to the facility. However, we are willing to work with JNSBL in terms of training micro and small traders in filling out applications online; as well as providing access,” Mr. Davis assured.

Dr. Marcia Forbes, media owner and technology researcher, says allowing small business operators to apply for loans online will save time as it is convenient and reduces the need for excess paper work.

“It saves the applicant a lot of time; and instead of going into an office and using paper, they can delegate someone in their office to make the application.  It is convenient as you don’t have to leave where you are to apply for a loan,” Dr. Forbes reasoned.

However, she notes that although the online application process is easier, there are some challenges. And, she reasons that the technology may not be fully used by micro and small business operators.

“The challenge for most persons is to get used to the technology, given that it continues to evolve. Therefore, for the older persons it might be a problem. For the younger persons it won’t be. Because young people are not encumbered by paper, therefore, they won’t have a problem in using the service.”  Dr. Forbes maintains.

Rosalea Hamilton, professor in entrepreneurship and development, opines that although the service from JNSBL may not guarantee greater access, it makes the loan application process easier for those seeking financing.

“Being able to access loans will come down to two things: collateral, such as land; and that has now been partially addressed through the Securities in Personal Interest Act. However, there is also the question of viability of the business when they apply for the loans. If those things are not addressed, then the small business will still face challenges in accessing the loans,” she added.

However, Mr. Bernard said the online application puts JNSBL in a better position to advise and guide clients through the process of seeking financing.

“We will now be able to determine client needs at the inception, and how we can assist them to either finance the business, or identify what they really need to do to get the business to a level where it can receive financing more readily,” he said, revealing that, through the recently launched JNSBL Relationship Centre, entrepreneurs who need advice can also call the hotline at 1-888-725-6267.

Acknowledging that the new Securities in Personal Interest Act had broadened the type of collateral operators can use as security when applying for a loan, the Mr. Bernard noted that the company has always accepted appliances, furniture and hypothecation of deposits as collateral for micro loan products.

“In the final analysis, we expect that the website will be an initial step in addressing one of the critical problems, which is the speed of loan processing, as we work towards dealing with other issues to improve entrepreneur’s access to funds,” he maintained.

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