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Fund aims to operate ‘more like a bank’

CHAIRMAN OF FUND ACCESS David Simpson says the entity is looking to become more self-sufficient, while general manager Esther Lord-Graham says all of the operations are now online. (Picture by Jameel Springer.)

CHAIRMAN OF FUND ACCESS David Simpson says the state-owned enterprise (SOE) will have to find ways to become more self-sufficient as Government is no longer pumping finances into such corporations.

“High on our agenda is to become more and more self-sufficient. You heard the minister speak about the challenges earlier, and one of those is the ability of Government to continue funding all SOEs at the same level.

“It is clear in the midst of the BERT (Barbados Economic and Recovery and Transformation) programme, and just how the economy has been going post-COVID, that we are not going to be getting the benefit of significant contributions from Government.

“We are working on finding ways to become more and more self-sufficient and that lends itself to our drive to be using technology more to reduce costs. Essentially, we will be like a bank, so to speak, where we are operating on what they call the spread, which is the interest that we charge on the loans essentially. That is one of our immediate challenges, but we have lots of ideas that we’ve been working on in the past two years now to become more self-sufficient,” he said.

Further, as the lending agency for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) celebrated its 25th anniversary, Simpson was hopeful that it would transition to a full SME bank at least by the end of his tenure.

“My aim is to have that in the medium term. I would love for it to happen before my term as chairman comes to an end, but at a minimum, I want to be able, with the board and management, to lay the groundwork for it so that even if we can’t bring it into reality in the next few years that whoever follows us as a board and management, they can execute and bring it into reality.

“I know with the advent of the Afreximbank coming into Barbados and they’ve committed some funding to small business and so on, we’re hoping to meet with them on one or two other entities in the coming weeks to talk about funding and creating the structure that we want for Fund Access going forward,” he told reporters.

Simpson was speaking, along with general manager Esther Lord-Graham, at a church service to mark the organisation’s 25th anniversary at Sanctuary Empowerment Centre, Country Road, St Michael last Sunday.

Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Business Development Sandra Husbands, during the service, noted that Fund Access had injected about $73.5 million into the economy, resulting in the creation or expansion of micro businesses by 1 719 entrepreneurs, in turn creating more than 2 600 job opportunities.

Simpson added that the organisation was also in the midst of becoming more innovative, and had already created some new products in an effort to attract new clients, as well as to support business development and new businesses.

“There are a category of clients that we have and even new applicants who don’t necessarily need debt funding or a loan. So we’re looking at venture capital, and we are also looking at a series of line of credit. We’re getting ready to launch them to the public that will allow people to be able to deal with their working capital commitments and so on,” he said.

Meanwhile, Graham said already all of Fund Access’ operations were online, and they had found ways to reduce client interaction in the office in terms of payments.

“We’re using things like Sure Pay. We have an alliance with mMoney. We’re now looking at Island Pay, and we are investigating another platform now in which clients will be able to access their accounts and stuff like that through their mobile phones,” she said.

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