(Photo: Joseph Wellington)
THE Future of Business (TFOB), the financial technology (fintech) subsidiary of NCB Financial Group which operates the Lynk digital wallet, has decided to take a share of the remittance market even as it continues to strengthen its efforts to keep Jamaica away from using cash. The NCB Financial Group is the parent company of NCB and Lynk.
“We hope to be able to launch remittances at some point in the near future, but I will not commit to a date now as we are in a process, but yes we will have remittances and the possibility of financing your portfolio through transfers from overseas in a very short time,” Vernon James, CEO of Lynk, said at a press conference on Tuesday.
Pressed further for details on the decision to enter the remittance market, James told the Jamaica Observer that he cannot commit better to the speed with which Lynk will begin offering remittance services as the entity awaits the approval process from the Bank of Jamaica. He did, however, hint that he would like Lynk to get approval before the end of this year to take advantage of the heavy Christmas remittance traffic.
Aside from remittances, Lynk’s CEO officially unveiled its ABM Cash-In/Cash-Out feature on Tuesday. This latest innovation gives Lynk users, especially those without a bank account, the ability to fund their Lynk wallet using the National Commercial Bank’s (NCB) extensive network of ATMs.
“We need to make sure ATMs are everywhere,” said Dr Nigel Clarke, Minister for Finance and Public Service, as he urged the NCB to ensure accessibility of the digital wallet that uses digital currency from the central bank (CBDC), Jam-Dex for its transactions. He also joked that digital wallets such as Lynk may soon make ATMs obsolete.
Of over 800 ATMs across the island, NCB operates over 325. However, with the ongoing problem of ATMs malfunctioning, questions have been raised about the reliability of accessing Lynk using of this medium.
Septimus “Bob” Blake, chief executive of the National Commercial Bank, while acknowledging the problem, pointed out that machine downtime has been reduced in recent years as the bank invests in their operations and maintenance.
“Last year, as an example, we spent $800 million investing and maintaining ABM machines,” Blake said in response to questions about investing in the ABM network.
He pointed out, however, that a number of issues related to both hardware and software continue to plague the operation of the machines.
“I think we can solve this problem by investing more, being vigilant, holding ourselves accountable and being very transparent,” Blake said.
These issues aside, the finance minister urged Jamaicans to register with Lynk and said he would participate in a program to entice his constituents to use the digital payment method with Jam-Dex starting this year. .
“We want to work on a pilot project for this Christmas work and I will nominate my constituency; there may be others who want to nominate theirs. We will do the work up front to make sure people are signed up and , above all, space traders are registered,” Clarke said.
Under this program, he said, he will pay workers in his constituency with Jam-Dex through digital wallets such as Lynk.
Clarke, however, stressed the need for public education “to ensure people are aware and informed of options and choices.”
Lynk, for his part, called on other banks to adopt and offer Jam-Dex through their own digital wallets to make the system fully interoperable.
“What I want people to understand is that they don’t need cash for their transactions as long as everyone is using a digital wallet,” James told the Business Observer after the press conference.
For those who have not yet decided whether or not to register for the digital wallet, some factors have been highlighted.
“It’s cardless, so some of the fraud you see happening just from using the physical card, we escape that because we’re cardless. We also use the highest level of security standards. “
So far, Lynk has been working to register as many merchants as possible to make the app more appealing to the public as a medium of exchange.
However, issues were raised earlier this year regarding the accessibility of systems that use Lynk. Bank of Jamaica Governor Richard Byles told the Diaspora Conference in April that issues with the compatibility of point-of-sale machines needed to be sorted out. The company was asked if this had been done so far to address the situation.
“We need to launch merchant interaction soon. We need people to be able to pay wherever they go – small, medium and large. For the small merchant, we have P2P [point-to-point]. For support we will soon launch our QR code where you will scan and you are able to pay. And for the general public, we are committed to two paths: one via the current point of sale and the other via direct integration to allow everyone to go and pay. We plan to cover all three routes over the next six months so people can use it wherever they go.”
Patrick Hylton, Managing Director of NCB Financial Group, told the audience at the press conference that after seeing the work being done to roll out the digital wallet, “it’s no surprise, as since the launch from Lynk, just a few months ago, approximately 145,000 individual customers and nearly 3,000 merchants were onboarded, transacting over $500 million on the platform.” Lynk said he aims to “triple” the number of merchants on his system over the next six months.
Hylton said the company decided to create digital startup Lynk because “we’ve seen too many companies that haven’t taken advantage of changes in technology or made the decisions to make the big changes to their business model necessary to survive and thrive”. I’ve said it before, at NCBFG we won’t wait for others to disrupt our business model, we will disrupt it ourselves.”
He pointed out that Jamaica became the only country to pass legislation to legalize CBDC in June this year and is fourth among the top ten countries issuing CBDCs today.
Lynk’s ABM functionality follows other innovations such as mobile top-up and in-app bill payment. The company said that over the next few months it plans to launch a merchant platform for medium and large businesses, a funds transfer function and several other features to suit the ever-changing Jamaican lifestyle.
From left to right: Patrick Hylton, CEO, NCB Financial Group; Vernon James, CEO of Lynk; and Dr. Nigel Clarke, Minister of Finance, share a lighthearted moment after Lynk’s ABM feature launch Tuesday at NCB’s headquarters, The Atrium. (Photo: Joseph Wellington)
CLARKE…we want to work on a pilot for this Christmas job and I will offer my constituency (Photo: Joseph Wellington)
JAMES…we hope to be able to start remittances at some point in the near future (Photo: Joseph Wellington)
HYLTON…so it’s no surprise that since Lynk launched just a few months ago, around 145,000 individual customers and nearly 3,000 merchants have been onboarded (Photo: Joseph Wellington)