By ARNOLD A. AUGUSTE
The Victoria Mutual Building Society (VMBS) has been serving its growing clientele in the Canadian market for many years. However, a company that has been in existence for over 130 years, does not last that long without being innovative.
So the news that VMBS is establishing a strategic alliance in the Toronto market with Rapid Remittance, one of the fastest growing remittance companies in the city, comes as no surprise.
While Rapid Remittance is a small company compared to the Jamaica-based VMBS, it has a huge presence and a strong client base in Toronto with 22 independent agents. And, VMBS plans to take full advantage of the opportunity to partner with the company here.
Allan J. Lewis, Senior Vice President, Group Strategy for VMBS, said in Toronto last week that this alliance with Rapid Remittance is just another way for the company to better serve its remittance clients in Toronto.
“The community is very important to us,” he told Share. “What we are trying to do is to provide financial services to Jamaicans and Caribbean nationals whether they are in Jamaica or elsewhere. So, that’s why we are in Canada, that’s why we are in the United Kingdom and in the United States, where we recently set up an office in Florida – and to make that service easily accessible.”
VMBS is the oldest financial institution in Jamaica operating under the same name since its inception. It was established some 130 years ago after a few “church people” got together to help each other build their homes, said Lewis.
“After they were finished building each other’s houses, they decided to extend that service to the public. That is when Victoria Mutual became an institution.”
While the core business of VMBS is to provide financial services to its members such as mortgages and related services, the remittance side of the business developed as a result of the demand by the company’s overseas members who also wanted to send money to relatives back home.
As that side of the business grew – through sister company, Victoria Mutual Overseas Canada – and began to attract customers who were not necessarily VMBS members, VMBS and Rapid Remittance – with head offices at 1649 Eglinton Avenue West, Toronto – found themselves competing against each other. Eventually, they found it to their advantage to work together. About three years ago, they formed a loose relationship through which they helped each other’s customers in their respective markets.
“We have had a partnership for a number of years, but based on the Jamaican operation, where they looked after some of our customers here and we looked after their customers in Jamaica. So we have been doing that for a while,” said Lewis.
“What we are doing now is strengthening that partnership. We have agreed with Rapid Remittance to strengthen our relationship. We are going to make available to our members Rapid Remittance network of offices and agents here and they will use our network in Jamaica in a seamless way.”
With that, VMBS will scale back its active involvement in the remittance business in Toronto and still be able to provide superior service to its members and customers through the Rapid Remittance network of agents.
“Having more outlets will give our customers more options,” said Lewis.
While this alliance will serve the customers of both companies well, it also makes sound business sense. For one thing, it will help them both to reduce their costs.
“We were competitors in Canada before. Now, as of today, we are collaborating. We are going to promote his business and encourage clients to use either one of us.”
Lewis was referring to Arnold Rowe, the president of Rapid Remittance, who is also pleased with the new arrangement and agreed that it would make serving the customers of both companies much easier.
Rowe added that plans are in the works to establish an online service through which customers would be able to send their remittances over the Internet using a credit card. He says that service will be implemented on June 1.
VMBS’s members – and it is a membership organization, where anyone who opens an account with the company becomes a member with a vote – will continue to be served at the company’s new offices on Dufferin Street as the company focuses on it core business of arranging residential mortgages for properties in Jamaica, home improvement loans, home equity loans and providing substantial discounts on property evaluations and fast turn-around on loan approvals.
So, while the company is scaling back on direct involvement in its remittance business, it will be ramping up its efforts on its core business with the goal of enhancing its service to its membership.
“Our core business is helping our members to meet the big goals in their lives – homes, vacations – we help people to plan their future,” said Lewis.