As­samba back at COK So­dal­ity

Jamaica Gleaner - - BUSINESS - Neville Graham Busi­ness Re­porter neville.graham@glean­erjm.com

A COK of­fice

FOR­MER HIGH com­mis­sioner and one-time par­lia­men­tar­ian Aloun N’Dom­bet As­samba is back at the head of Ja­maica’s third largest credit union, COK So­dal­ity.

On Tues­day, the man­agers of the credit union were meet­ing with the CEO as As­samba set­tled back into a job she pre­vi­ously held up to 2002 when she left to en­ter pol­i­tics.

As­samba takes over from for­mer CEO Jac­que­line Mighty.

COK’s board of­fi­cially made the ap­point­ment on Satur­day, well-placed sources say, af­ter word be­gan cir­cu­lat­ing late last week that a change in lead­er­ship was im­mi­nent at the com­mu­nity bank now cel­e­brat­ing its 49th year in busi­ness.

By Tues­day, As­samba posted on Face­book that: “I be­gin my sec­ond stint at COK So­dal­ity Credit Union to­day. I pray for your sup­port. I am look­ing for­ward to tak­ing the or­gan­i­sa­tion to higher heights.”

The tran­si­tion is hap­pen­ing at a time when COK’s bot­tom line is un­der pres­sure.

Pres­i­dent Stead­man Pit­ter­son was not avail­able for com­ment. And As­samba ini­tially de­clined to com­ment on specifics of COK’s per­for­mance, say­ing that she would first have to meet with the board.

AS­SAMBA

But in the last set of fi­nan­cials seen by Gleaner Busi­ness, COK So­dal­ity lost $44 mil­lion in 2014. This was a re­ver­sal of the mod­est $3.1 mil­lion sur­plus in 2013. Credit unions, be­ing co-op­er­a­tives, can­not de­clare prof­its.

SELF-REG­U­LAT­ING

The credit union’s bal­ance sheet ac­tu­ally showed an op­er­at­ing sur­plus of $97.6 mil­lion in 2014 but that was sav­aged by pro­vi­sions for loan and in­ter­est losses along with losses on as­sets, all to­talling $75 mil­lion.

The credit union movement has been self-reg­u­lat­ing since 1942 un­der the aus­pices of the Ja­maica Co-op­er­a­tive Credit Union League (JCCUL). The sec­tor is in the process of mi­grat­ing to a new reg­u­la­tor – the Bank of Ja­maica – a process that has seen many of them shoring up their bal­ance sheets and pru­den­tials, largely through merg­ers, to strengthen their op­er­a­tions.

COK it­self merged with the smaller So­dal­ity Credit Union back in 2010, al­low­ing the then Kingston-bound lender to ex­pand its hori­zons be­yond the cap­i­tal.

JCCUL’s Sta­bil­i­sa­tion Fund Unit ad­min­is­ters the PEARLS stan­dards – each let­ter in the acro­nym rep­re­sents a group of pru­den­tial in­di­ca­tors which gives a mea­sure of the health of each credit union. COK So­dal­ity’s 2014 an­nual re­port, the lat­est avail­able on its web­site, in­di­cates that COK has un­der­per­formed in most PEARLS group­ings par­tic­u­larly ef­fec­tive fi­nan­cial struc­ture, as­set qual­ity, rates of re­turn and costs, as well as liq­uid­ity.

At the end of De­cem­ber 2014, COK So­dal­ity’s delin­quency rate was 9.1 per cent. This was slightly down from the 2013 level of 9.83 per cent and an im­prove­ment on the dou­ble digit out­turn since 2010. PEARLS in­di­ca­tors mandate that delin­quency be less than 5 per cent of to­tal loans.

As­samba says she is well are of the tough new en­vi­ron­ment in which COK is op­er­at­ing, not­ing that a lot has hap­pened in her 15-year ab­sence.

COK has had two CEOs since her de­par­ture: Brenda Cuth­bert and Mighty. When As­samba left For­mer head of COK So­dal­ity, Jac­que­line Mighty.

in 2002, COK had a mem­ber­ship base of 180,000, its as­sets to­talled $3 bil­lion, and its loan book was val­ued at $1.36 bil­lion.

To­day, its mem­ber­ship base is 267,000, its as­sets amount to $7.8 bil­lion, and its loan book is val­ued at $5.36 bil­lion.

“Dur­ing my ab­sence the en­vi­ron­ment has changed a lot but I was never far from the movement as ev­i­denced by the ac­co­lade be­stowed on me by the World Coun­cil of Credit Unions. I am ex­cited to be back and my aim is to se­cure re­cent mod­est gains and build for the fu­ture,” As­samba said.

As a politi­cian, As­samba has rep­re­sented the con­stituency of St Ann South East as mem­ber of par­lia­ment, and was once min­is­ter of tourism. She was later ap­pointed as High Com­mis­sioner to the United King­dom in year 2012, a post­ing that she gave up ear­lier this year af­ter a change of Gov­ern­ment in Ja­maica.

Hav­ing met with COK So­dal­ity’s man­age­ment team, As­samba said she would next be meet­ing with staff at the three branches span­ning Kingston and Port­more up to Thurs­day, and with those at the Man­dev­ille and Mon­tego Bay branches next week.

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