‘Your investment is safe’, business leaders assure diaspora

The content originally appeared on: Jamaica News Loop News

Brando Hayden, managing director of JN Fund Managers, a member company of the JN Group, is assuring Jamaicans overseas that the country’s financial and real estate systems have the requisite and robust safeguards to protect their investments.

Underlining the negative experiences and consequent fear and apprehension many returned residents have after being victimised by those they entrusted with their investments, he encouraged Jamaicans overseas to instead use licensed or regulated entities to manage their investments.  

Hayden was one of five panellists speaking during the opening plenary on Day 1 of the Biennial Jamaica Diaspora Conference at the Montego Bay Convention Centre in St James. The panel, chaired by JAMPRO President, Shullette Cox, explored the topic ‘Jamaica Open for Business: Transforming Investment and Enterprise in Jamaica through Diaspora Engagement’.

“The risk management and infrastructure that are necessary give you the comfort to invest in Jamaica,” he said. “The capacity that is necessary for you to invest in Jamaica and know that your investment is secure is in place.”

He cited the Jamaica Stock Exchange and the Jamaica Central Securities Depository (JCSD) as important organisations in the investment architecture.

“If you invest in an instrument on the Jamaica Stock Exchange, be it equity or debt, you know there is solid record keeping and custody for your investment. Through the JCSD, your dividend and coupon payments are also facilitated,” Hayden said.

JAMPRO President, Shullette Cox (left), chaired the discussion on the topic ‘Jamaica Open for Business: Transforming Investment and Enterprise in Jamaica through Diaspora Engagement’. The panellists were Minister of Industry, Investment, and Commerce, Senator Aubyn Hill (second left); Grace Burnett (third left), chief executive officer of GraceKennedy Financial Group; Winthorpe Wellington (fourth left), founder of Throp Media and owner of Travellers Beach Resort in Negril; Leighton Smith (fifth left), chief executive officer of VM Finance and VM Overseas Offices at the VM Group and Brando managing director of JN Fund Managers.

Despite the heavy spotlight on violence in Jamaica, panellists also reassured diasporans and interested persons that the country is safe and getting safer.

Winthorpe Wellington, founder of Throp Media and owner of Travellers Beach Resort in Negril, noted that the country’s crime problem was being sensationlised by untrained persons on social media. 

“Jamaica is moving in a very positive direction, more so now than ever before, talking about economic indicators. I also believe that for those who don’t like what’s happening or the state of Jamaica right now for whatever reason and you want to be a negative Nancy, that is OK. But to me, the power lies within us and within the individual, and we have to be a part of the solution and be solution-oriented,” Wellington said.

He invited diasporans to become part of the solution by engaging in direct philanthropic efforts that build communities, rather than furthering negative sentiments about the country.

“I think your presence here is a huge testament to that,” he told the audience, “and I think if we can collectively push out these vibes and push out this positivity outside of this conference and take this energy from this conference and really push it out, I think we can quell a lot of the sensationalized negative things that are out there on social media.”

Minister of Industry, Investment, and Commerce, Senator Aubyn Hill also sought to reassure Jamaicans overseas about the safety of the country, underscoring that the government has been actively implementing measures to manage violence and has been reaping positive results.

“Murders are down in Jamaica this year, quite importantly and substantially, in high double-digit numbers. What we found is that ‘gangland’ crime has been down significantly. A lot of crimes taking place are unfortunately domestic ones- man and woman issues, children, and parents. We are working on that, and how we are working on that is that, for many years, there has not been much investment in crime. Since this government has been in place, we have probably spent close to a quarter billion dollars investing in crime and giving them [the police] the tools that they need to deal with crime,” Hill said.

Like Thorpe, minister Hill noted that the fight against crime is a social issue that will require collective efforts to achieve sustained reduction.

Crime and violence aside, the panellists outlined that besides Guyana and its recent oil discovery, Jamaica, above other Caribbean countries, is the most attractive for investment. They cited a variety of reasons for this, including the country’s foreign exchange management policy, its economic and political stability, talent pool, infrastructure and growing digital sophistication.

“There is no foreign exchange control in Jamaica. Clean money comes in and clean money goes out,” Senator Hill noted, adding that there is no better place to do real estate.  Our solid tourism infrastructure and more hotel rooms being built to make the country a suitable logistics hub for the Caribbean also makes the country attractive to investors.    

Expounding on the matter of generational wealth creation and wealth transfer, Mr Hayden noted that real estate has unequivocally been the greatest driver of generational wealth and wealth transfer in Jamaica’s history. He underscored the JN Group’s 150-year history, distinguishing it as the longest serving and most impactful facilitator of this development and transfer of generational wealth. 

“Jamaica’s real estate sector is underpinned by oversight organisations such as the Real Estate Board and the National Land Agency. We need to recognise how organisations such as these set us apart and enhance making this kind of life-changing investment.”

Moderator, Cox further noted the major improvements to road infrastructure to facilitate travel and faster movement of goods and services across the country.

“We at JAMPRO are excited about the possibility of tourism on the eastern coast of the island. This is a diversified tourism product. It means that you can live in St. Ann and work easily in Montego Bay, and that for me is the business side of the infrastructure changes,” she noted.

She also pointed to the rollout of broadband internet service to all corners of the country to facilitate its digital transformation and the implementation of complementary legislation, such as the Data Protection Act, to regulate and safeguard interests.

“When we talked about our outsourcing industry, which now employs 70,000 people, for a very long time, we had to focus on North America. We couldn’t talk to the Europeans because we did not have the Data Protection Act in place. But now, we have [implemented] the Data Protection Act and that opens new [opportunities],” she said.

Grace Burnett, CEO of GraceKennedy Financial Group, said the highly productive and English-speaking talent pool is a major reason Jamaica is open for business.

Leighton Smith, chief executive officer of VM Finance and VM Overseas Offices at the VM Group, noted that Jamaica’s economic stability, strategic location, strength of the financial sector, skilled workforce and diverse investment opportunities are factors that make Jamaica attractive to investors.

The 10th Biennial Jamaica Diaspora Conference was held under the theme ‘United for Jamaica’s Transformation: Fostering Peace, Productivity and Youth Empowerment’.