One of Government’s newest agencies set up to assist small businesses has embarked on a mission to drive the use of digital payment systems among the small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) sector in Barbados.
The Barbados Trust Loan Fund Ltd (BTLF) and retail giant Cave Shepherd and Company Limited have joined forces to offer the small business operators a mobile application and credit card service that should make repayment of their loans to the loan scheme easier.
During the announcement on Tuesday at his office, General Manager of the BTLF Jerry Amos said the technological solution was in keeping with Government’s overall aim of digitizing the public sector.
He said the relationship between the two organisations began last month when 62 BTLF clients out of the 152 people who went through the literacy training, signed up under a pilot phase, to a value of $263,000.
“The arrangement at its core, offers a digital loan disbursement channel that allows flexibility, time-saving and an organised system of doing business for clients of the BTLF. Payments to and by the clients are made easier, but it is also an addition to the regular channels,” said Amos.
Clients were previously only able to repay their loans by visiting the BTLF’s Building #4 Harbour Road, St Michael facility or by using the Surepay service.
Small business owners will still apply to the BTLF for the collateral-free loan of up to $5000 in the first instance, and once approved, those customers will receive a Cave Shepherd Card with the pre-loaded funds.
In addition to existing methods of repayment, the clients will have the opportunity to repay the loan through a mobile transfer using the mobile app directly to the BTLF mobile account or through Cave Shepherd Bridgetown.
In addition to receiving the pre-loaded Visa credit cards, the BTLF clients have been registered as Cave Shepherd Card Mobile partners.
Amos said the BTLF would receive information from the card service provider to monitor whether the funds were being used as promised in the application stage.
“What we are hoping to have going forward is a total app for the Barbados Trust Fund Limited that will still incorporate Cave Shepherd and Surepay, but we will have our app that people can actually go online and see their repayments and balances and make payments. We are just hoping to have full digitization going forward and hope that is completed at least in the third quarter of [next] year,” said Amos.
Director of Card Services at Cave Shepherd Alison Browne-Ellis said the partnership had so far eliminated the need for a lot of cheques to be processed within the daily operations of the BTLF.
“The added benefit of having access to the pre-loaded Cave Shepherd Card in order to purchase products and services locally, online or while abroad, makes it easier for business owners to manage their time and to focus on developing and growing their respective businesses,” said Browne-Ellis.
“We have also created marketing opportunities for these clients to aggressively market their businesses across our portfolio of over 35,000 active cardholders using a variety of digital channels,” she added.
Providing an update on the performance of the Cave Shepherd Card Services, Browne-Ellis said to date just over 18,000 cardholders were registered on the mobile app, and the company was in the process of registering more mobile partners.
“Outside of that we started focusing on building the Cave Shepherd card mobile side of our strategy in the latter part of this year and we have just under 300 mobile partners registered,” said Browne-Ellis, who pointed out that more projects with Government agencies were in the pipeline.
Browne-Ellis did not give exact figures, but said “based on the growth in our portfolio, we have not seen the level of default that the banks are functioning at by any means”.