EXIM Bank (National Export-Import Bank of Jamaica Limited) was established in May 1986 in response to Government’s stated objective to enhance growth and development through an export led economy. The new entity was mandated under its Memorandum of Association to inter alia, provide financing and financial assistance for the export and import of goods, commodities and services between Jamaica and any foreign country and to encourage and develop trade between Jamaica and other countries by providing insurance for the benefit of exporters. At its inception it absorbed the broad functions of the Jamaica Export Credit Insurance Corporation Limited (JECIC), which by that time had expanded beyond its original scope and mandate.
The JECIC was set up in June 1971 as a wholly owned subsidiary of the Bank of Jamaica (BOJ), with its primary focus on non-traditional export trade, as the Government sought to increase foreign currency earnings over and above the inflows from traditional exports such as bauxite, sugar and bananas. It was envisaged that this entity would encourage and promote both the growth and development of the country’s non-traditional exports by offering export insurance coverage against various classes of political and commercial risks which exporters faced.
The JECIC played a pivotal role in increasing non-traditional exports as in addition to export credit insurance it diversified its operations to include pre and post shipment short term working capital loan schemes. However, as the country started to experience a worsening foreign exchange situation, JECIC’s operations were diversified even further to include the administration of several foreign Lines of Credit sourced on a Government to Government basis or from overseas donor agencies or from the private capital market. These Lines of Credit were sourced literally worldwide (various countries in Europe, North, Central and South America, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea). They were administered on behalf of either the BOJ or the Government of Jamaica (GOJ) and became the primary source of foreign exchange availability to the local productive sector. The JECIC through the Export Development Fund Jamaica Limited (EDF) also managed a special pool of funds from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (World Bank) as well as funds from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) through the Rehabilitation Fund Limited (RF). Both the EDF and RF were geared towards supplementing foreign exchange availability to the private sector. JECIC also administered a World Bank Technical Assistance Fund for Exporter (TAFEX).
As a result of this momentum, the then Managing Director, Mr. E.G. (John) Goodin, confident in his belief that the time had come for the JECIC to emerge from out of the shadow of the Central Bank, was very receptive to the decision taken by the policy makers of the day led by the Most Honourable Edward Seaga who was then Prime Minister and Minister of Finance and Planning, to transform the JECIC into a fully-fledged Export - Import Bank. And thus, after a period of 15 years of successful operations, the JECIC ceased writing new business on April 30,1986, making way for the newly formed EXIM Bank which opened its doors to the public the following day, May 1, 1986.
The date of May 1, 1986 therefore signalled the dawning of a new era. EXIM Bank Jamaica was to become the first export-import bank in the English-speaking Caribbean. It commenced operations as a limited liability company owned jointly and equally by the BOJ and GOJ. It absorbed the programmes formerly administered by the JECIC including membership of the International Union of Credit and Investment Insurers (Berne Union) as well as shares held in Banco Latinoamericano de Exportaciones (BLADEX). The Bank’s first Chairman was the late Dr. Headley Brown then Governor of the Bank of Jamaica and he headed a Board of Directors, which represented an astute mix of both public and private sector appointees. The first Acting Managing Director was Mr. Fernando DePeralto who at that time was also a Deputy Governor of the Bank of Jamaica and he acted in that position until August 1987 and was followed by Mr. Noel Bennett who served for 7 years until he demitted office in December 1994. He was followed by Mrs. Pamela McLean who served from January 1995 to 1st May 2010, when she retired. The incumbent, Mrs. Lisa Bell has been serving since 3rd May 2010. The Ministry of Industry Commerce Agriculture and Fisheries has portfolio responsibility for the Bank.
The early years up to 1991 saw the new institution with its expanded mandate seeking to consolidate its position in the financial services sector, becoming an integral player in providing working capital as well as foreign and local currency financing to the productive sector. As an apex institution, it benefitted from its relationship with its intermediaries, which allowed island-wide reach and impact. During this period the Bank experienced much buoyancy particularly in its foreign currency-lending portfolio as the continuing shortage of foreign exchange elsewhere in the market triggered substantial demand for foreign Lines of Credit facilities.
The journey over the years has been exciting but has not been without its difficulties and its challenges. The year 1991 was of significance as the repeal and the abolition of the Exchange Control regime in that year, marked a turning point in the affairs of the Bank. With the abolition of Exchange Controls there was much improved availability of foreign exchange to the private sector which in turn led to increasingly less reliance being placed on EXIM Bank as a supplier of first resort. The Bank was therefore severely challenged to find new ways and means of remaining relevant to the productive sector.
In its resolve to overcome the difficulties, the Bank embarked upon a strategy of building stronger partnerships and alliances with its Approved Financial Intermediaries (AFIs) such as commercial and merchant banks and other members of the financial services sector. The Bank also furthered its relationship with private sector interest groups such as the Jamaica Exporters’ Association (JEA), the Jamaica Manufacturers’ Association (JMA), the Small Businesses Association of Jamaica (SBAJ), the Jamaica Agro Processors Association (JAPA), Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) to devise appropriate financing programmes to meet the specific needs of the members of these various umbrella organisations. Special windows for the Hotel Tourism Sector, ICT, Agro Processors, Ornamental Fish and specialized short and medium facilities were also developed to rehabilitate and resuscitate key sectors of the economy which demonstrated the potential for export growth, employment creation and expansion. In addition, the Bank offered a Ten Million Canadian Dollar Line of Credit facility to Cuba, through Banco Nacional de Cuba, that country’s foreign trade bank, which facilitates the export of Jamaican manufactured goods to Cuba.
EXIM Bank is now 100% owned by the Government of Jamaica, with the Bank of Jamaica having sold its shareholding in 2000. The Bank remains the only institution in Jamaica which offers Trade Credit Insurance and its underwriting remains one of its core functions. Through this product and its other existing loan programmes, the Bank has successfully targeted the key producing areas of the economy and has been experiencing growth in the utilization in the loan programmes. As a member of the Berne Union, the Bank has the added advantage of benefitting from underwriting experiences and best practices from all major EXIM Banks and export credit agencies worldwide.
Over the past 32 years the Bank has built a strong tradition of excellence, integrity and transparency and overall good corporate governance, and this has contributed to the continued viability of the institution. This performance has been attributable to the cadre of dedicated staff and the keen direction and guidance of its Board of Directors both past and present and the day-to-day Executive Management of the Bank.