BY: ALYSSA MAHADEO
The road to financial independence is a long and arduous one. People work and save their whole lives just to accumulate sufficient personal wealth to live comfortably, without having to work actively for the basic necessities of life. For financially independent people, their assets generate income and/or cash flow from dipping into the assets that are at least as great as their expenses.
In 1878, Rev. G.W. Downer, Rector of Kingston Parish Church and a group of clergymen, founded The Victoria Mutual Building Society (VMBS), an institution built on strong values and principles and designed specifically to “meet the needs of the deserving thrifty”. Their vision was to empower a large segment of the Jamaican population to help one another through a process that involved the pooling of their resource to save and acquire homes. The objective then, as it remains today, was to fund a Mutual financial institution that would enable all Jamaicans to achieve the goal of becoming proud homeowners.
“They saw a need for financial services to be offered to everyone equally in Jamaica of that day,” explains Christopher Denny Vice President – Service and Sales Support for VMBS.
“The original mission of Victoria Mutual was to give access to everyone equally irrespective of your race, your creed, your religion, your origin; it was all about equality in the beginning and it was about giving every person especially those who were less fortunate an opportunity to access financial services.” he elaborates.
VMBS’ founding fathers had a goal of finding a way to partner with industrious but financially excluded Jamaicans, to assist them with savings and home acquisition. VMBS opened its first branch in Kingston and the Society has since expanded its branch network to a total of fifteen branches in Jamaica and representative offices in the UK and the USA. Victoria Mutual has been proactive in forging relationships with overseas nationals and they are proud of being the first Jamaican financial institution to establish international offices, or service bureaus as they were initially called, to serve the needs of the diaspora.
“Victoria Mutual is a Mutual organization,” Denny continues. “What that means is that it’s a cooperative; as a depositor, at Victoria Mutual, you are a stakeholding member, and when we hold our annual meetings, each member gets a vote irrespective of the size of their deposit.” he clarifies.
In order to better serve the Jamaican population across the globe, they have strived to make it as all-inclusive as possible to serve the needs of their clients. They are dedicated to empowering their members globally to acquire their own homes and achieve their financial independence by providing innovative solutions and excellent service delivered by a highly competent and engaged team and through multiple channels.
“Our stakeholder drive is completely different from your normal shareholder led company structure where people are trying to maximize profits,” Denny says. “We actively try to track value for our members.”
Victoria Mutual works actively to implement easy accessibility to their members wherever they are in the world and in 2001 they opened up a representative office in Canada. In 2016 they made the decision to close the office and opted for a more virtual type of arrangement.
“We found in Canada that many of our clients were so widely dispersed, and so many of them were treating with us electronically,” Denny explained. “And so it made more sense for us to focus our efforts on that type of delivery for our market in Canada.”
While they had closed the office they still wanted to have that human touch and personalized interaction with their members to accommodate their needs and answer their question as they would have had they come to the office personally to speak with a member of the Victoria Mutual team. Members in Canada are encouraged to take advantage now of their Virtual Office presence, where they can receive information over the phone about different services, be guided to the various pages on the VMBS website to open accounts online, and complete and submit other important documentation.
“We are the first financial institution in Jamaica that is able to allow you to apply, and submit all of your documentation associated with getting a mortgage entirely online,” Denny exclaims.
They take pride in the speed of their application processing, promising to deliver a response within two weeks of submission, and are working to develop better, faster methods all the time.
In order to cater to the changing needs of the membership, the organization has expanded its product offering beyond the traditional savings and mortgage loan products.These are offered through its Strategic Business Units Victoria Mutual Wealth Management Limited (VMWM), Prime Asset Management Limited (Prime), Victoria Mutual Money Transfer Services (VMTS), Victoria Mutual Property Services (VMPS) and affiliate company British Caribbean Insurance Company (BCIC).
Victoria Mutual Building Society is determined to serve their Jamaican clients all over the world. They are 700 team members strong working to keep their customers satisfied, to ensure they are making regular deposits to their accounts in Jamaica. Because they are a Mutual organization they aim to develop strong relationships with their members.
“Even when our clients go away, they still want to have the ability to bank with us,” Denny says. “Unfortunately, when you are abroad, sending money to make regular deposits takes a little time. The current methods of sending money either by mail or wire transfer tends to get expensive so we are currently working on a better way to make that happen, and it is one of our works in progress to continue keeping our overseas customers happy.”
After closing their Canadian office VMBS received a lot of feedback, that they had abandoned the Canadian market, which was definitely not the case.
“Nothing could have been further from the truth,” Denny explains. “We have in fact been working harder to please our clients and our Jamaican Diaspora in Canada by introducing new capabilities to make it easier for them to bank with us,” he says.
“The member engagement team is always ready and waiting at all times to engage with our members answer their questions and deliver their needs.”
The VMBS remains very committed to helping every Jamaican to achieve their personal financial independence. They want their members to know that they are always there for them whether they reside in Jamaica or living abroad. They are a mutual financial organization whose purpose is committed to partnering with our communities to improve quality of life.
There is nothing more glorious than the feeling of achieving financial independence. The freedom gained is worth so much to those that conquer that goal, and it leads to a more worry and stress-free lifestyle in the long run.
Victoria Mutual Building Society is there to help you reach your financial goals, reach out to them today to find out how you can get started on the liberating path of financial independence.