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Grace Kennedy wants to expand to three Caribbean countries

The Grace Kennedy Financial Group plans to expand its banking and insurance operations to the rest of the Caribbean but much depend on regulatory approval by the Bank of Guyana, a top official said Saturday night.

“It’s difficult to give a time-frame because of the regulatory issues but if we get approval, I would say within the first twelve months of having gotten approval, we’ll be ready to go,” Group Chief Executive Officer, Don G. Wehby told reporters.

He said “very” preliminary discussions are being held with the Governor of the Bank of Guyana, Lawrence Williams about the requirements for opening a branch of First Global Bank. First Global hopes to offer small business loans in United States dollars at competitive rates.

Grace Kennedy’s Divisional Director for Financial Services, Courtney Campbell is spearheading due diligence in Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, and Barbados where the company has offered banking and insurance services.

Already a big player, along with Western Union, in the money transfer service, Grace Kennedy hopes to offer mobile money services; a facility Wehby said would require a custodian bank in keeping with international best practice.

Wehbly said he was not daunted by the slide of the world price of gold to US$1,405 per ounce but rather he was upbeat about Guyana’s economic performance. “To be honest, when you look at the Guyanese economy is probably the star of the show.” Guyana’s economy grew by 4.8 percent in 2012 and was projected to be 5.3 percent this year.

He banks his forecast partly on the building of a highway from Lethem to Linden.

Grace Kennedy also intends to explore ways of tapping into Guyana’s rich agriculture potential but said the key was reducing the cost of electicity.

The Chief Executive Officer of Grace Kennedy’s Financial Group, Mr Campbell added that while First Global Bank was eager to begin operations here, the bank could explore other options.

“There may be other opportunities to offer banking services to Guyanese business and the government of Guyana and the Bank of Guyana have a framework to facilitate that,” he added.

Portland Holdings and the National Commercial Bank of Jamaica are eyeing the establishment of services here on their own or in partnership with a local financial institution.

Grace Kennedy is celebrating its 20th anniversary in Guyana.