JAM | Sep 19, 2023

NCB gets big up by S&P

/ Our Today

Reading Time: 3 minutes

A prophet is never recognised in his homeland – Lee Chin

NCBFG Chairman Michael Lee-Chin

By Al Edwards

One of the world’s renowned rating agencies, Standard & Poor’s Global Ratings (S&P), has bestowed a favourable rating upon NCB Jamaica.

This is remarkable for the bank, which was purchased by Michael Lee Chin some 20 years ago, after it was in the doldrums having been FINSAC’d.

Over the last two decades, NCB Jamaica spearheaded by a local management team, has presided over a remarkable turnaround.

S&P Global Ratings upgraded its long-term issuer credit rating from “B+” to “BB-“. The short-term issuer credit ratings were affirmed at “B”.

The rating agency declared that it expects NCB Jamaica to maintain its credit fundamentals over the next year.

NCB Merchant Bank (Trinidad and Tobago)

It has been a turbulent year for NCB Jamaica, one that saw its profits fall, no dividends paid out, its chairman Michael Lee Chin take a leave of absence and its two top executives, Patrick Hylton and Dennis Cohen, having to step away while their compensation package gets resolved.

Despite these challenges, S&P reposes confidence in NCB Jamaica as one of the leading banking entities in the region. NCB Jamaica now has the same rating recently given by S&P to Jamaica.

Of Jamaica, S&P wrote in June of this year: “The outlook reflects S&P’s expectation that Jamaica will continue to pursue cautious macroeconomic policy and maintain its commitment to prudent public sector financing and debt reduction, as well as supportive economic policies including a flexible exchange rate regime and effective monetary policy.”

Although a big deal, the news on NCB was not greeted with much fanfare.

Speaking to Our Today about the rating NCB Jamaica received from S&P, NCB’s chairman Michael Lee Chin said: ” It is very encouraging and we still have work to do. What is interesting is the international professionals would have seen fit to give us an upgrade notwithstanding the perception in Jamaica and the region. S&P sees the strength of NCB. There’s a saying, a prophet is never recognised in his homeland!”

Lee Chin has returned to take charge of the NCB Group and has given a commitment to turn things around. There will be a dividend payment before the year is out and the new mantra of NCB is “ Efficiency,Customer Service and Governance”(ECG).

The rating upgrade is a testament to the work and abilities of the NCB team then and now, including Hylton, Cohen, Sheree Martin, Septimus Blake, and Kadeen Matthews Blair. They built a banking powerhouse that S&P has paid attention to and commended.

Lee Chin continued: The asset tax gave the country the ability to pay down debt significantly. Now that the economy has rallied, perhaps we should remove it. It is fantastic what Jamaica has accomplished in the last ten years, particularly coming from a debt to GDP ratio of 147 per cent to 78 per cent. Unemployment is now at 4.5 per cent, the NIR is at US$4.4 billion, the currency is stable. Jamaica is a model of how to turn around an economy. “


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