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Access expands network, eyeing new acquisitions as growth strategy

Published:Wednesday | January 17, 2018 | 12:00 AMAvia Collinder/Business Reporter

Microfinance lender Access Financial Services Limited (AFS), which made two acquisitions in the last two years, says that it will continue to buy up other operators as part of its growth strategy in 2018.

Last November, the company also added another branch, growing its network to eighteen branches nationwide.

"Growth by acquisitions will continue to be one of the strategies to grow our loan book," said CEO Marcus James.

"We will explore available opportunities that we believe can deliver positive returns. In addition, it is important that we maintain organic growth and customer retention through competitively priced products and a discernible level of service that we offer to our customers," James told the Financial Gleaner.

However, he adds that the company does not have an immediate acquisition target in mind.

In September 2017, according to its latest quarterly report, Access Financial's loan portfolio was valued at $2.68 billion. That's up 11 per cent from $2.42 billion in September 2016.

The company's newest branch was opened in Portland and is manned by a staff of four. It followed the seven that joined the network under the acquisition deals one for Damark and six for Micro Credit.

"Our outlook for 2018 is positive," said James. "Our immediate focus is on the continued expansion of our network. Our newest branch was opened in Portland in November 2017 to serve the eastern end of the island."

Access acquired Damark in mid-2016 and Micro Credit Limited in 2017, and has retained both brand identities, but Damark, which largely sells loans to government workers, is deregistering from the Department of Co-operatives and Friendly Societies.

"Damark Limited was initially established as a provident society. In June 2016, AFS acquired its assets which resulted in the entity being deregistered as a provident society. We continue to operate using the registered trademark Damark, as the company had built significant brand loyalty with its clientele over the years," James said.

Access paid $180 million for Damark and $80 million for Micro Credit, which primarily offers group loans to entry-level micro-entrepreneurs.

"We adopted the same process that we used with Damark - namely the acquisition of assets and the registration of the trade name - to ensure brand continuity. Micro Credit Loans is now the registered trademark," James said. "At this point there are no plans to rebrand as we believe, as in the case with Damark, the entity has built a significant amount of brand loyalty with customers."