FHC bottom line shrinks after record year
After posting a record $273-million profit last year, Jamaica’s third-largest credit union, First Heritage Co-operative, FHC, is grappling with a shrinking bottom line caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The latest unaudited numbers coming out of FHC indicate that it ended August, eight months into its year, with a surplus of just under $71 million. This was around $99 million less than the $169.65 million recorded in the comparative period last year.
CEO Roxann Linton says the year-to-date performance has to be measured against the backdrop of COVID-19, and the impact it has had on the fortunes of FHC’s membership.
“The pandemic has created challenges for our members, and as a member-centric organisation we have sought to engage our members and offer assistance,” Linton told the Financial Gleaner.
Linton added, however, that despite the pressures, FHC has managed to maintain a strong balance sheet, and created the opportunity for the credit union to demonstrate its relevance as a financially resilient institution on which members can dependent in moments of crisis.
FHC had posted record levels for earning assets – comprising cash, investments, and loans net of provisions for bad credit – which stood at $12.55 billion at year ending December 2019.
By August, the most recent numbers available from the credit union, the total had improved to $13.39 billion. This was $1.269 billion, or 10.47 per cent, more than the $12.117 billion recorded in August 2019.
A good portion of FHC’s loan portfolio is in the transport sector. Its ‘One and Move’ loan campaign was aimed squarely at taxi drivers, offering loans to acquire motor vehicles and even further assistance with insurance premiums. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the attendant lockdowns and curfews put a damper on transportation. Linton said the credit union responded to the plight of their indebted members by offering accommodations on loan-repayment arrangements.
“To date, moratoria have been provided to members amounting to approximately 10 per cent of our loan portfolio,” Linton said.
The financial difficulties faced by borrowers has had consequences for the credit union in relation to the quality of its loan book, but Linton ssid the credit union has seen a spike in the default rate, but has managed to maintain it at single-digit levels
Past due loans, that is, repayments that are more than 30 days overdue, now amounts to 8.68 per cent of the total loan portfolio, up from 8.11 per cent at the end of 2019.
Linton said that despite the shock of COVID-19, the credit union’s capital and liquidly positions remain strong, and that they continue to formulate offerings to assist members get back on track financially.