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Jamaica has a large and interconnected financial system, possessing reasonably well-developed markets. The current financial structure, partly shaped by a costly financial crisis in 1996-7, has all the sectors of an advanced financial system, closely interconnected via a handful of dominant conglomerates. Several of the institutions have foreign parent companies or overseas activities. Jamaica has seven commercial banks: Bank of Nova Scotia, FirstCaribbean International Bank, National Commercial Bank (NCB), First Global Bank, RBTT Bank, PanCaribbeanBank Ltd and Citibank, N.A. (2010). NCB is the largest bank in terms of revenue. Credit unions are very popular in Jamaica, so much so that the number of credit union loans exceeds that of bank personal loans (2008). Nonetheless, savings held by credit unions are not large compared to banking system deposits. There are three merchant banks providing numerous investment banking products and services, such as investment securities, unit trust funds and international broker facilities.
The Bank of Jamaica is at the centre of the local financial system and is in charge of supervision and regulation. It is responsible for supervising the activities of deposit-taking institutions, money services businesses and credit bureaus. Non-deposit taking financial institutions are largely supervised by the Financial Services Commission (the FSC), which has jurisdiction for the securities industry, the insurance industry and the pensions industry. The evolution of the regulatory aspects of the Jamaican financial sector has seen the introduction of a more thorough legislative framework and increased sophistication.
The World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index ranked Jamaica 98th in the world (out of 183 countries) for getting credit, a solid regional position placing it in an equivalent situation to St Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada and Belize. For protecting investors it rated 79th, a low position in respect to the other Caribbean islands. In the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report (2012-13) Jamaica ranked 63rd in the world (out of 142 countries) in relation to availability of financial services, rating exactly the same as the world mean with a score of 4.6 out of 7. It was in a less strong position with regard to affordability of financial services, ranking 93rd in the world with a score of 3.7 out of 7 compared to a world mean of 4.2. For financing through the local equity market it again scored above the mean (4.1 out of 7 compared to a mean of 3.5), ranking in 39th position. In relation to ease of access to loans, it ranked 124th in the world. However, the soundness of its banks was rated above the world mean with a score of 5.4 out of 7 with a mean of 5.1, placing it at 56th.