JN Small Business Loans Limited (JNSBL) is confident that its use of geographic information system (GIS) technology is allowing it to assist its clients during times of natural disasters, and to analyse trends in their loan repayments and requests.
The introduction of GIS by JNSBL 14 years ago marked the first time that a micro finance company in the Caribbean used geo-tagging to assist it to provide support for clients.
“JN Small Business Loans Limited became interested in using geographic information system technology as a means to gain deeper insights into our client base,” explained Kadia Allen, GIS administrator at JNSBL.
“The company wanted to be able to analyse data being collected from our clients to examine borrowing and delinquency trends by communities. Mona Geoinformatics was contracted to carry out this project and the locations of all JNSBL clients were recorded using GPS units,” added Allen.
GIS is software which integrates, stores, analyses, manages and displays data that is linked to any location. Following its development, the information was used to merge clients’ financial and demographic data with their unique spatial data, collected and recorded by the GPS units. This also involved the mapping of all loan and client locations using hand-held GPS devices.
“JNSBL team members were also trained in collecting and maintaining the GIS database. Spatial analysis was also done and maps created based on the information collected. When we finished that project we were the first company in the Caribbean region to have their entire client base mapped,” declared Allen.
JNSBL has also used the technology to improve its operations and to make informed decisions when it comes to marketing, client services, delinquency management and market penetration.
“We also use GIS to identify which areas are saturated. From there, we are able to determine where we should concentrate our marketing activities. It has also helped us to offer better services to our clients by ensuring that they are close to a payment channel.
“If there is an area or community where we notice an increase in our client base but also realise that those clients would travel a relatively long distance to access our services, we will then evaluate how we can better serve them – whether by opening up a new location or assigning a client relations officer,” added Allen.
The GIS officer noted that the technology has also helped the company to decide the type of product or solution that should be offered to clients in particular areas.
“If we realise that an area, based on borrowing trends, takes our products for agriculture, tourism, or manufacturing, we would then tailor and promote certain products to meet their specific needs. Additionally, because of the insights GIS analysis gives us regarding delinquency, JNSBL ensures that clients within certain areas are given the assistance and close attention needed to stay on top of payments,” said Allen.
The company has also used GIS to create digital maps and databases to assist with its disaster preparation, planning and management.
“We primarily use this technology to tell us the communities which will be most at risk to hazards such as flooding and landslides during natural disasters such as hurricanes and tropical storms. This allows us to know which clients will be most impacted by an impending weather phenomenon and the principal value of our loans that will be at risk,” explained Gillian Hyde, general manager, JNSBL.
“We are able to use this information to communicate with our at-risk clients before, if possible, and after the occurrence of any natural disaster. This also allows us to evaluate the preparedness of our clients, communicate mitigation tips, and in the aftermath to check on their well-being and to offer assistance, if necessary, by way of our disaster loan facility,” added Hyde.
She said GIS has been used during the novel coronavirus pandemic to assist the company to make informed decisions.
“We have a monthly COVID-19 dashboard which shows the virus’ spread per parish side by side with the locations of our customers. This helps us to see the risk to the company per parish, and the parishes whose portfolios we need to closely monitor,” Hyde stated.
“We also use the tool to quickly assess how many clients we have in communities where there are special restrictions. This helps us to understand the scope of the risk to the company because of a lockdown, and helps us to quickly identify clients needing assistance and greater support during challenging times,” declared Hyde.