From as early as 1867, the concept of the Building Society was introduced to Jamaica to assist working and middle class people in realizing their dream to own their own home. In the ensuing years, a number of Building Societies sprung to life and in the year 1865, an Act for the Regulation and Encouragement of Benefit Building Societies was passed.
The Jamaica National Building Society (JNBS) is the product of a series of mergers pioneered by the Westmoreland Building Society. Today, Jamaica National is ranked among Jamaica's largest financial institutions offering a blend of financial services and mortgage plans to customers living in Jamaica, the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Canada and The Cayman Islands.
In this article, we trace its roots, beginning with the Westmoreland Building Society from which it sprang.
On Thursday, August 13, 1874, the Westmoreland Building Society held its first Directors’ Meeting. The Reverend Henry Clarke, Founder and first Chairman, presided. In 1967, the Society entered a period of expansion by absorbing the Manchester Mutual Benefit Society, building new offices in Savanna-la-Mar and establishing branches in Santa Cruz, Mandeville, May Pen and Kingston, linking them all by radio-telephone.
The Westmoreland Building Society stands as a pioneer in Building Society mergers in Jamaica beginning with its merger with the Manchester Mutual, and followed by its association with the Central Building Society in Christiana. By this, the Society was given the confidence and experience to be party to the mergers, which took place in December 1970, uniting the St. James Benefit, the St. Ann Benefit and the Brown’s Town Benefit Building Societies.
The St. James Benefit Building Society, founded in 1874 but incorporated in 1901, began modestly as a penny savings bank for members of the congregation of the Reverend Cork, its founder.
The Brown’s Town Benefit Building Society was the “baby” of the merging societies, having been founded only 74 years before in 1896. Its founder, Mr. A. H. Allwood, a solicitor by profession, started the Society with a desk in his own office where people, including little children, encouraged to save, came to deposit their pennies.
Following this early spate of mergers, which culminated in the formation of the JNBS in 1970, the St. Thomas Mutual Building Society, founded in 1897, formally merged its assets with that of the JNBS in September 1976. The Jamaica Permanent Building Society established in 1878, merged with the JNBS in 1977 and finally in 1983, the St. Mary’s Benefit Building Society established in 1915, merged with the JNBS. The final two acquisitions were Hanover Benefit Building Society in 1996 and Jamaica Savings and Loans Building Society in 2001.
Over 130 years of steady growth has led the JNBS to be the entity it is today and its success can be attributed to the men of caliber who, over the years, were prepared to see beyond parochialism towards the creation of a unit, better able to compete to fulfill its obligations.