American First Finance explains rationale for Jamaica expansion

In August this year, the US-based fintech firm. early american finance opened a new site Montego Bay, Jamaica. The move was not unique. As Jamaica continues to experience sustained growth in the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector, announcements of new deals and investments have become commonplace for industry watchers.

Moroccan BPO Intelcia launched a new call center and hired 600 people; companies with operations in the country, such as Concentrax, they are growing their business; and the island is expansion of office space through new technological parks. Jamaica is on fire!

What makes Jamaica such a great candidate for new BPO operations?

NSAM spoke with Thomas Nusspikel, chief operating officer of American First Finance. Nusspickel discussed the companies’ motivations for opening a site in Montego Bay and some of his general impressions of the development process and the current state of the industry in Jamaica.

Why Jamaica?

American First Finance focuses on providing alternatives to traditional retail loans. The firm has operations in Dallas, Tijuana, the Dominican Republic and now Montego Bay. In the case of its Jamaica site, even as executives considered other jurisdictions, a personal connection to the island helped with the decision.

“I have been with the firm for four and a half years, but I had previously worked for Amazon in Jamaica and had contacts there. I knew a little bit about how things worked and the potential they had,” Nusspickel said.

Thomas Nusspikel, chief operating officer of American First Finance

The firm also considered Guatemala and Colombia for its new operation. Those options were very justified. Colombia has become the standard bearer for the Nearshore services industry in recent years, having attracted investment from a variety of global firms in the outsourcing and digital services industry. Guatemala –particularly its capital– is become a regional center in the Nearshore, with leading companies such as Tata Consulting Services Y Everise opening or expansion of operations in the country.

“We look at Guatemala and Colombia. We both liked and were attracted to their Spanish speaking skills, quality, and less proficiency. A big interest for us is bilingual availability, especially Spanish. But we realized that in Jamaica we could also get it, although it is much more expensive”, explained Nusspickel.

“However, it is worth it, because the quality in Jamaica is top notch. They see it as a prestigious industry; there is pride in the work,” she added.

contract without problems

Professional services firms in Jamaica have complained of difficulties finding skilled talent, particularly for technology roles. At the same time, the pandemic-induced disruptions in the education sector created additional employment problems for BPO companies. Since BPO companies often hire recent high school graduates in their training programs, school closures during the pandemic had a significant impact on their hiring. As a consequence, most companies reported a perceived shortage of talent last year.

However, Nusspikel describes a relatively easy hiring process for his company.

“Hiring people has been fluid. Once we were able to advertise, and especially after we already had staff working there, word got out and we were able to attract the right talent,” Nusspickel said.

“The quality in Jamaica is top notch. They see it as a prestigious industry; there is pride in work”—Thomas Nusspickel, chief operating officer of American First Finance

American First Finance already has approximately 125 employees at the new Jamaica location.

“Our office is in the incubator area of ​​the free zone, where we will hire up to 250 people, which will eventually make it our largest site. We expect to have more than 200 workers by the end of the year,” Nusspickel said.

The new site is supposed to have operations in various business areas. Right now, American First Financial’s Jamaica site hosts a small technical support team, but it focuses primarily on customer service, collections, and quality control.

“These services are similar to our other sites, but we will be adding our business support team soon,” added Nusspickel.

A nightmare of paperwork

Despite the excitement surrounding the opening of the new site in Jamaica, it has not all been smooth sailing. American First Finance found itself mired in red tape, an experience well known to Nusspickel and to many who have tried to do business on the island.

“This whole process was obviously very beneficial in the end. However, we face a lot of challenges with paperwork and bureaucracy,” Nusspickel noted. “It takes a long time to make any move or change. We wanted the Special Economic Zone certification for tax purposes, and that is something that could greatly facilitate companies like us. It takes up to six months.”

“We face many challenges with paperwork and bureaucracy […] Nothing has changed in the last 10 years since I first conducted business there. It’s very frustrating.”—Thomas Nusspikel, chief operating officer of American First Finance

“Nothing has changed in the last 10 years since I first did business there. It’s very frustrating,” she added. “Fortunately, I’ve done it before, but it’s hard having to constantly tell other people within the company that it’s going to take longer. There has to be a better system to manage the process.”

Infrastructure is improving

Despite his frustrations with paperwork, as someone who has been traveling to Jamaica for the past few years, Nusspickel has seen progress in areas such as digital and physical infrastructure.

“For sure the general stability of Internet services has improved. The physical infrastructure has remained relatively stable, with some improvements with newer business parks,” Nusspickel said.

In terms of digital infrastructure, the island has made significant progress. With the pandemic, many companies began extensive and complicated remote adaptations. This forced industry players to improve their operations in areas such as cybersecurity, data privacy, productivity issues, and human resource management. Telecom providers also had to increase their supply to support higher demand. The result has been the improvement of networks and digital infrastructure on the island.

When it comes to the cost of operating this site, Nusspickel compares it to the company’s operation in Tijuana.

“There is not enough difference, maybe a little cheaper,” he said.

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