The history of the J.D.F Co-operative Credit Union is a story of aspiration, ambition and achievement. The Credit Union was formed in response to the increasing financial needs of service men, many of whom were finding it challenging to meet economic goals due to financial strains. The servicemen were bravely trying to overcome the challenges of low wages, high levels of indebtedness, the lack of access to bank loans and avaricious loan sharks who were making a thriving business from their need for financial aid.Within this period, a group of visionary thinkers proactively decided to change the course of action. The year was 1962, one year after the inception of the Jamaica Defence Force, when a group of civilians who were working in Up Park Camp, formed a study group led by Father McLaughlin and Mr. Tony Woods, to learn about the Credit Union Movement in Jamaica. This study group was comprised of volunteers who met weekly to discuss the operations and benefits of Credit Unions and the requirements for membership.
Recognizing the need for direct action members of the group which included; Mr. Ervin Grey, Mr. Basil Williamson, Ms. Joyce Marshall, Mrs. Cynthia Bruff and Mr. Luther Bruff began examining the feasibility of a Credit Union for the J.D.F. After approximately twelve months of careful research and planning, spearheaded by Mr. Grey, the J.D.F Co-operative Credit Union was registered as a member of the Co-operative Societies of Jamaica on December 19, 1963.
The founding members had a vision for growth and development, and originally formed a "savings club" in which deposits and withdrawals were made. These transactions were documented on cards, however as time progressed the Credit Union was officially certified, passbooks were then used to record lodgements.
The early years were not easy as the fledgling Credit Union needed to find ways to boost membership. Through a strategic decision, a promotions officer role was created and this individual began visiting the various units on camp to advertise and publicize the products and services the Credit Union offered. As the word spread, interest in the Credit Union grew on camp, but numerous servicemen were reluctant to become a part of the movement due to opposition from the skeptics in the military. Those who were hesitant joined in secrecy and were able to benefit from the many offerings of the Credit Union.
By the end of 1963 the Credit Union which was first located at the Telephone Exchange on Camp (with only two rooms) had a total of 100 members who injected a total of Six Hundred and Sixty-Two Pounds, One Shilling and Six Pence (£662.16). While this achievement was impressive, the structure of the organization was basic with only one employee (Mrs. Grey) who controlled the daily operations. An example of progress was evident in that the number of workers gradually increased as the membership grew. In addition, The Credit Union received voluntary services from the founding members who assisted during their lunch time.
In February of 1964, the JDF Co-operative Credit Union Limited officially became a member of the Jamaica Co-operative Credit Union League. The Credit Union continued to evolve as exemplified in its membership, increasing from a total of 504 in 1964 to a total of 819 in 1965. This increase was due largely to word-of-mouth marketing.
The first Annual General Meeting was held in January of 1964. Mr. Basil Williamson was elected as the first President, with Mr. Ervin Grey as Treasurer, Mrs. Cynthia Bruff as Assistant Treasurer and Ms. Joyce Marshall as Secretary. Interestingly, Mrs. Cynthia Bruff, a pioneer member of the study group, is still an active member of the Credit Union today. Mrs. Beryl Crawford (now deceased) was employed as the Credit Union's first full time manager.
In the year of 1965, the Credit Union was awarded 3rd prize in the International Credit Union Day Celebrations Competition. The Treasurer, Ervin Gray won 1st prize as the most outstanding contributor to the progression of the Credit Union during that period.
Ten years after the formation of the Credit Union, the Union boasts an impressive growth record, with membership growing from a mere 100 at inception to 1,500 in 1973. Early products offered in the first decade included loans (educational, marriage, furniture, burial etc.), and savings such as regular deposits and the share account. A special service to the Military was also offered, in which a member (who is a solider) had to be granted permission from his commanding officer in order to access a loan which would then be deducted from his salary. The interest rate charged on loans then was 12% on the unpaid balance and the maximum amount that a member could borrow was approximately �3,500. The Credit Union was continually responsive to member's needs and offered loans for the acquisition of patents for inventions, furniture and the payment of tuitions, as more members were interested in loans for business ventures.
The Loan process involved the Credit Committee meeting weekly to discuss the loan applications received and thus the loan processing took about one or two weeks and sometimes even up to a month, depending on the nature of the loan. Members often became frustrated with the inconvenience and were even more disgruntled if they did not qualify for the loan. With this in mind the Credit Union began working towards strategies to shorten loan processing time and ways to better satisfy members.
Evidence of the Union's commitment to exceptional service is highlighted by the members who express their satisfaction. "When I joined the Credit Union back then, it took seven weeks for a loan of thirty dollars ($30.00) to be processed. Although "thirty dollars" was plenty of money in those days, "now," when I walk into the Credit Union I can easily get fifty thousand dollars ($50,000.00) within 24 hours. I feel comfortable with the range of service; also the staff is customer friendly and I am committed. My money will always be with the JDF Credit Union." Commented long standing member (since 1972), ex-Warrant Officer Class Two Walter Douglas, in an interview conducted on World Credit Union Day, October 18, 2001, (pg 17-18, Alert 2002).
Membership in the Credit Union is now limited to members of the Jamaica Defence Force, civilian employees of the Jamaica Defence Force and employees of the J.D.F Credit Union; members of the local ex-service affiliate organizations; adult members of the Jamaica Combined Cadet Force; and their spouses and children. Children of members who are less than sixteen years of age may be admitted as savers. All members of the Credit Union upon leaving the employment of the Jamaica Defence Force or any of the aforementioned affiliated groups may retain their membership.
Over its 40 years of existence the Credit Union has grown impressively, opening with only �662.16, 100 members and only 1 staff member. Today the Credit Union has approximately 7,000 members, 20 staff members and a volunteer pool of 21 with an asset size that has exceeded J$200 million. The Credit Union's growth as a financial institution was recognised in the 2004 Credit Union League Awards, where it was awarded first place out of fifty eight Credit Unions for Credit Union with the highest asset growth. In addition it received honours for being Runner-Up Credit Union of the year for Category two (Credit Union with asset size of J$100 million -J$300 million). The Credit Union has strived to keep up with the pace of technology and has purchased the technological equipment necessary to conduct its daily operations in a timely and efficient manner.
To make the JDF Co-operative Credit Union a "one-stop" financial institution, offering a wide range of products and services in a highly accessible manner.
To enhance the financial well being of the JDF Family by providing quality and professional services
"To enhance the financial well-being of our members, by providing a wide range of Quality Service through a team of highly-trained and and professional staff and volunteers