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Coronavirus

Markets Work: How Jamaica Stock Exchange Is Navigating COVID-19

Nasdaq's Market Technology community is truly keeping markets up and running. Marlene Street-Forrest, Managing Director of @jastockex, discusses how her exchange is managing the current environment for their stakeholders, members and employees.

Nasdaq is committed to the resiliency of the global market ecosystem during this time of unprecedented change in our industry. Our Market Technology community, which includes market infrastructure organizations spanning more than 50 countries, is truly keeping markets up and running. With exchanges laying the foundation for capital formation and job growth, these organizations will continue to play a critical role in the health and recovery of local economies around the world and greater global capital markets ecosystem.

Marlene Street-Forrest

We sat down with Marlene Street-Forrest, Managing Director of Jamaica Stock Exchange, to discuss how her exchange is managing the current environment for their stakeholders, members and employees.

1. How is COVID-19 affecting your client base? Are you changing how you interact and communicate as a result?

The Jamaica Stock Exchange’s main clients are the brokers through which trades on the market are processed and the listed companies. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the activities on the market primarily because there is reasonable anticipation that the pandemic will have varied financial impact on many of the listed companies. All but four of these companies have experienced reduced prices. This has led to the lower trade and fee income for brokers and the Jamaica Stock Exchange.

We have been able to interact and communicate with our clients fairly seamlessly by ramping up electronic means of communication and reducing the level of physical data that is sent to the exchange. Meetings are kept using Zoom, Teams and other such communication devices. Nonetheless, there are some barriers we are currently experiencing, for example, the holding of Annual General Meeting and the limitations of having these meetings held electronically or by means of a Hybrid (electronic and physical) given the requirement of our Act. 

As we are immobilized as against dematerialized should there be the need to trade securities not in the depository, the physical certificate must be surrendered, and this has its limitations. Further, we see a need to encourage all investors to provide a mandate by way of a bank account for payments of dividends.

Our market report from January paints a picture of our performance to date.

Stock Market Performance 

JSE Stock Market Performance 2020

2. How are your systems impacted by the current environment?

Fortunately, our systems, by and large, have not been impacted by the current environment. We are very pleased that we had moved to the Nasdaq trading platform, which has been efficient. The JSE’s Business Continuity Plan was effective in ensuring that the Group could operate within the COVID-19 environment, which allowed the staff to work remotely in almost all areas of our operation, while maintaining good corporate governance.

3. How do you prepare for this type of situation to help ensure a resilient, operational environment?

The JSE considered a number of factors in preparation for this type of situation, which included:

  • Efficient platforms for execution of a trade
  • Active Business Continuity Plan
  • Execution of measures to deal with the safety of employees
  • Transition towards a digital environment
  • Ensuring proper ERM infrastructure, risk and compliance policies and procedures
  • Sound Regulatory Framework
  • Taking advantage of continuous training and systems upgrade

Finally, it is important that we stay close to the market to understand what our customers will require during and post-COVID-19, converting them into business opportunities to support business growth, development and profitability.

4. What are some of the things you’re most happy to have accomplished over the first part of this year amidst a truly chaotic market environment?

The JSE was just so happy that it was able to migrate to the Nasdaq platform as we would have several issues maintaining a proper functioning platform, one which we were not required to hand-hold. We have also been in the progress of several developmental projects that are at the stage where they will not be severely impacted. For example, we wrapped up on our 50th Anniversary celebrations in February of this year, signed our agreement with IDB for the further development of the Social Stock Exchange in December and executed a very successful conference in January 2020.

Jamaica Stock Exchange Tower Shot

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