Jamaica Stock Exchange is running hot and Canada wants in

By Stephen Weir


Marlene Street Forrest

Call it JamStock, an evening love-in for Jamaicans Canadians with money to invest.  Last week the Jamaica Canadian Association’s meeting hall was jammed to the walls with Torontonians eager to learn how to get in bed with the Jamaican Stock Exchange (JES).

The JES has been around for fifty years, but because it is a very small exchange most young Canadian investors are only now becoming aware of it.  The world interest in the Exchange is big these days, fueled in part by favourable reports in respected Wall Street business news outlets. Bloomberg Business declared in the spring that the Jamaica Exchange is the “world’s best-performing stock market”.

“Its out performance over the past five years and is even more striking,” reported Bloomberg. “Jamaican stocks have surged almost 300 percent, more than quadrupling the next-best-performing national benchmark and sextupling the Standard and Poor’s’ “top 500 stocks.”

The exchange is miniscule in size compared to what happens in Toronto. The total value of the 37 stocks in the main Jamaica index is less than $11 Billion US.  Toronto has over 2,000 stocks listed with a market cap, in 2017, of $2.3051 Trillion!

Last Thursday the JCA meeting had a room filled with Jamaica’s top business people.

Speaking on behalf of the delegation and the Exchange, the chairman Ian McNaughton declared: “We are here to make money. Real money,” as he introduced Managing Director Marlene Street Forest.

The Managing Director was given a hero’s welcome when she took the microphone.

“We feel that as the Jamaica community, we have something to share and we feel you can profit from it. We are going to show how you can make money! With me tonight are representatives from every single sector of the Exchange. (We want to tell you tonight) why you should choose to invest in the Jamaica Stock Exchange.”

The Caribbean Camera spoke to Mrs. Forest after the 4-hour reception ended. The longtime director was asked why so many business leaders made the trip to Toronto.

“We have quite a number of Jamaicans across Canada and our meeting last night was an attempt to connect with the Diaspora,” she told the Caribbean Camera. “We need to reach out and offer them the opportunities that are available.  Money can be sent to Jamaica and wealth can be created for Canadians. It is a two-way street and we wanted to show Jamaican Canadians how they can benefit by investing back in Jamaica.”

While most of the stocks listed on the exchange are Jamaican (including Jamaican-Canadian billionaire Michael Lee-Chin’s NCB Financial Group Ltd) there are other companies from across the Caribbean on the Exchange. Mrs. Forest said that most of those companies are from Barbados and Trinidad.

“In Jamaica our companies are cross listed to the exchanges in Barbados and Trinidad. We are also reaching out to Cayman to create a special status with them.”

The big question from some of the Toronto potential investors was the Exchange’s involvement with Kingston-based companies involved in the medical ganja business.  Although now legal, the Jamaican companies have not yet applied to join the Exchange.  Mrs. Forest expects that will change in the near future.

For the Jamaican team it was just the first of many meetings with Toronto’s business community.

“We are off to the US next week to do a similar event,” said Mrs. Forest. “We really want to ramp it up!”