Before the end of July 2017, Equity Bank Rwanda will roll out a robust financial platform, which it believes will disrupt the market and provide a cutting edge for its penetration ambitions.
“We are actually rolling out soon a technology platform that will have the entire bank on the phone,” the Bank’s Managing Director, Hannington Namara told Taarifa on Tuesday evening at a gala dinner with clients in Muhanga District.
Namara said that all the bank’s services will now be offered through a phone; from payments to account opening to transfers, loans, borrowing airtime on the phone.
“All those services are like moving the entire bank. The services you would have gone to get from the bank, you will now get through your handset,” he said adding that, “we are in the process of talking to stakeholders including all the stakeholders and telecoms to ensure that it is enabled. So if you have a phone, you will have a bank on your handset.”
Namara had led his senior management team to Muhanga District where the bank has one of its biggest branches in the countryside.
The management is currently reconnecting its customers across the country, expressing gratitude for the hospitality from people towards its branches. “We are here to thank our customers, we call them members who have supported us in the beginning…we are proud that their support has resulted into the successes we have today as Equity Bank,” Namara said.
In presence also were provincial and district leaders, security and religious leaders. Clients were given opportunity to raise concerns directly to the Managing Director. Lowering interest rates, extending working hours, scraping off some bank charges and flexibility in loan conditions were among the request made.
“We are afraid of taking loans, conditions are stringent. For example, one gets a loan and the bank demand a shorter period to service the loan, the next day you see is that two years collapse before even a project takes off and the bank wants you to begin paying,’ said Sylive Mutijima, one of the businessmen in Muhanga.
Another customer requested that the bank has tendencies to chop off fees or take funds from an overdraft. “We need assurance and security for our money,” the customer said.
Namara responded to the queries. He said that the bank has received feedback about interest rates. He said the rate is determined by the money market and the central bank’s repo rate, which the bank has no control over. He however said that some loan products have been lowered to about 16%. As for overdrafts, he said it is wrong and such a scenario should not happen at all. “we are sorry, we will rectify the matter.”
Below is an interview with Namara after the gala.
Taarifa: Why is the bank going out to the customers across the country, and here you are at Muhanga?
Namara: I think it is an exciting time first of all to reconnect with Muhanga, we were last here five years ago when we opened up the branch but we have also seen a bit of hospitality from people in Muhanga towards us and our branch here. We are here today to say thank you very much to our customers, we call them members who have supported us in the beginning. We are proud that their support has resulted into the successes we have today as Equity Bank. So it was time to check in and thank our members and recommit to delivering better services, to bringing home innovation. We are in the process of preparing or piloting our technological program, which will soon be rolling out so it was good to meet customers and seek their feedback on our services so far, where we need to improve and where we need to be better and we got very good and insightful input from our customers. We wanted this to be a culture that we have feedback, so sessions with our customers and finding out how we are doing because the measurement of our performance is in the eyes of our customers. We cannot judge ourselves better; the customers and the market will judge us. We are here to engage and find out. There are investment opportunities here in Muhanga, we know it is a cash man area for business. So we wonder what more we can do. We got very exciting ideas from them.
Taarifa: You mentioned a robust tech evolution the bank to roll out soon. Can you break it down?
Namara: We are actually rolling out soon a technology platform that will have the entire bank on the phone. All the services you do with a phone from payments to account opening to transfers, to loans, and to borrowing airtime on the phone. All those services are like moving the entire bank. The services you would have gone to the bank will be your handset. And we are in the process of talking to stakeholders including all the stakeholders; telecom, to ensure that it is enabled. So if you have a phone, you will have a bank on your handset.
Taarifa: How will that experience be for both retail and enterprise?
Namara: The platform will mainly be for retail customers. But there is also a part for corporates who would mainly need Internet banking services, who can also access them through the phone if they so wish. But we know that those have structures they work in many of them would be office- bound. So the platform allows multiple payments for corporates institutions, organisations, including having the ability of paying from their bank account to mobile money beneficiaries. For example those who have construction sites know that there are casual labourers who do not have accounts. They can pay them through their mobile money accounts straightforward.
Taarifa: It has been five years, give us some numbers.
Namara: It has been five good years. And I think we probably broke even in 2014. Having opened just those three years before. We are now in profit making territory. Last year, we gave investors a good profit put online, about 2 billion. This year, we expect to do more we have customer base about 600000 customers. The balance sheet is well over a 100 billion. We have probably achieved market share about 7%. And we are in the league of the first five banks. So that shows us there is confidence for groom and growth in the market. It has been five years but good five years.