Banks need to be customer centred to thrive – OIKO boss

Daniel Muhimuzi is the country manager of OIKO International Credit Firm, a global private credit company, that has so far extended close to Rwf9b to credit institutions to improve the standards of those living in abject poverty.  
Muhimuzi urges financial institutions to think outside the the proverbial box to stay afloat. The New Times / Ivan Ngoboka
Muhimuzi urges financial institutions to think outside the the proverbial box to stay afloat. The New Times / Ivan Ngoboka

Daniel Muhimuzi is the country manager of OIKO International Credit Firm, a global private credit company, that has so far extended close to Rwf9b to credit institutions to improve the standards of those living in abject poverty. He talked to Business Times’ Peterson Tumwebaze about the role financial institutions should play to drive the second phase of the Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS II) objectives, how to sustain credit institutions, as well as what banks should do to benefit from the East African Community integration

The last central bank quarterly monetary policy and financial stability report indicated outstanding performance of micro-finance institutions (MFIs) and other credit institutions, what are the driving factors behind this performance? 

MFIs, including Umurenge SACCOs, have exploited what for a long time commercial banks had failed to do; taking financial services to the rural masses who were neglected by commercial banks. 

This has in turn helped level the playing ground for fair competition to thrive. As a result, commercial banks have been forced to conduct customer recruitment campaigns through products like agency banking to bring on board the unbanked masses.

Because they understand population dynamics of rural-urban settlements, micro-finance institutions have been able to come up with unique credit products such as group lending, agro–lending, and micro leasing, that target low income earners. These are typically micro-finance products that are flexible as far as collateral is concerned.

The Government recently launched EDPRS II programme, what role should credit institutions play to make this ambitious plan a reality? 

Credit institutions should prioritise those areas which are in line with this growth plan. 

Extending credit to labour intensive projects, high productivity projects, and innovative technologies and service-oriented projects will, not only create the 200,000 targeted new jobs, but also lift people out of poverty.

Agro-lending must be at the fore front of this project, especially when you look at the country’s settlement partners; we should also not forget that farming has since become a business that deserves investment finance.

How should credit institutions position themselves to take on the mantel?

They should work on their technological innovation, lest they are left by the roadside.

Capacity building, in terms skills and technical competences required by the market, must be on every MFI’s to-do plan.

You were recently advocating for client protection; how important is client protection in credit business?

Unless you line your business with clients’ needs and be able to understand their rights, you will never achieve that sustainability.

Unlike other businesses, there has to be a strong relationship between a client and the institution for any credit business to thrive. This is as far as trust, integrity and honesty are concerned.

Exploiting the ignorance of a client may sustain your business in short-run, but will be an ultimate disaster in the long-run.

How will the East African Community integration change the dynamics of the local banking industry?

There will be more operators on the market, regional banks are here, with more still on way, and competition becoming stiffer. So,  local financial institutions should start thinking outside the box to stay afloat and competitive.

This calls for more innovation as more financial resources start coming onto the market. Clients will have a lot of options to choose from. Therefore, those banks that will be seen as appreciative of customers and easily accessible will take the day.

What about fears that local banks will be swallowed by big regional banks?

There is only one way out, innovate if you must survive the onslaught.

Advice to credit institutions? 

Credit institutions should position themselves well to match, not only clients’ needs, but also the priorities of the economy. This is because, for  any business to make it big and survive cutthroat competition, it should be demand driven and not supply driven

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