Simon Hughes interviews Jacqueline Woiso, Senior Vice President and Deputy Chief Executive Officer at Bank M Tanzania plc on Bank M continual expansion in Tanzania.
It is my very great pleasure to say congratulations to Bank M Tanzania plc and, of course, yourself on the award for Best Commercial Bank of the Year, Tanzania. Many congratulations.
Thank you. Thank you very much. I would say that this is a very tremendous achievement for us. And truly being the best commercial bank in Tanzania would not have been possible without the true support of our very loyal customers, my hard-working colleagues in Tanzania, our directors, regulators and also my very hard-working CEO, Sanjeev Kumar. Thank you very much.
Let’s start by thinking about the banking sector in Tanzania. How has that evolved over your career to date?
I would say that my career has evolved over the years with practice banking. I actually joined the banking industry in 1999 when I just completed my adult diploma in business administration. At that time I would say there were a lot of challenges as well as opportunities. And the banking industry in those days, I would say, in Tanzania, it was not very developed in terms of banking technology. Light in the banking technology was concentrated in core banking software, and that was it. So the rest of the transactions were done manually, and actually the banks had to hire a lot of people to do a few number of transactions because of a lack of proper technology in the banking sector. But since then the banking technology has evolved with time, and a lot of changes have happened in the industry. I would say that the opportunities which were there at that time and which are not there at the moment is that banks were able to charge quite a lot, a lot hefty charges in terms of, for payment solutions as well as simple banking services, like Internet banking. In those days very few banks, like one or two banks only, had Internet banking services, and they would pay like only, they would pay as much as $200 to $250 per month only for subscription for Internet banking. Which in most places now is free of cost or not even more than $20 per month. And things like payment solutions banks would charge up to $500 per month, which was quite hefty, I would say, in the modern times. But since then a lot of things have started evolving, a lot of banking technology, into almost everything which the banks are doing, and that is where Bank M came into the market, and we were able to bring in a lot of innovative products and make better use of right banking technology to move up to the scale.
And thinking about the operational challenges that arise from expanding products and service range, how do you manage that in your career? How do you keep abreast of all of those challenges as new developments, new products, new services come online?
In our context operational challenges are there to be managed. You cannot move along in the banking industry without managing operational challenges. So what we normally do is that we make sure that we are on the spot, that we have the right technology, the right skills and the right people to be able to execute the development of products on an ongoing basis. And just to set an example for how you can use the technology in the right way to develop products, we have actually entered into a partnership with the Tanzania Revenue Authority, we call it TRA. So four years ago, we were able to develop very exciting products whereby we were able to serve customers to pay taxes in only five minutes. And this was a very exciting product. It was a runaway success for the bank, and at the moment we are talking of actually collecting up to 75 percent of customs and excise duties in the country. So we can see the way we can use operational challenges to transform a lot of products and bring exciting new things, and also collect revenues at the same time.
So, I mean, that’s one example of a kind of differential for Bank M. What other examples do you think make Bank M stand out in a very competitive marketplace?
I would say that’s also a very interesting question because we have been able to stand out from the crowd because of the different products which we have evolved over time. The first thing being we’re the first African bank to open 12 hours a day, that is from 8 AM up to 8 PM in the evening. And secondly, is through Sunday to Sunday banking, we call it Sunday to Sunday. Ideally what it means is that the bank is open for banking services from Monday up to Sunday and 12 hours a day, as I said earlier. And the third factor is that we have something which is called service satisfaction guarantee, whereby the bank commits to deliver and process transactions at the pre-agreed time. If we are not able to deliver or execute the transaction in the pre-agreed time, we have to compensate the client on a specific commission rate, which is also at a pre-agreed rate in a very, very transparent manner. As a key relation factor is our client coverage ratio. Each member of our staff is expected to look after only three clients. This is a very high-skilled ratio in the African market, and this is one of the key factors which have made us very successful in the market, because we are able to provide the undivided attention and business approach to our clients.
And thinking about setting yourself apart from the crowd in the future, how do you plan to do that?
Being a corporate bank, it’s not very difficult for us because we do not look at acquiring a big number of clients; we’re not serving the mass market, and 1,000 still being a small market in terms of financial services. We’ll still be able to manage this because we’ll recruit more staff. But also not in a very large space because we don’t expect to have a lot of clients coming and flocking to our banks for opening accounts.
So thinking about some of the opportunities and challenges, how would you describe your leadership style, and how has this impacted on the work of Bank M?
My leadership style is more of coaching and also I would say transformational as well as a situational type of leadership. With an emerging market you should be able to be flexible at all times and be able to cope with different challenges which come through to you. So what I normally do is actually I train people to be able to take up challenges and transform them into opportunities. I actually coach people to always think out of the box, be innovative, bring up new ideas which will actually bring, of course, obviously more revenues to the bank. And also increase the balance and size of the bank.
And talking of flexibility, let’s think about the kind of footprint of Bank M at the moment. Would you like to expand Bank M’s geographic scope further into the future?
Yes, that is definitely something which we are looking at the moment. We have a three-fold expansion strategy at the moment. The first one being we’re looking at opening up four new branches in Tanzania in the current year. That would be within Dar es Salaam and also some parts of the southern end of the country. And secondly we’re looking at, we’re actually in the process of setting up the first mortgage finance bank in the country, and that is in partnership with IFC Washington as well as HDFC India, this is the housing development and finance bank in India, and also two highly reputed partners in the country. And thirdly is we are now in the process also of getting into Kenya, the neighboring country in the East African region, through a land operating holding company. So ideally what you’re looking at is toward the end of this year we should also be in Kenya.
And in terms of growth outside Tanzania apart from Kenya is East Africa the primary area you’ll be looking at in terms of your five-year plan?
No, our expansion strategy is not only limited to Kenya. Because the main vision is actually looking at presence in between eight to ten countries in the sub-Saharan African region. Because what we have seen over the years is that these countries in the Eastern and Southern Africa actually have more very local business traditions. And even some of the clients which we already have have their businesses operating in different countries. So it will also be easy for us to expand our footprints within those areas.
And thinking about that kind of expansion, which sectors locally and perhaps globally do you expect to significantly affect the Tanzanian and the wider African economy over the next couple of years?
In the recent past probably, I would say, two years back, there’s been a lot of excitement in the East African region as well as Tanzania because we have actually discovered natural deposits of oil and natural gas, which will actually attract a lot of foreign direct investment in the East African region as well as Tanzania and with more foreign direct investment what we are already seeing is that there is a lot of potential in terms of the growing industries. This includes manufacturing industry, telecom, as well as infrastructure industry in the country.
And in some of those sectors there has been quite significant growth in the last quarter 2014. What do you think the key factors for growth for Bank M are going forward?
The key factors for Bank M going forward is that we have been able to have significant interest in terms of acquiring large business families in the country. We’ve acquired more than 300 family businesses in the country, and what we’re seeing now is besides retaining our focus on the corporate businesses, we’re also looking into institutional banking. We believe that institutional banking is our next area of growth over the next five years. What we see with the institutional banking sector is that it will offer a big potential in terms of vast resources and excellent potential in terms of balancing growth because they have a lot of requirements in terms of transactional banking services which other banks in the market are not offering at the moment.
So we’re kind of crystal ball gazing a little, but if we kind of think about your achievements to date, what are you most proud of in terms of what you contributed to Bank M?
I would say that I was fortunate to be among the first founding members of the bank in 2007 when I joined the bank. I joined as the head of cash management at that time, and since then I’ve been able to take up additional responsibilities. And I was able to learn different things within the banking industry— that is, corporate financing, lending, private banking, institutional banking, investment advisory, etc. So this has actually built up my career, and now I feel that I’m able to take up a lot of other responsibilities in the bank to the level that I’ve also been a senior member of the bank.
Thinking about learning, and you’ve touched upon the kind of importance of your staff and coaching them and mentoring them, what are the qualities that you look for in members of the enterprise?
I believe in hiring for attitudes because we also see that technical skills can be trained, people can have technical skills with training, and what I always look for is that if the person has the right attitude, and if you train this person properly, then definitely you’re going to get the right output from them.
And I’ve seen there’s a phrase kind of in terms of coaching people in the bank, being both a coach and a pacesetter in terms of the approach that’s taken, how do you set about inspiring and motivating your employees?
When it comes to inspiring, the first thing is that you have to be the role model. If you’re not the role model, then people will take a different track. The most important thing is that you become the role model, inspire them to take challenges and lead them to thinking out of the box. They should not always think along the lines which they see because it’s a growing market, people have to always have to grow up with new ideas to be able to be successful in the bank.
Now earlier on you mentioned how technology has really transformed banking during your career. And I know that Bank M’s invested in some blue chip technology to manage back office processes. But how do you manage the balance between human and electronic interactions when it comes to delivering customer service?
I would say that technology is the backbone in financial services. So what we’ve actually done is on an ongoing basis, we continue developing new products. We’ve invested quite a lot in terms of banking technology. And we continue doing that because we believe that’s the only thing to take us forward. But at the same time despite having all this new technology and a lot of sophisticated products within the bank, we also try to maintain our client-centric approach whereby we’re able to provide undivided attention to our clients, give the personal touch to ensure that we are not very far from our clients, and also we have a very high-calibre relationship team taking care of our clients.
You mentioned the customer satisfaction guarantee. What kind of score do you achieve on that on an annual basis?
For a long time we’ve been achieving levels of between 70 to 80, but from the beginning of this year we’ve actually been achieving up to 99.5 percent. Our clients keep sending emails to us almost on a regular basis to say they’re very happy because whenever we refund them, they send emails back to us, not believing that really a bank has refunded some money to the client because of not being able to deliver to their promises.
Now we’re being very positive, but what are some of the biggest challenges, do you think, faced by a bank operating in your region? And how do you meet them?
We have a lot of graduates coming out from the universities, studying different kinds of subjects. But the biggest challenge we have is having enough seasoned bankers or in other terms business managers who can take up quickly additional responsibilities or even managerial positions in the bank or even as private sectors. We have even developed specific training programs in the bank which can actually cater for specific needs of different people working in different departments within the bank. For instance, we have special trainings for trade finance, customer service, branch operations, compliance and anti-money-laundering, trade finance, cash management, relationship manager and so forth. So as soon as we hire people, we order them through this program, and also on an ongoing basis this is done for new as well as existing staff members to keep up to the speed and make sure that they are able to cope with their responsibilities which have been assigned to them
I’m thinking about your workforce as a community in a way that you’re training and motivating and inspiring. Bank M also seems to focus quite heavily on very active CSR initiatives. Give me some examples of those.
At Bank M first of all we have our CSR policy; we call it Money at Heart, which is branded similarly to the rest of the banking products. And with Money at Heart, we actually are focusing on four main sectors. First being educational projects, and then community health projects, and environment conservation, and also supporting local artists and entrepreneurs.
One of those is supported by a marathon that takes place every year. Is that right?
Yes, yes, you’re very right. We’re actually associated with five main partners. And what we always do is that we engage ourselves with very reputable partners and the true factors which you look at whenever we engage with these partners is that we make sure that the projects create a big impact to the community and also at the same time they are sustainable. What we’re trying to do is actually we ensure that we are supporting projects which are creating a large impact on the community as well as proving to be very sustainable. Sustainability in terms of each project should not be less than five years. We take on projects which have a term of between three to five years, even more than that. Because we really want to see the changes that these projects have been making on the community which we are living in.
You mentioned the importance of working with really good partners. Which partners are you engaging with at the moment?
We’re actually engaging with five main partners. And these are highly reputable partners. The first one being the Rotary Clubs in Tanzania, whereby every year we organize a marathon in Dar-es-Salaam. It’s called the Rotary Dar Marathon; it’s now becoming an iconic event in Dar-es-Salaam, and we’ve been sponsoring this event for more than six years now. And what also we’ve done with them, we’ve been able to plant more than 20,000 trees in Dar-es-Salaam. We have provided water and sanitation facilities in more than 50 schools in Dar-es-Salaam. We’ve supported them in construction of state of art on the college economic center in Muhimbili Hospital, this is the national hospital in Dar-es-Salaam. This center is actually providing entrepreneurial subjects for these students which are studying at the universities of Dar-es-Salaam. And the second partner which you have is Benjamin Mkapa HIV Foundation. This was jointly founded by the ex-president of Tanzania, Benjamin William Mkapa, and Bill Clinton, the former US president. The Benjamin Mkapa Foundation, they actually train and equip doctors to go to the remote areas of the country. And also the other responsibility is to treat people who are infected with HIV and also construction of laboratories and also operating theaters in remote areas of Tanzania. The third partner which we have is the Hassan Maajar Trust. This was founded by the former ambassador of Tanzania in the US as well as UK, Ambassador Maajar. What we are doing with the Hassan Maajar Trust is supporting them to provide desks across the country, and so far they’ve been able to provide more than 20,000 desks across the country, especially in primary schools in the remote areas. And the fourth partner which we have is KPMG. We’ve associated with KPMG to coordinate and also to facilitate the Top 100 Best Companies awards which happen on an annual basis in Tanzania. This is actually a regional initiative. It is also happening in Kenya as well as in Uganda. So we are also the main sponsors of these awards in Tanzania. And the fifth partner is Amref Health Africa. With Amref Health Africa, what we do is support their Stand Up for African Mothers campaign. In this project Amref Health Africa is facilitating training of 3,800 midwives in the country, and this is a goal which is to be completed by the year 2017. So we are in the third year now, and they are actually progressing quite well at the moment. In addition to that Bank M is also considered to be the highest contributors in community development in the country in terms of CSR initiatives. And in every year we contribute not less than two million dollars in the CSR initiatives.
And presumably the investment that Bank M makes in CSR projects like those you’ve just been describing also helps the bank in terms of awareness and in terms of public recognition and helps attract the kind of bright talents that you need to kind of keep going forward as you’ve been describing.
Yes, we’ve been able to gain a significant public recognition. And in terms of both customers as well as prospective employees because a lot of people come to us because they’ve seen us supporting the community to a great extent. At the same time we also get a lot of applications from people who want to work with the bank.
So finally, Jacqueline, what role do you think your education and background in industry have played in developing your approach to banking services?
My education has been very helpful in terms of developing my career in banking because I started in business administration which has actually encouraged my way of working into being very flexible. And even the way you think—it means that you think in a situational basis, so that your thinking has to change according to the environment and the different business situations which you actually interact with on a day-to-day basis. This has actually taken my career to different levels. For example, 10 years ago I was supposed to be installing Internet banking at clients’ premises. In those days we were using modems. So this process would take almost one to two hours, and it was a very lengthy and cumbersome process, which was done manually. So in time I’ve been able to use my knowledge into developing my skills in banking. I actually completed my MBA course as soon as I joined Bank M in 2007. And I had the opportunity to practice immediately what I’d learned in my MBA course, because I was expected, including my other team members in the bank as well, to create a conducive environment, train new recruits, prepare client proposals as well as present presentations and also at the same time acquire new relationships, which were very new relationships, so actually going out to the market and sourcing new clients of the bank. And this would probably be one of the highest points in my banking career.
A final thought, Jacqueline, during the series of interviews that I’ve been doing for the magazine, you’re the first woman that I’ve interviewed. How does being female in the world of banking work?
Oh, that is pretty interesting, and I’ve actually been experiencing this situation of being the only female in almost every meeting which I attend. Being in Tanzania, in different places, and what I would say is that Bank M is one of the proud employers who have been able to achieve gender parity. Since 2012, Bank M has been one of the few banks in the market which has been able to achieve gender parity of 50 percent female staff and 50 percent of male staff. Which is one of the very differential factors of the bank compared to the other banks in the market and probably even in the region.
It’s been a great pleasure talking to you today, Jacqueline. Thank you very much for your time.
Thank you very much, Simon. Thank you.