Inspired by the English language, Versus Bank is by definition the bank of challenges. It was created in 2003 in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, out of a desire to support the actions of national champions in meeting the many challenges they faced. The bank’s activities were going well until August 2006, when it was put under provisional administration; in December 2008, it was taken over entirely by the State of Côte d’Ivoire.
So much progress has been made since the State takeover. Indeed, in 2011, the bank began an innovative dynamic through its official positioning as a partner bank for SMIs/SMEs (small and medium-sized investors/small and medium-sized enterprises), which would later earn it prizes for the most innovative bank and the best bank, respectively, in 2017 and 2019.
In June 2018, a new page in the history of Versus Bank opened with the entry of a new shareholder, the General Fund of Retirement of the Agents of the State (CGRAE or Caisse Générale de Retraite des Agents de l’Etat), resulting in the bank’s capital increasing from 3 billion to 10 billion FCFA. In 2019, Jerome Ehui assumed the role of general manager.
Thanks to all these efforts, Versus Bank can claim today:
- 17 years of existence;
- 152 employees as of May 31, 2021;
- 10 billion in capital (52.89 percent State of Côte d’Ivoire; 47.11 percent CGRAE);
- Four large, high-standards agencies, the latest of which, Abatta, opened in 2021;
- More than 75 percent of its financing allocated to SMEs;
- And above all, a momentous result of more than CFAF 3 billion in 2020.
- An improvement in its governance framework
Based on the new prudential requirements and the entry of a new shareholder, the bank has restructured its board of directors with the recruitment of three new independent directors, the establishment of an audit committee and risk committee, as well as the appointment of lead directors in charge of compensation, ethics and compliance.
This restructuring of its board of directors has enabled the bank to be in line with international standards of governance and significantly improve the management of its activities.
- An organisational overhaul to improve operational efficiency
In order to significantly improve the bank’s operational efficiency and align the composition of its human capital with its ambitions, the general management has overhauled its organisational structure. The implementation of this project has led to:
- The creation of two new directorates,
- The restructuring of two existing directorates,
- The creation of specialised internal committees in addition to the management committee,
- The recruitment of new profiles for strategic positions,
- The reinforcement of its staff.
- New values focused on the quality of our services
Upon taking over the leadership of the bank in 2019, the new chief executive officer (CEO) launched a transformation process, referred to as the Versus Transform Days.
This project aimed to involve Versus bankers in a new dynamic, including:
- Amplifying internal and external communication actions and promoting a real company culture to reinforce the team spirit;
- Optimising organisational procedures;
- Strengthening leadership and responsibility of employees and fostering an adequate working climate;
- Developing performance through the capacity building of teams, formalising and implementing an integration process;
- Having a customer-oriented organisation by addressing retail customers through adapted and diversified products and/or services and constantly striving to obtain an optimal customer-satisfaction index.
All these actions were possible only because the staff acted in synergy around new values. Brainstorming sessions involving the staff enabled the bank to define four cardinal values summarised under the acronym DIRE, as follows:
- Availability: We are always available to our colleagues and are committed to satisfying our customers by responding promptly to their concerns and by actively listening to them on a daily basis.
- Innovation: We reinvent ourselves to provide our clients with the most innovative solutions to meet the major challenges of an ever-changing world.
- Responsibility: We are committed to supporting our clients with responsibility and integrity in order to provide them with advice that is truly adapted to their needs and to build a solid and lasting relationship with them.
- Team spirit: We work to leverage our individual skills to support the bank’s shared vision by fostering a collaborative work environment that enables us to improve our practices and collectively perform better.
- An agile financing strategy for the COVID-19 crisis
The year 2020 was particularly challenging for the world as a whole, with severe economic and social pressures due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Banks and financial institutions have not been immune to the impacts of this crisis. The management committees of these institutions had to develop strategies that combined the protection of staff with the maintenance of performance while complying with regulatory requirements.
With this in mind, the top management of Versus Bank reinvented itself by proposing a strategy based on four points:
- Human-resources management: To remain close to clients despite the pandemic and ensure the teams’ safety, the bank set up a rotation system with two teams taking turns every fortnight. Staff were trained in teleworking and provided with mobile computer equipment to ensure optimal performance, even from a distance. This system was accompanied by regular screening tests for COVID-19, with the results delivered before any return to work;
- Securing our financing: To mitigate its credit risk and obtain the projected level of profitability, Versus Bank has focused its financing on the sectors most resilient to the pandemic (construction, electricity, roads, infrastructure). The bank identified these sectors after an impact analysis by a technical committee specially set up by Versus Bank. This strategy bore fruit, and the bank recorded at the end of 2020 a rate of deterioration of the credit portfolio below 3 percent;
- Credit-portfolio management: We have strengthened our portfolio management by identifying clients impacted or about to be impacted by the pandemic. Structured financing tailored to their needs has been put in place to support them;
- Compliance with regulatory standards: Regular monitoring of regulatory ratios is a reality at Versus Bank; this allows the institution to guard against potential anomalies by anticipating their occurrences. At the end of 2020, all its regulatory ratios were in full compliance.
- Strengthening its risk-management framework
As the environment becomes increasingly competitive and regulated, banks and financial institutions must implement effective risk-management systems that enable them to protect their value creation.
In this respect, strong actions have been taken by the top management of our institution with the creation of a new Department of Risk, Compliance and Permanent Control, which aims, in the short term, to put in place a risk-management system in line with sub-regional and international regulatory requirements and a specific training plan for staff to strengthen their risk cultures.
These actions have enabled the bank to have a fully operational and compliant risk-management system. The operation of this system has resulted in:
- the implementation of new risk-management tools such as risk mapping, a scoring tool for its portfolio, a tool to combat money laundering, to name but a few;
- strengthening of the risk culture with training provided to staff on risk management, the fight against money laundering and so on;
- very good control of its credit portfolio, with a portfolio deterioration rate below 3 percent;
- compliance with all the prudential ratios of our monetary zone.
Implementing the vision and strategy defined by the Directorate General, which made it possible to achieve the aforementioned historical performance, could not have been possible without the support of our teams.
Inspired by the quote, “Impossible is our life philosophy. Inspiration, the necessity of all moments”, Versus Bank today has more confidence in its own strengths and the future.