Centenary Bank Managing Director, Fabian Kasi scooped the CEO of the year award for Uganda at 10th Pan Africa Start up Investors forum. Key discussion was held around digital technologies unlocking new pathways for rapid economic growth, innovation, employment, and access to all forms of services in Africa. The question arises, how are governments, the financial services sector, and the telecommunication authorities working to narrow these digital divides, and enhance access of financial services to customers especially in the remote areas of Africa, which includes the poorest of the poor?
We profile him for this great achievement and success story at the helm of Centenary Bank, Uganda.
Congratulations upon winning the CEO, Uganda of the year, 2023 award in the just-ended 10th Pan Africa Bank forum held in Nairobi, Kenya. What does this award mean to you, the bank and the customers?
CEO: Thank you, I am delighted to be recognized for this award because it is a reminder that hard work, resilience, agility, and teamwork are traits that in the long run yield some of the best results. My journey at Centenary Bank has been one centered valuing people, from those we employee to those we serve daily. I wouldn’t be where I am without my colleagues at Centenary Bank. I was awarded not because I am the best in the world, rather because I get to lead and serve with the best team.
The Bank is regarded as one of the largest players across East Africa, what are some of the key outstanding features that made you, and the bank stand out from the rest?
CEO: The most outstanding and differentiating feature that drives me and the rest of the Cente family has and will always be: “Serving the ordinary Ugandan”. We have come of age at 40 years this year and still growing strong. When, we started our microfinance institution, vowed to serve all Ugandans regardless of their societal class. We now serve over 2.4 million customers, 5,800 agents countrywide, 205 ATMs and 80 branches, with over 70% who have grown to embrace the use of digital services to access credit and grow their small businesses and income.
With our people at the heart of what we do up to the grassroots, we have been able to tailor our services to suite the needs of Ugandans, an aspect that I believe contributes to our win.
The award comes on the heels of the recent visit of Martin Rohner, the Executive Director, of Global Alliance for Banking on Values (GABV), where the bank is a member and you are a board member and Chair of the African Chapter. Mr. Rohner commended the bank for being a values-based bank, committed to sustainable banking. Please share with us the Bank’s Sustainability Agenda- especially since financial institutions are being called upon to do more.
CEO: Centenary Bank has been a member of the Global Alliance for Banking on Values (GABV) for over 5 years now. This has helped us to refine and align our strategy to be based on key principles and Values grounded in serving the real economy communities. Designing products that our customers at the bottom of the pyramid can understand and consume. Ensuring that our customers social benefit from our services while protecting the environment ecosystem from harm while growing with our customers and building long term relationships that are founded on transparency, trust to understand their activities and needs with responsible and sustainable flexible solutions that have stood the test of time.
Today, financial institutions have been called upon to become more responsive and responsible towards Environmental, social and Governance activities and practices to improve their resilience and impact on communities. As the Chair of the Africa charter, it is my mandate to interest more financial institutions to get on board of the GABV organization to grow our shared value system that increase social investment in the public and the grass root. As a member of GABV, profit becomes secondary but driving prosperity of Ugandans and Africa becomes a key fundamental for eradication of Poverty as per SDG goal 1 and increasing economic development.
Financial inclusion and leveraging especially digital technology to bank the unbanked is a key component of sustainable banking. How are you as Uganda’s largest microfinance institution leading this agenda? What are the key hallmarks of your digital inclusion agenda?
CEO: A report on the usage of smart phones in Uganda by Uganda Communications Commission, revealed that the growth in usage backed by the digital economy has risen to over 35 million users. Increasing stats like these influenced our strategic vision 2025 to ultimately become Uganda’s number 1, Smart bank. That said, we have introduced and continue to adapt new ways of banking for sustainability. Products like CenteOnTheGo platform and Cente Mobile have enabled our customers and the unbanked population open accounts online and access financial services at their fingertips with the use of a mobile device and internet. We have rolled out a large agent banking network of over 6,500 agents to increase convenience for our customers with agent usage over 45%. Our mobile loans and savings product have increased digital access by 30%.
The country and generally the world, is reeling from the Covid-19 pandemic and other macroeconomic forces that dominated the major part of the last 3 years. How is the bank recovering from this and supporting the rest of the economy to emerge out of that?
CEO: The Bank has supported customers as below
- We have restructured loans for customers, to ease the burden of the crisis and this has helped them in their payment.
- We have encouraged customers to use digital products so as to save on transport and time and use the savings for their businesses.
- We have supported communities in philanthropy. During COVID we went above our usual budget by close to 50%.
Lastly, what can we expect from the bank this 2023 and beyond? What innovations are on the horizon?
CEO: Centenary Bank is looking to a future of Smart Banking by 2025 with improved systems and technology that will continue to deliver efficient services. We shall increase our footprint in the rural areas with new branches and agents across the country. We are transforming our culture of engagement and service to our customers and staff. We are positioning ourselves under the Centenary Group to be leaders in technological solutions and innovations. We are harnessing our value chain and ecosystems for greater ingrained relationships in the communities in which we serve.
We pledge to continue to be the Bank of choice for our customers – the ordinary Ugandans committing to be with our customers for life just as we have been for the last 40 Years.