UOB is the second largest institution in Rwanda in terms of the number of clients it serves. It serves almost 180,000 clients. The clients are all over in Rwanda. UOB has operational presence in all 30 districts, but it does not have physical presence every where.
It is serving the clients through 44 business outlets, comprising 10 branches, 33 credit offices and 1 mobile branch operating on a hard body Land Cruiser truck. To serve 180,000 clients, 44 business outlets are absolutely insufficient.
We could not open brick-and-mortar branches fast enough to accommodate the growing number of clients. Such branches are costly to begin with and take quite a few years to break even. It is more challenging to achieve the break even in rural areas. Moreover, there are restrictions in the percentage of fixed assets compared to equity. Then, how do we serve the clients?
God has given us an insight to develop and launch what we named "Client Service Point" or CSP Strategy. CSP Strategy includes interoperable solutions that allow our clients to access their savings accounts or other financial services without having to go to the traditional bank business outlets. Interoperable solutions are coming in two channels. "Interoperable" means that clients can use the delivery channels of other institutions through third party intermediaries that clear and settle such transactions.
The first form of interoperable solution is UOB's mobile and agent banking solution, called mHose. "Hose" means "everywhere" in Kinyarwanda. mHose is using mVISA platform that allows for all basic mobile banking features, such as send, receive, loan pay, top up air time, pay bills etc.
Moreover, mHose pays interest on mobile money balance and also offers free life insurance tied to the savings balance. These features are the first of their kinds.
So far, we have signed up more than 3,000 clients and serve them via 35 agents. These numbers are expected to scale up quite rapidly for the rest of this year. UOB plans to expand the agent network to 200 by YE 2013 and another bank plans to establish a network of up to 500 agents, all of which will be available to our clients for use.
The second form of interoperable solution is UOB Grace Cards. They are chip-based debit cards that clear through RSwitch, Rwanda's national payment switch. Currently we are in the process of distributing up to 50,000 cards to our clients. Our clients will have access to their accounts through ATMs (250 spread across Rwanda) or POS-enabled (Point of Sale) agents (approximately 400). We project to complete the initial distribution by the end of August.
We are excited about this creative strategy that enables our clients to have access to various formal financial services without having to sacrifice their precious business time for banking transactions. These techonology-based tools are enablers for financial inclusion.
We are dreaming of a day when our clients have access to the financial services almost any where in Rwanda without having to pay a lot of money and without having to compromise on their dignity. May the Lord continue to bless us with persistence, creativity, team work and strong partnership! - Jeffrey