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Rolling out agency banking

By Isaac Khisa

Olumuyiwa Asagba is the chief executive officer of Interswitch  East Africa.  He spoke to Isaac Khisa about their operations, agency banking, and the financial services sector in Uganda.

What is your leadership philosophy as a chief executive officer?

Every leader needs to have a vision. That vision needs to be created by the leader and shared with the team. Once the team individually keys in, collectively, the team can achieve the vision and its objectives. My philosophy is to ensure our team understands and keys into our vision.

What is your assessment of the financial services sector in Uganda currently?

It’s a very interesting sector; interesting because a lot of exciting things are being done by non-financial institutions. The other interesting aspect are the opportunities and at the same challenges of providing services to the unbanked and the large population in the rural areas. As Interswitch, we have seen some of these opportunities and are working on addressing the challenges.

What are the key emerging trends that should be of interest to our readers?

Agency banking, cash-less transactions and regional transactions will be of interest to your readers.  The agency banking will enable financial institutions to provide their services more aggressively in the rural areas. It will also enable small and large shops to play a role in financial inclusion as these shops can become agents for banks.

Cash-less transactions entail primarily Point of Sale, Internet and mobile transactions. Cash-less transactions give convenience and security and more options on when and how we would like to transact. Mobile has been around for some time now especially through the telecommunication companies. A few banks have pushed the mobile channel in Uganda. Point of Sale and Internet are newer channels that are emerging and increasingly being used to solve specific problems of corporate and government organisations.

Interswitch has been in operation in Uganda since 2010. How would you assess your performance in Uganda five years later and where do you see Interswitch in the next five years ?

The economy has been good to us. Interswitch has grown rapidly and consistently, resulting in an interbank network with more than 1.3 million debit cards  and over 300 ATMs and 400 Point of Sales Terminal locations countrywide, and 14 financial institutions. Interswitch also has strategic partnerships with MTN Mobile Money and Stanbic Bank.

What is Interswitch’s competitive advantage over similar service providers on the market?

Our business model is built around financial institutions. This means our infrastructure and technology have the same foundation as financial institutions. This means that the type of security we use, our procedures, the way we develop our products and services are all engineered with the highest standards that financial institutions would accept. This makes us much more secure, more reliable, more available and more adaptable than other providers.

Indeed, financial services network security has become a major concern for both service providers and customers in recent years. What have you done to ensure that the interests of stakeholders are protected?

Interswitch has introduced a secure EMV card called Verve, which includes an electronic chip embedded on the debit card. The features of the embedded chip help increase security of the cards and reduce fraud resulting from counterfeit, lost and stolen cards.  This is why most card issuers and even countries around the world are migrating to EMV. The Verve card provides the security that protects cardholders from fraud at an affordable cost.

How far have you gone with plans to unveil an international system similar to VISA and MasterCard?

For many years we have been promoting ‘’Verve’’ as the alternative to the existing international card schemes. Verve is a payment scheme that delivers superior and consistent value. It is our flagship brand. Made by Africans for Africa, Verve is an EMV payment card, which meets the unique needs of the African electronic payment market while consistent with international standards and an international outlook. Two of our member banks are providing Verve debit cards and we are in negotiations with other banks.

Why has Interswitch chosen to rebrand now?

It was time for Interswitch to change. We are driven by the pursuit of aggressive growth targets over the coming years. It has become  imperative to signal economic growth and pan-African expansion to investors, empowerment to employees and a landscape of possibilities to stakeholders and customers. This rebrand is moving us and our business into what we call ‘intuitive exchange.’

What does that mean?

Intuitive exchange is a world within which it would no longer be about what we do or how we do it, but most importantly, why we do the things we do. It’s a new world where transactions would be smarter, happening at the speed of thought.

Where do you see the financial services industry in the next few years?

We see a lot of exciting new things. We see the Internet as a big new opportunity for financial services, Point of Sale transactions at not just large supermarkets and stores but at smaller shops, agency banking, P2P payments and much more interactive commerce.

Where do you see Interswitch in the next five years?

In the next five years, we will be moving from being a world-class integrated transaction and payment processing company to becoming the market leader in electronic transactions in Uganda.

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