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Setting the pace with mobile banking

By the Independent Team

Bank of Africa (BOA) Uganda netted a net profit of Shs 1.2 billion as at end of 2014, up from a loss of Shs 6.7 billion in 2013. Ronald Marambi, the managing director, spoke to The Independent about their tremendous return to profitability, the market conditions, and the other pertinent issues in the banking industry in Uganda.

What are the three main pillars of your management style as a CEO?

I adopt different management styles so as focus the bank on its mission and vision and also to accentuate the core values of BOA Uganda, which are transparency, expertise, proximity and responsibility.  The main pillars are customer service, staff development, operational efficiency and risk appreciation. Whichever style I choose, I keep in mind these pillars, which all contribute towards achieving value to stakeholders.

What is your assessment of the Ugandan economy currently?

Whereas we are coming to terms with a strong dollar and increasing inflation due to food prices, we are still upbeat about the Ugandan economy, which remains attractive in most key indicators and with good growth projections for 2015/2016.

What would you say are the three main characteristics of Uganda’s banking industry currently?

I would say the three main characteristics are stiff competition on the corporate and institutional banking arena, high dominance of five key players, and high branch concentration in the capital city and a few select towns. There is room for more growth and penetration within the country, and financial sector deepening continues to be a major concern.

How does it feel for BOA to get back to profitability again?

It’s a humbling feeling knowing that it is because of the effort of staff, loyalty of clients, and shareholder support that have seen BOA get back to its proper footing and to stand ready to propel itself to the next level. Our commitment to this market becomes even greater.

What have been the key drivers of this tremendous growth in profits?

Whereas we are proud of the 2014 results relative to those seen during 2013, BOA Uganda has a great legacy and it is because of this great legacy that such results have been seen. Key drivers have been enhanced risk management, improved relations with key customers, and expansion of the bank’s customer base through increased product offerings including mobile banking solutions for the convenience of our clients.

How has BOA managed to deal with the stiff competition in the industry?

In Uganda today, customers have a wide choice of bankers both local and international. It is only those banks that offer best value that will be able to keep abreast of competition and see their markers grow. We at BOA pride ourselves in offering best value to our clients. We are careful to listen to our clients so as to address their needs, and are careful to ensure that quick remedial action is taken where a client is not satisfied for one reason or another. Our positive attitude towards our clients has helped us manage competition well.

Any other expansion plans in Uganda in terms of branches and ATMs?

Our aim is to be well-represented in all regions of Uganda and we are using different methods to achieve this. For 2015, our focus is on electronic solutions that would see BOA reach all regions without having to make initial investments in brick and mortar. Branch expansion is an important strategy for BOA Uganda, but markets can still be reached and developed through mobile solutions even as we contemplate the best locations to open new branches. BOA Uganda is aligning itself in preparation of agency banking, which will have significant implications on branch and ATM expansion once the regulations are in place in the market.

How do you want to see BOA in the next 3-5 years?

In a nutshell, I would like to see a bank highly responsive to the market, offering best value to its customers and contributing positively to the social and economic development of Uganda.

What gives you optimism that the profitability will continue to improve?

Profitability is a factor of many things including staff competencies and productivity, customer confidence and trust, prudent risks management, economic stability and growth, and so on. BOA Uganda has got the fundamental factors right and Uganda continues to be an attractive market for investments and business growth. As such, I am optimistic of continued profitable performance. More important however is profitable performance but with service that meets the needs of our customers and that contributes positively to the development of all stakeholders of the bank.

What is your reading of the economic outlook for Uganda going forward?

My reading is that we should expect some short term volatility due to market sentiments coupled with changes happening in the more advanced economies, which could affect capital. There could be a higher preference for liquidity by financial institutions, which could then affect credit generation. Regulators in Uganda are however strong and we should therefore not expect to see disruptive volatility.

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