By The Independent Team
P.K Gupta is the acting managing director of Crane Bank, one of Uganda’s leading indigenous banks. He spoke to The Independent about their operations and other pertinent issues in the banking industry.
How does it feel being at the helm of one of Uganda’s biggest indigenous banks?
I feel proud. It provides some kind of satisfaction when you are part of the biggest indigenous bank of Uganda. I have had many other positions, but being at the top of this bank is something to be proud of.
What are the three main pillars of your management style as a CEO?
Customer satisfaction, integrity, customized operations, transparency among others. I always look at the positive side of business. I am not a pessimist.
What would you say are the three main characteristics of Uganda’s banking industry currently?
It is an open industry. Boundaries and rules are there but the industry remains open for everyone who meets what the regulator – Bank of Uganda – wants. The industry targets all categories of customers – middle class, SMEs, corporates among others. There is no discrimination for players and customers. There is easy access banking.
Crane Bank, an indigenous bank, is now bigger than several international banks in Uganda. What have been the key drivers of this tremendous growth?
Crane Bank is a peoples’ bank. We know what our people want and we serve them exactly that. That is why we are expanding everywhere – to rural areas. We are ready to give small loans, big loans, and quick loans to the various groups of customers.
You recently deployed the Temenos T24 banking software. To what extent does that development give you an edge over the competition?
It is one of the most technologically- advanced systems the world over. Most new systems take time to stabilize but we are managing it very well to ensure that what our customers need is provided in time and in a convenient manner. The system gives confidence to customers that their money is safe. It provides quicker and effective services. We are enjoying it and it will transform our work. Our customers are now customers of the bank not of the branch, which means a customer can transact at any branch.
Crane Bank will soon open two new branches in the next two months to add to the current 44 branches. Why are you going rural when the majority of banks in Uganda have most of their presence in Kampala?
Every bank has its own strategy. We want to end this year with 50 branches. We have realized that whenever we go to those new places we see development in terms of new businesses coming up and growing. We do financial literacy programmes to ensure that people understand what banking is all about.
You recently went international by opening a branch in Kigali Rwanda. Any other expansion plans for the EA region?
We are in the process. Rwanda started six months ago and business is good. There are developments happening in South Sudan and other countries in the region. We are the first Ugandan bank to go beyond Uganda and we will at an appropriate time make announcements.
How do you want to see Crane Bank in the next 3-5 years?
I’m sure Crane Bank will flourish. We have strong systems in place and are not depending on anybody to thrive. We will definitely meet our goals. The bank is owned by people who love Uganda, live in Uganda and know Uganda. Dr Sudhir Ruparelia is a successful entrepreneur and I see him growing the bank from where it is now to the sky. We have signed credit finance MoUs with the European Investment Bank for 28 million Euros over two years and aBi finance among others. These are aimed at extending cheap credit facilities to our customers. We want to grow with our customers.
There were rumours of going public by listing on the stock market. How credible were those rumors?
We are looking for an opportune time. Let the economy continue to get better and we will make the right decision. The public has trust in the bank and I think they will want to own a part of it at an appropriate time.
To what extent are you expectant that profitability in the banking industry will improve?
I have never seen a good bank not making profits unless somebody is working towards bringing the bank down. As the population increases, demand for our products will increase. The question will be on the pricing. Crane Bank is ready to offer opportunities for growth to its customers as it ensures its continued growth. With the oil and gas production in the next few years, we see many entrepreneurs coming on board.
So, what is your reading of the economic outlook for Uganda going forward?
Uganda used to be donor aid dependent. But this trend has changed as it can now fund the bulk of its budget. Overall, I am seeing a bright future. Our expectations may not be met at the level we want them to be but I am sure Uganda’s economy is one of the best in the region in all aspects. Uganda’s long term credit rating improved to B+ from B, according to ratings agency Fitch. This implies strong economic growth for Uganda. That means investor confidence is high. We should hope for the best.