Current Issue 52
Malawi’s Pan African Bank
Ecobank Malawi’s goal to become the leading financial player in the country over the next five years edges closer to reality
Writer: Matthew Staff
Project Manager: Stuart Parker
Ecobank Malawi’s principal objective to support the growth of Malawi is being realised on an increasingly influential scale as the Ecobank Transnational Incorporated subsidiary strives to live the dream of creating a cashless state.
Mirroring the wider Group’s aspirations as a ‘typical African bank’ Ecobank Malawi has made strides towards this goal for nearly 10 years in the country, increasing its branch network from just two upon inception, to eight in the present day.
Perhaps more significantly though, has not just been the Company’s physical expansion but its willingness to bring the most advanced technological banking processes to a country largely unexposed to such financial conveniences.
“In the past three years we have actually gone more digital through the roll-out of ATMs, Visa and MasterCard, internet banking and mobile banking platforms,” Managing Director, Charles Asiedu affirms. “The Bank has also increased its market share significantly from a loss making position in 2012 to the fourth most profitable bank by the close of 2016.
“The balance sheet size has also increased over the same period from the 10th biggest bank among 12 banks to the fourth biggest bank in Malawi.”
Ultimately Ecobank Malawi offers universal banking services to corporate and investment banking (CIB) customers; to the commercial banking sector; and of course to the consumer demographic as well.
“For both CIB and Commercial Banking segments we offer the traditional current and deposit account services, but we also have a modernised cash management service platform to help handle clients’ liquidity management using perhaps the most robust electronic banking tool in Malawi called Ecobank OMNI,” Asiedu explains. “We also leverage our sister affiliate in Paris to offer foreign currency services to the clients in this sector.
“For the consumer segment, we offer current and savings account services just as any other bank. However, over the past years, we have significantly improved our ATM network to bring cash closer to the vicinities of our clients.”
As well as the aforementioned value-add Visa and Mastercard offerings, 2016 also saw the roll-out of Ecobank Mobile to its consumer customers to once again aid accessibility and immediacy.
Asiedu continues: “With Ecobank Mobile, we have supported vendors with Masterpass QR which enables our users to make payments using a QR code configured for the vendors. This is in addition to about 150 POS terminals we now have in retail shops, hotels, restaurants, etc which are all Visa, MasterCard and China Union Pay compliant.”
More convenient and less costly
Driven by customer convenience and cost effectiveness, Ecobank Malawi’s market successes have been compounded over the years by a presence portfolio of 28 ATMs, eight branches spread across all three regions of the country; and a mobile app blessed with zero geographical restrictions.
“We know that the world is moving fast on digitisation and Ecobank Malawi has been a pacesetter in the market through products such as Masterpass QR working on our ultra-modern mobile app,” Asiedu says. “We also pride ourselves as the leading trade finance bank in the country as we believe this firmly supports our customers’ needs and brings them closer to the international market place.
“Customers are always looking for more convenient and less costly ways of doing business and that is where our innovation comes into play.”
Such innovations aren’t instigated blindly though, and the Bank equally prides itself on the levels of market research and customer collaboration that occurs in order to find the most suitable and flexible solution befitting of Malawian way of life.
From a corporate banking perspective, this has manifested through the expansion of strategic partnerships and relationships, which helped transpire the obtainment of more than US$10 million in funding from the Africa Development Bank in early 2017 to support trade finance objectives.
Mutually beneficial and cyclic financial rewards are then reinvested back into the Bank as has been seen through a new head office moved into in April, 2017; a significant amount spent on more advanced technologies both inside the branches and across its digital presence points; and an enhancement across the Bank’s credit process.
Asiedu elaborates on the latter: “We have enhanced our credit process to improve asset quality through training and coaching. We have simplified our back office processes through more automation, and since early 2017, most of our back office processes are being handled in Nigeria which is our Regional Processing Centre. This has made us more efficient in serving our customers.”
Unparalleled in Malawi
Personnel enrichment and progression is generally prevalent throughout Ecobank, with a stringent drive to attract the best talent, a familiar theme across the Group.
In Malawi though, there is a similar importance placed on training and retaining said talent in order to create a sustainable, long-term talent pool in the country; to the benefit of both the Bank and the individual.
“We promote from within as much as possible and where not possible we look at the market for the best candidate,” Asiedu details. “We have a rigorous performance management system in place to help staff improve their performance and to gain promotions and rewards.”
An Ecobank Academy in Togo combines with numerous in-house training programmes and management development programmes to facilitate this notion, and its triumph is evident through the almost 100 percent indigenous workforce that the Company can boast.
A similarly localised emphasis is placed on business partnerships where possible and even into the peripheral communities via an abundance of corporate social responsibility initiatives.
“We believe in contributing to the socio-economic development of communities in which we operate and in 2016, having recognised the resource constraints of expectant mothers in various hospitals across the country, the Bank made a donation of Maternity packs to 150 expectant mothers in four health centres across the Country,” Asiedu offers as an example. “The donation also included two water purification tanks for each hospital in order to improve access to safe drinking water in times of water shortages.
“The Bank also donated mattresses to various hospitals in Malawi; while in the education sector, every year the Bank supports eight visually impaired students with bursaries, and for two consecutive years, we have financed the school fees of all the pupils in one of the underprivileged schools in the Southern Region of Malawi.”
Every bit as socially sensitive as it is customer sensitive, Ecobank Malawi’s streamlined and focused adoption of a common ethos has been key to its recent rise to prominence in the country, and with access to a wider Group rich in resources and ideas, the Bank can differentiate itself even more concertedly in the future.
“Our digital agenda is unparalleled in Malawi now, and our objective moving forward is to be a leading player in Malawi,” Asiedu concludes. “We are on course to achieving this, having grown from the number 10 bank four years ago to be fourth now; and we firmly believe we will achieve this objective a leading player over the next five years.”