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A strong East African business strategy pays benefits

Interview - August 29, 2016

We met with MD Olabayo Veracruz to learn more about GTBank’s strategy to become the leading player in East Africa and what will be the bank’s future drivers for growth in Rwanda.



Guaranty Trust Bank Plc. is one of Africa’s leading banks. The acquisition of the Fina Bank Group in 2013 opened you the doors to East Africa and specifically Rwanda. How is GTBank Rwanda taking advantage of the synergies with the group?

The acquisition of Fina Bank, which had an East African footprint with presence in Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda, gave GTBank entry to the East African region as it allowed us set up shop in three countries at the same time. The bank will also commence operations in Tanzania soon. A strong East African business is in line with the strategic focus of the bank. East Africa is particularly important as it is a strong integrated economic bloc with a large population, similar demographics, language, markets, etc. which makes doing business across the region attractive as various synergies can be harnessed across the East African franchise and the group as a whole.

The bank leverages on resources and initiatives in the group from various standpoints, such as technology with the deployment of the same core banking system across the franchise. Various IT solutions are also deployed across the group in addition to the standardization of processes and procedures to ensure best in class operations. Other areas of synergy include training and development, corporate branding and organizational culture to mention a few.

We have the advantage of leveraging on an already established and very successful brand. Essentially we simply replicate successful initiatives across the different countries in which we operate.


What is your take on Rwanda’s young financial sector?

Rwanda’s economy is growing, organized and very well managed. The macros are very good with strong year on year GDP growth. The growth trajectory is reflective in all sectors of the economy including the financial sector which is transforming remarkably. The sector is becoming very competitive and increasingly proactive. There have been a lot of change and positive developments over the last couple of years. Financial inclusion has also improved significantly and the mobile money space is also growing. We see the development of new products and services and alternative banking channels are being harnessed. More importantly, the banks operating in the country are strong and well capitalized and the industry is also very well regulated. The prognosis of the industry is clearly positive.


Dr Diane Karusisi, CEO of Bank of Kigali, told us that while they keep an eye on other customers, corporate customers where their core business. What is GTBank Rwanda’s niche business?

As a commercial bank we look at all sectors: corporate, commercial, SME and retail. We are careful in stratifying the various market segments, identifying the inherent risks and mitigating them appropriately. We prefer to stay on the high end of the various segments and deliver tailor made solutions to exceed our customers’ expectations.


In June 2016 GTBank was ranked 7th in Rwanda with a 5,3% of the market share. On what strategic pillars will your growth be based to increase your market share further?

Customer service and innovation. Banking is about service delivery and from my perspective the only sustainable differentiating factor is how you serve the customer. We also put a strong emphasis on innovation and we continuously strive to do things differently. Once the customer is happy and you add value to him you will grow sustainably and be profitable.


Last year GTBank, “Africa’s Most Innovative Bank for 2015”, successfully upgraded to the latest version of the award-winning solution ICS BANKS from ICS Financial Systems Limited (ICSFS). How important is technology for GTBank and how has this upgrade impacted the business?

Technology drives what we do, we have a very robust and scalable technology platform that allows us to quickly respond to customer requirements and market changes. We use the same system across the group which enables us to quickly deploy solutions across the franchise in addition to facilitating reporting and operations. We are an innovative organization and we continue to look for better ways to serve our customer which gives us a long term competitive edge critical to business success.


Human resource development is also a focal point of your strategy. How are you working in order to develop the human capital?

Our people are our most important and critical resource and we continue to optimize our human capital resources. Training is pivotal in running a successful bank and we continue to invest in our people. We have an entry-level training program, wherein young graduates are trained in all aspects of banking and several other areas to groom them to become professionals armed with the requisite skills to serve customers. We also have various internal, online and external training programs. We strive to create a learning organization and cautiously invest in our people.


GTBank joined MTN to innovate and increase financial inclusion. What other projects do you have to bank the unbanked?

We have made significant investments in our alternative banking channels including mobile banking, mobile app, internet banking, various payment and collection applications etc. We have also recently started issuing MasterCard. We have strong collaborations with the telecomm companies in the mobile money space with various initiatives to improve financial inclusion. We will continue to create and enhance IT driven innovative solutions to improve financial inclusion and the quality of banking services in Rwanda.


Africa is gradually becoming an investment-prone region. As President Obama himself stated, “Africa is the continent with the greatest potential.” What do you think is drawing this international attention to the African continent?

Economic growth in Europe at best has been flat since 2008 with its economy contracting for a long period of time. Asia has historically had high growth rates but this had started slowing down particularly with the reduction in China’s growth rate. Clearly Africa is the next frontier with strong year on year growth in sub-Saharan Africa. The continent is blessed with abundant mineral resources and opportunities that uniquely places it as a very attractive investment destination. The margins and yields in Africa are unrivalled which will always make Africa a bright spot and attract investors to the continent.


What investment opportunities does Rwanda offer?

Rwanda has a very good and visionary leadership with strong governance and structures. It is one of the very few countries you can set up a company within 24hrs. It is a very secure and organized state with strong year on year growth on all parameters and significant investments in infrastructure. These factors present immense investment opportunities, particularly as it is a member State of the East Africa economic integration.


To act as a unified continent rather than a bundle of secular states, regional blocks have been created to foster development. How is the private sector aligning itself in order to take advantage of this regional integration?

Regional integration is good for everyone e.g. Europe, Ecowas, EAC, etc. The benefits and opportunities are immense. Integration means common markets, policies, regulations, structures, labor mobility, etc. which is very good for the private sector and creation of wealth. Investors are attracted to stable economic regimes with free markets where they can plan and leverage on economics of scale and resources to grow. The private sector also works closely with governments in the formulation of policies guiding the various economic blocs to facilitate growth and development.


How do you assess the attractiveness of Rwanda’s business environment?

The macro reviews tell the story. Rwanda has had consistently high GDP growth averaging 8-10% over the last 10 years. The governance structures are very strong, security is excellent, infrastructure is growing and the playing field is level. Just drive around the city and you will get the picture! Every other day there is something new happening. Resources are being judiciously utilized and the leadership is remarkable. The business environment is very attractive particularly with the current focus of transforming the country into an East African hub.