Earlier this year, I visited Nigeria to see our new FINCA bank for the first time since we opened our doors 2015. I had been to Nigeria once before, when I met with then Vice President Goodluck Jonathan in Abuja to discuss the possibility of FINCA coming to Nigeria. At the time, we were unable to find the resources to start up a financial institution there. Since we created our holding company, however, we secured the resources so I was excited to see the progress we had made.
One high point of the trip was inaugurating a new FINCA branch, located in one of the largest markets in Owerri. Another was seeing the progress we are making in mobilizing savings. This is a good sign as it shows that people trust us. If they’re giving us their savings it means they see us as a permanent institution in their country. The branch staff were very motivated, well trained, and obviously enjoying giving great service to the customers. The customers I spoke to were happy with the services and equally vocal about what they would like us to change! As usual, they asked us if we could lower our interest rates. We explained that we are still in the startup phase and have not yet achieved breakeven, it would be difficult to cut our revenues, but that, as a double-bottom line institution, we always strive to leave as much of the fruits of their labors with the clients.
I was very impressed with some of the other clients I met, including a restaurant owner who had greatly expanded his business through a series of FINCA loans. He’s also banking his savings with us. We’re giving him the additional service of actually coming out to his restaurant at the close of each business day to collect his bankable revenues, make it more convenient and safer for him. That’s the new FINCA Customer Experience at work!
Another client has a water purification business. He borrowed several thousand dollars from us to buy and install the equipment, and now his business is expanding rapidly. He provides purified bottled water to both businesses and homes throughout Owerri, employing people both at the plant and in making the deliveries. It’s great to see FINCA creating quality, value-added jobs in the larger community.
Finally, I was surprised to discover that there is a trade association in the marketplace, something which I’ve not seen before. They manage the renting of the market stalls and so forth, and they are helping us to find new clients, because they know all the businesses and the ones that are looking to expand and need capital. An interesting new marketing channel, and one we might deploy in other countries.
While there I also had a very productive meeting with the central bank branch in Owerri, where we discussed our plans for future expansion. Lastly, we had a dinner with the staff and some of our largest clients on the savings side, to promote future business. All in all, it was a great trip, and I’m looking forward to my next one!