Values-based banks’ focus on social and environmental impact is intentional, not coincidental. It’s why they exist and is reflected in everything they do – from products and services to how they approach risk and make decisions about whom to finance. Conventional banks may or may not finance sustainable projects, but in their case, it is often a result of spotting a market opportunity or positioning themselves in a different way, and it is not rooted in their underlying purpose or mission.
When Centenary Bank began operations in 1985 in Uganda, it began with the intention of serving the rural poor and contributing to the overall economic development of the country. The mission: “To provide appropriate financial services, especially microfinance, to all the people, particularly in rural areas, in a sustainable manner and in accordance with the law”. Over the years, Centenary Bank has opened dozens of branches across the country, including automated tellers, and has provided financial classes, savings group structures and offered free accounts. They have done everything to lower the threshold to access, and they continue to do so.
In alignment with its mission, Centenary Bank decided to partner with International Grameen Foundation to help the bank roll out and scale financial services to the existing and new customers via mobile. While they tried to expand as far as possible into rural areas, they found that actually going to a bank could still be a barrier for new and existing clients. Considering the extended use of mobile phones in the country, the Bank has been offering mobile service to its clients as long as one has access to a telecom network.
Moreover, since the rollout, growth in other key business areas was realized: congestion in the banking halls was reduced, bank revenues have grown significantly over the years and deposits continue to grow as more and more rural clients gain access.
Centenary Bank learned early on the importance of close collaboration in ensuring the success of its mission. To ensure all customer access to a mobile network, Centenary Bank worked with the Uganda Communication Commission to provide the codes necessary for each transaction, as well as various telecoms who provide support in terms of networks. Partnerships for access and ensuring a sound banking system that everyone can use safely and easily were invaluable to the ultimate success of this service.
Centenary Bank’s mission is at the heart of their business and is reflected in everything they do – from products and services to how they make decisions, approach risk, and decide whom to collaborate with. By integrating their intention in all levels of the institution, they ensure that even through changing market conditions, their commitment to their customers never changes, only their approach.