Responsible Investment Management and Advisory Services

Advisory Services helps Urwego Opportunity Bank in Rwanda

Triple Jump Advisory Services provided technical assistance to Urwego Opportunity Bank (UOB) in Rwanda from mid-2012 through January 2013 to help them launch a mobile banking channel in partnership with Visa.

UOB’s new service, branded mHose (“Hose” means “everywhere” in Kinyarwanda), allows UOB’s customers to make loan payments, deposit savings, earn insurance coverage and check account balances on their mobile phones. UOB formed a partnership with Visa so they can leverage the mobile money payments platform offered by Visa in Rwanda, branded as mVisa. UOB piloted the system with two groups of loan clients for six months, which provided valuable findings for the rollout.

The mVisa system also allows UOB’s customers to perform a wide array of other mobile wallet offerings such as sending money to others using mVisa, paying bills and other transactions. For a microfinance bank like UOB with 45,000 loan clients, 150,000 clients in total, and a countrywide presence, their objectives in launching this mobile banking service include increasing outreach, allowing customers to transact at lower costs and more efficiently, and reducing operating costs. And UOB is well placed to achieve these goals – with the support of Triple Jump Advisory Services, they have redesigned their business procedures and processes to incorporate the mobile banking channel; reconfigured and reinforced their IT infrastructure; hired new staff to manage the channel, the Agent network and customer service; and taken care of other details required to launch and manage an M-banking channel.

Additionally, Triple Jump Advisory Services helped UOB develop their own Agent network, which allows UOB’s customers to cash in and cash out from their mHose account. We did all the work required to create, launch and successfully manage a mobile banking Agent network. For example, we designed the Agent network structure, analysed the business model for the channel to determine optimal agent commissions and customer fee pricing, and selected an Agent network manager and the businesses that could act as agents, as well as other related Agent network tasks. Despite the existence of MTN MobileMoney and, more recently TigoCash, continuing to find qualified and reputable businesses that can act as agents, especially in rural areas in UOB’s operational zone, remains a challenge.

To support the needs of customers and agents, we helped UOB create a Customer Service department. Our business consulting team also designed a full training program that included a ‘train-the-trainers’ element to ensure that UOB had their own internal trainers capable of successfully training employees and staff for the launch and for the lifetime of the channel. Ensuring staff members are comfortable and confident with the system is key to fully supporting end customers, since customers often go to loan officers with questions or concerns about the system.

On the technical side of the project, after we drew up the business requirements document, our technical consultants created the functional specifications for the system. They primarily focused on working with the Visa team to integrate UOB’s core banking system (eMerge) with Visa’s mobile money system (VMMS), and the installation and configuration of UOB’s new SMS alert system. After developing and integrating the required functionalities in the test environment, the TJAS consultants performed various user acceptance tests and modifications and trained UOB’s IT staff. A go-live release was prepared and installed and full support was provided to UOB to ensure the success of the go-live.

What is very promising about this new service is that it is based on an interoperable business concept and system. In this sense, UOB customers can use any mVisa agent in the network and are not restricted to only using UOB agents. Other financial institutions thatr are partnered with mVisa will also provide agents, thereby increasing the number of agent outlets in which customers can transact. Another promising feature of this service is a new product that UOB is offering exclusively for this channel; micro-insurance. Partnered with MicroEnsure, UOB offers customers the opportunity to earn life insurance for themselves and their family members based on the balance in their mHose accounts. They are notified of coverage via SMS, a simple and transparent way for customers to learn about and earn this important insurance coverage.

Having piloted the system and effectively prepared the organisation, the personnel, the Agent network, the market and their technical infrastructure, UOB is well positioned to provide real benefits to customers using this channel as well as streamline their banking services. UOB is launching the service in three different regions of Rwanda and will continue the rollout in various geographic stages during 2013.

Carol Caruso, Director, Triple Jump Advisory Services