Build customer trust, Treasury tells bankers

Post was last updated: October 31, 2018

By Taonga Sabola:

Secretary to the Treasury, Ben Botolo, has challenged the country’s bankers to build customer trust in the banking system if many Malawians are to come on board.

Botolo made the call in Lilongwe during a bankers dinner organised by the Institute of Bankers under the theme ‘Financial Sector Synergies: A Catalyst for Financial Inclusion’.

Botolo’s comment comes at a time the total number of bank accounts is at 2.15 million as at June 31 2018.

He said Malawi needs more synergies in the financial sector to enhance financial inclusion.

“The objective is to increase effectiveness by sharing perceptions and experiences, insights, and knowledge. Synergy makes a team stronger. It makes them more effective.

“When everyone is benefitting from a relationship, it is healthy and prosperous. That should be the goal of any individual, organisation or team. Synergy is the goal and achieving it is critical to success,” Botolo said.

He said the country has seen the expansion of agent banking in the rural areas, suggesting that banks have significantly contributed to reaching the unserved population.

“For us to advance financial inclusion, various stakeholders need to provide some social services. I know it is costly but still it has to be done. This could be the provision of financial literacy through tracks or radio programmes to customers, setting of low minimum or zero balance requirements for certain categories of accounts, have consumer protection structures and have the right product for the lower cadre of customers.

“These initiatives are aimed at enhancing financial inclusion. Most importantly, banks need to build customer trust for people to come on board,” Botolo said.

He said although the country’s banking sector has recorded some success stories over the past couple of years, there are a number of challenges that should be addressed for us to fully embrace financial inclusion.

“We need to address challenges such as customer fees and charges, distance to bank outlets and high interest rates as these are perceived as barriers to financial inclusion.

“I am happy to report that the prevailing macroeconomic condition characterised by easing inflationary pressures, a stable policy rate and exchange rate are expected to continue fostering growth of the economy,” Botolo said.

He said the government is committed to fiscal discipline and it will adhere to the statutory requirement on domestic borrowing.

“The government will also structure its domestic debt instruments from short-term to long-term. The Reserve Bank of Malawi shall adopt an interest rate policy that supports credit growth to private sector.

“Where possible, the policy rate reduces cost of borrowing for the private sector while still sufficient enough to fight inflation,” Botolo said.

Bankers Association of Malawi Vice President, Kwanele Ngwenya, said financial exclusion remains a challenge in Malawi as many people continue to lack access to formal financial services.

Ngwenya said the core objective of financial inclusion remains to extend the scope of activities of the organised financial system to include within its ambit people with low incomes.

“Beyond this also is the harsh reality that 65 percent of the money in our economy continues to circulate in the informal sector. This needs to be curbed. It requires close collaboration and joint efforts by all key players in the economy.

“It is going to be hard work, but, in the end, every effort will be worth the pain suffered and the time as well as the resources invested,” Ngwenya said.

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