New Member Spotlight: Centenary Bank

Wednesday 13th March 2013

GBA Newsletter

Centenary Bank of Uganda's Managing Director  Fabian KasiOne of Uganda’s largest and fastest-growing financial institutions, Centenary Bank recently became the newest member of the Global Banking Alliance for Women. Managing director Fabian Kasi spoke with the GBA about Centenary’s decision to join the Alliance, the bank’s hopes for the partnership, and its future growth plans.GBA:  How did Centenary hear about the Alliance and what inspired you to join?Fabian Kasi:  Word-of-mouth. We have been familiar for a long time with the work of dfcu and Bank of Africa-Uganda, and we knew that they are both prominent members of the Alliance. For our part, Centenary currently serves about 26% women, but we would like to increase that percentage. Centenary has a strong commitment to the rural areas, where many lower-income Ugandan women live, so we are looking forward to learning from our peers who have strong programs for rural women.GBA:  How specifically do you hope your partnership with the Alliance will help Centenary towards those objectives?

FK:  We plan to use 2013 as a building and planning year, and we want to consult closely with the Alliance every step of the way: from setting outreach projections, to devising which gender-specific indicators to track and the most meaningful ways to analyze them, to designing a systemic approach to empowerment for our women customers.

GBA:  How would you characterize the current state of financial services for women in Uganda?

FK:  They definitely do not enjoy the same access as men. Whether that is because they are not as economically active in the first place, or whether it has to do with a lack of empowerment, or a combination of factors, there’s no question that they are less served. Uganda is a widely considered a microfinance leader, but it’s important to remember that in this country there are 24 commercial banks, for example, compared to four microfinance deposit-taking institutions, and then lots of unlicensed credit-only microfinance institutions.

GBA:  How has Centenary managed to do lending for women, who usually lack formal title to the land they live on and farm?

FK:  We will consider other forms of collateral, such as chattel lending (household items ranging anywhere from washing machines or televisions to the family bed – ed.). Even though the cash value of a used bed is negligible, it works as collateral because for the borrower the thought of being without it is so unpleasant.

GBA:  Your 1.3 million customer base is quite diverse: working class, microentrepreneur, middle class, high-net-worth individuals. How does Centenary manage to serve such a wide clientele?

FK:  We do focus on the middle-to-low brackets, in fact. To the extent that we have high-net-worth customers, it is because we grew our own. Those customers started banking with us long ago, when they were of humble means, and stayed loyal customers as they climbed the ladder.

GBA:  Centenary was voted best bank two years in a row in the most recent nationwide surveys. How do you track customer satisfaction and to what do you attribute your customers’ loyalty and affection?

FK:  We conduct a nationwide annual survey, and also do things like focus groups and mystery shoppers to learn how our customers experience Centenary. I think our affiliation with the Church is a big factor because there is a strong attachment to the Church in this country and it is trusted. (Centenary was founded by and remains 70% owned by the Catholic Church – ed.). Customers also appreciate the fact that Centenary is affordable and accessible: we keep fees low and have an extensive network of branches and ATMs. So we are fortunate to have a loyal base that is growing fast, but now we face the problem of long lines in our branches.

GBA:  Along with the planned branch expansion, what are your growth management strategies?

FK:  We just launched a mobile banking service last month which allows customers with mobile phones to check balances, make payments, transfer funds between accounts, and other basic transactions. In one month, we have already opened 30,000 mobile accounts. We plan to hit 200,000 by the end of the year. Customers want convenience, and once they get used to it and trust it, mobile banking should significantly ease the congestion in our branches.

GBA:  One thing the Alliance consistently finds is that any successful women’s market program must have buy-in from the bank’s top leaders. What made you personally want to pursue a women’s market strategy for Centenary?

FK:  Before I joined Centenary in 2010, I had served as CEO of FINCA Uganda, the country’s first microfinance deposit-taking institution and the pioneer of the village banking group loan methodology. FINCA Uganda’s clientele was more than 80% women and I saw first-hand how financially empowering women helps create well developed, successful communities. Financial services that work for women benefit the women customers, the banks that serve them, and the whole community. It’s consistent with Centenary’s mission and we are looking forward to designing an effective women’s market division with the Alliance’s help and to being an active member.


Year founded 1985
Headquarters Kampala, Uganda
Branch locations 59 (5 more scheduled to open)
Network of more than 130 ATMs
Total staff 1700
Total customers 1.3 million
Total loan portfolio
(end of 2012)
208.7 million USD
Total savings portfolio
(end of 2012)
301.4 million USD
Total assets
(end of 2012)
368.3 million USD
Services Savings, loan, fund transfers
Business units Corporate, SME, retail, microfinance, high-net worth
Corporate Social Responsibility Initiatives Financial literacy, nutrition initiatives, health-focused project (especially anti-cancer), environment and sanitation
Other Centenary is the banking partner of more than 270 Ugandan SACCOS (Savings & Credit Cooperatives), the grassroots community-run banking clubs that are a universal feature of the Ugandan (and African) financial landscape.