Tuesday 13th May 2014
Our most recent member in Africa, UT Bank Ghana, has a 6% share of the Ghanaian market, and is known for its expertise in lending to SMEs. Pearl Esua-Mensah, UT’s Managing Director, spoke with the Global Banking Alliance for Women about the bank’s decision to join the Alliance, its hopes for the planned Women’s Market Program, and the role the bank can play in supporting women
GBA: Why is having a program that targets women specifically a strategic priority for UT Bank Ghana?
Pearl Esua-Mensah: UT Ghana was set up as a bank for SMEs, a segment that accounts for 49% of the Ghanaian GDP1. The market intelligence suggests that SMEs are mostly run by women and that most of the decision-making is done by women. It is therefore imperative that we pay particular attention to women entrepreneurs and earn their trust. To achieve our ultimate goal requires that women trust our brand and are willing to become our advocates. The Women’s Market Program is the way to do it.
GBA: When you look at SMEs do you see any difference in the types of businesses women have compared to men?
Pearl Esua-Mensah: Women in Ghana have always been in business. Traditionally, women do the farming and men sit under the tree. You will find the same in business. A growing number of families are female funded and women are in every type of business. The only thing that women are probably not doing much of is car hire, the haulage business, and the timber business, but in every other sector you will see women. For example a woman runs one of the oldest and most recognized construction companies in Ghana.
GBA: What is UT doing right as a bank regarding SMEs (e.g. innovations around collateral required) and what challenges remain?
Pearl Esua-Mensah: I think that throughout our time as financiers for SMEs we’ve led the way in offering creative ways to collateralize loans. For example, many of our SMEs are traders importing products from overseas. They neither have collateral nor proper warehousing facilities. So we set up a company called UT Logistics that supports our customers to import products. We do everything from sending the money directly to their suppliers overseas to warehousing the stock. When the merchandise comes to the port, we help to clear it, take it through customs, warehouse it and lend against it. So for example, assuming a business has imported 10 cars, we allow them to take 3 cars, sell them, pay back the loan and then allow them to take out more cars to sell. We limit this service to stock items that can clear easily. At any given time we have more value in the stock that we hold than we have in the outstanding loan.
Another way that we’ve adapted to SMEs is that we are physically close to them. A typical trader finds it difficult leaving her shop to transact at the bank for lack of proper backstopping support. To solve this, UT Bank provides them cash collection services on a regular basis. As a result of the relationship nurtured as well as trends from frequent repayments, we are able to reduce the collateral required. We also have extended branch opening hours. In addition we have a ‘Bank on Wheels’ that goes to areas where it is difficult to have physical presence to conduct transactions.
SMEs have good businesses and rotate capital quickly. UT has embraced these realities and provides support end-to-end.
GBA: Thinking about your targeting of women-owned SMEs in particular, did you have to make any adjustments to the product or lending policies in order to ensure women SME owners could access finance?
Pearl Esua-Mensah: We’ve recently conducted some research into deepening our value proposition to women. What we found was not so much that they wanted different products but that they wanted better service. They want more flexibility and higher quality attention. They want more information and access to people they can trust. We’re creating a new sub-brand to inspire and educate women and provide them the support to do better and to scale up. We’re seeking to cultivate a community among our customer base by facilitating business linkages and offering educational inputs. Trust will be built and members of the community will become advocates of the trusted brand for women.
GBA: How are you going to tackle the known non-financial needs of women SME owners, in particular education and networking?
Pearl Esua-Mensah: One of UT Bank’s flagship programs is the Business Launch Pad competition managed by our partner ENABLIS Ghana. We also offer financial literacy and SME training in entrepreneurship, business plan writing, and cash flow management through ENABLIS. In addition we broker trade deals, acting in conjunction with EDIAF, a fund for agri-business and export business that supports people and businesses who qualify with interest free loans. We formed a partnership with Coca-Cola in March 2014 to support independent women business owners across their value chain. Last but not least, we chair an organization called Invest In Africa (IIA), which seeks to build capacity and position Ghanaian companies so that the foreign companies that operate in Ghana can use them as suppliers. Part of that is building a supplier database.
The research we recently conducted to understand women’s needs found that women really want to be networked. So we plan on gathering women into small groups-10 to 20, to discuss various topics, to form linkages and to promote their business offerings. We’ve identified a category of women whom we are calling the ‘influencers’. In Ghana we really look up to both the elderly and people who are accomplished. We’ll integrate these women influencers into our Women’s Market Program mainly in our networking events and they will be a big draw for other women. In turn, these women will get recognition.
GBA: What other segments are you looking at for your Women’s Market Program?
Pearl Esua-Mensah: Beyond SMEs we have identified young women, the aforementioned influencers and a fourth segment, the legacy leavers and are tailoring a value proposition to each.
GBA: When are you expecting to launch your Women’s Market Program?
Pearl Esua-Mensah: We’re aiming for the first week of July. That is the aim. We are currently doing the work around the Customer Value Proposition, we have the brand name, and we are putting together a launch plan.
GBA: What have you done to gain buy-in from the staff around this strategy?
Pearl Esua-Mensah: We have had staff meetings with most of our staff to get their ideas and gain, support for the program. We should have about 80% of our staff fully on-board before we launch.
GBA: What kind of policies do you have in place regarding women as employees and leaders of the bank?
Pearl Esua-Mensah: That’s interesting. We are in discussion with the Director of Human resources to institute a gender policy, which seeks to support both men and women. We intend to strengthen our internal networks to provide the necessary support that women need to prepare themselves to occupy critical positions within the company.
GBA: How did you first hear about the GBA?
Pearl Esua-Mensah: We first heard about GBA from the IFC.
GBA: What specifically are your hopes for your new membership in the Alliance?
Pearl Esua-Mensah: It’s early days yet. We appreciate belonging to a community of like-minded individuals and companies we can learn from and share learning. I keep telling the team that we will be coming to the GBA Summit in September and we have to have real results to report!
-As told to the Global Banking Alliance for Women
|UT Bank Ghana
AT A GLANCE
(as of December 2013)
Value of deposits: US$ 385 million
Value of loans: US$ 408 million
# Of ATMs: 29
# Of mobile agents: 2
# Of full service branches: 28
# Of employees: 784
1 2013 Ghana Banking Survey. Harnessing the SME Potential. PricewaterhouseCoopers