By Patrick Mutimura Rising from ashes to glory, turning straw to Gold, are all expressions that would describe BCR’s evolution after privatization and small and medium enterprises’ transformation into the driving force of the Rwandan economy and post ’94 Rwanda in general. When BCR was privatized, ACTIS, the Government and Rwanda and its minority shareholders had one vision: BCR was going to be the most respected bank in the country. The bank was also going to be at the forefront of the country’s developmental agenda. With this in mind, it was understood that it was going to be “Business Unusual”.
A Great Bank facilitates other Businesses to become Great Businesses
In order to succeed as a business, BCR had to carefully segment the markets it was going to serve, increase customer focus, innovate and return to profitability. The Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) market was a natural selection. It is growing, active and has enormous room for expansion and is a market with a clear need for what the bank offers – business growth financing.
BCR Launches SME products
In order to facilitate SMEs to increase their volume of business, BCR, in the past two years, has developed products that have revolutionized SME business financing, and other banks have followed suit. Lease and Go, BCRs leasing product is a prime example. With Lease and Go, SMEs that could not obtain assets under ordinary financing now acquire them as leased assets, pay for usage and receive tax benefits, as the rentals are tax deductible.
PhoneBanking is another service worth mentioning which SMEs have taken up quite well. It is convenient and customer-driven. Simply put, it is the bank’s enquiry desk accessible to you, wherever you are. SMEs can inquire whether a payment has been made or received without leaving their business’ premises. They can stop payments (prevent the holder of an issued check from making withdrawal) as well as speak to the agents regarding any issues they would want to raise with the bank.
BCR also intends to play its part in developing entrepreneurship in Rwanda, and in the process, increase the number of SMEs operating in the country. This is the essence behind Credit Éclair – a fast, no frills, no hassle loan facility that allows salaried employees to obtain quick financing to start a small business and find alternative earnings.
Easing SMEs ability to grow through tendering is also one of the means by which BCR is facilitating SMEs in Rwanda. With Tradeline, a short term loan facility, a trader who is awarded a tender approaches the bank and is provided up to 70% of the financing required to deliver on the tender. Tender approval acts as security. This is business made simple and the new approach to banking.
Insurance Premium Finance (IPF) is another SME loan facility. IPF allows businesses to pay insurance premiums on machinery and equipment, imported and exported products as well as all insurable items. This is done in installments rather than up front cash, which provides flexibility in cash flow management.
BCR prides itself in offering the SME sector business-needs oriented products, coupled with world class service. Being crowned the London Based Financial Times Banker of The Year 2006 and 2007 (Rwanda) confirms that BCR is well on its way to attaining its vision. Successful businesses usually have the support system of great partners. This is true for BCR and the SMEs they support. There is a mutual respect of interests and a mutual desire for each others’ progress. The bank will continue to innovate and find ways of helping SMEs achieve their potential as businesses and development agents in the country.
The Small and Medium business’ role is simple: they have to improve the management of their businesses which, will reduce their risk profile, and improve their processes and productivity level. This is geared towards ensuring that their growth is inevitable, given the virgin nature of the majority of business sectors in Rwanda.
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