WSBI member and Scale2Save partner Centenary Bank launches paperless account opening technology.
Digital-based CenteXpress savings account extends financial services to millions of unbanked Ugandans through social networks to increase financial inclusion.
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BRUSSELS, 23 June 2020 – Scale2Save project partner Centenary Bank, the largest Commercial Microfinance Bank in Uganda, launched recently a paperless bank account opening service – dubbed CenteXpress – intended to serve the unbanked Ugandan population during COVID-19 and beyond.
Launched at the head office in Kampala, CenteXpress comes as Uganda faces the Covid-19 pandemic. Deploying and using appropriate solutions like a CenteXpress account puts people in the right direction to propel personal savings and business continuity. The CenteXpress account will build on initiatives already in place by the bank to extend financial services to people at all levels.
Commenting on the launch, Centenary Bank, Managing Director Fabian Kasi said, “It comes at a time when all sectors of the economy including banking and financial services are undergoing a new wave of change, which has warranted further investment in digitally driven solutions to our current gaps and challenges as a country."
“According to the 2018 Financial Sector Deepening Uganda report on Banking the number of Ugandans without bank accounts or some form of structured and legal financial services currently stands at 89% or 16.5 million of the 18.6 million adult population of Uganda, an indication that there's need to continuously develop banking services that meet customer's needs across all age groups."
How it works: Providing a digital account…instantly
The rising demand for the banking industry to adopt solutions that offer suitable banking experiences anytime and anywhere has inspired the integration of technology to respond with appropriate solutions. Centenary Bank does this through CenteXpress by issuing an instant bank account opened for people by any one of its customers. The offer aims to extend banking services to a customer's family, friends, relatives, colleagues, and acquaintances, among others that are unbanked and yet need to use banking services. Again, it gives an opportunity to employ people to open accounts for others while earning a commission on each account.
Beatrice Lugalambi, General Manager Corporate Communications and Marketing, said: “A potential customer does not need to visit a bank branch to get a CenteXpress account opened for them, because any existing customer can open the account for anyone in short simple steps and in less than five minutes. No paper work is required during the account opening process for CenteXpress." This mobile savings account is intended to build the momentum of savings among our people especially now that COVID has challenged us with the need to survive such challenges.
“For the existing customer to open a CenteXpress for another person, all they need to do is confirm that the person's phone number is registered. The digital link then uses the CenteMobile App to capture all the necessary new customer information on the digital form provided, takes a photo of their National ID, then enters the phone number and address of the new customer. The Digital Link then deposits the minimum opening balance of Ushs 3,000 on the new account while the bank system credits the Digital Link's account with Ushs. 2,000 as commission for opening the account. The new client will receive SMS notifications with new pin and account details to confirm completion of the process and activation of the account."
The account presents access to numerous benefits and banking services including, 24/7 access to one's account using CenteMobile, Free balance inquiry, Withdrawals of up to 2 million shilling per day from all the bank's digitally driven channels including CenteMobile, CenteAgent and the account is purely phone based.
Scale2Save and Centenary Bank
WSBI and Centenary Bank signed in late 2019 a memorandum of understanding for a new Scale2Save project to help small-scale savings work in Uganda. Signed during a ceremony on 18 October in Washington, D.C., the memorandum outlined two projects, on being CenteXpress, introduces financial incentives for existing customers to on-board new ones into the no-frills account. The project taps into and measures the influence and impact made by friends and family to boost uptake and active use of banks and their services within the retail and mass market. A related project also contained in the memorandum was to introduce and test a 'No-Frills' basic mobile-phone-operated savings account specifically designed for the low-income people. Centenary looks to launch and test the offer via CenteMobile – the bank's digital channel.
Centenary Bank Managing Director Fabian Kasi said at the time of the memorandum signing that: “The mobile account will be scaled up to 187,500 customers by its Cente banking agent network, sales representatives and staff during the pilot phase."
The no-frills account pilot aims in the medium- to long-term to establish a “gateway-to-banking" product for low-income Ugandans. People who start with the account, set for a pilot phase in Central and Western regions of the country, can graduate to a regular savings account. From there, they can eventually gain access to the full suite of banking products, including credit. The project is especially important for rural communities to flourish.
Commenting at the time on the initiative and support from WSBI under the Scale2Save programme, MoU signatory and WSBI Managing Director Chris De Noose added: “Centenary Bank is taking an innovative, multi-pronged approach to address the need for viable small-scale savings. They also look to test shared agency infrastructure with Finca Uganda, another Scale2Save partner."
About Centenary Bank
Centenary Bank is Uganda's leading commercial microfinance bank, serving more than 1.8 million consumers, a quarter of the country's total banking population. It also has a growing network of 186 ATMs, 74 branches, and over 400 Cente Agents across the country. Centenary Bank started in 1985 with two main purposes: serve the rural poor and make a meaningful contribution to the socio-economic development of Uganda. In 1993, it transitioned to Centenary Rural Development Bank Limited and licensed as a full-service commercial bank. The bank aims to be Uganda's best provider of financial services, especially microfinance. Centenary Bank began in 1983 as a credit trust of the Uganda National Lay Apostolate. Its mission is “To provide appropriate financial services, especially microfinance to all people, in a sustainable manner and in accordance with the law."