An interview with Banque Poulaire de Côte d'Ivoire's Issa Fadiga
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BRUSSELS, 28 April 2020 – The former Caisse Nationale des Caisses d'Epargne, a WSBI member based in Côte d'Ivoire, recently changed its name. Now called Banque Populaire de Côte d'Ivoire, its director general, Issa Fadiga, explains the change. News & Views interviewed Mr. Fadiga on the sidelines of the conference "Digital financial inclusion: the path to success" held in Abidjan late last year.
Our institution went through a difficult period. Placed in provisional administration in 2015 after facing a seriously deficient financial situation, a restructuring plan followed. Adopted in 2017, the plan followed a recapitalisation by the Ivorian government. The counterpart was the implementation of deep reforms within the institution. These reforms focus on four areas: human capital, infrastructure, education and good governance. These principles also appear in the Ivorian government's strategic plan, which aims to transform the economy through banking and financial inclusion.
The Ivorian state, the sole shareholder of the bank, recapitalised the institution between 2015 and 2018 to the tune of FCFA 58 billion (US$100 million). The counterpart of this intervention was the need to take drastic measures to ensure the survival of the business.
How did you start this transformation?
The first thing to do was to reduce the bank’s “lifestyle”. We had to slash costs. We closed a string of 47 unprofitable branches. and put together a departure plan for approximately 240 employees out of 750 in total. Needless to say, we continue to be careful with all of our operating expenses.
At the same time, we have invested in the human capital within the organisation – our people. A successful transformation always involves the human factor. We launched a call for candidates following which the entire management team was replaced. Then, we applied this recruitment procedure to all vacancies.
We have transformed intoa modern institution, with a full banking license, 40 billion FCFA (US$69 million) of registered capital and 73 branches. In addition, we have 10 mobile agencies crisscrossing the country and reaching out to isolated customers, such as people working on rubber or cocoa plantations.
How did the staff experience this transformation?
The staff quickly understood that the needed voluntary departures were not at all a witch hunt, but on the contrary. We had to go forward with them to ensure company survival. The fact of going through a call for candidates for each position guarantees an objectivity, meaning positions are occupied by the people best able to fulfil the function.
Have you also thoroughly reviewed the internal procedures of the bank?
We found that the procedures in place too weak for risk assessment in general,and for managing the loan portfolio in particular. We have reviewed the criteria for evaluating credit applications so as to drastically reduce the number oftailed mapping of risks bank risk exposure so that we can implement the necessary measures.
Tell us about Banque Populaire's business strategy
Our ambition is to be at the same level as the major international banks active in our country and to advance financial inclusion of citizens to promote Côte d'Ivoire’s economic development. We want to focus on specific segments of the Ivorian market where we see great potential. Thus, we want to be a competitive player for people like private individuals and civil servants, as well as for the large numbers of craftsmen in the country. We are highly active in the small and medium business segment and provide specific services to large companies. For the latter, we carry out, for example, a cash collection service, where a bank employee works alongside employees within the large company. Currently, the bank works with 320,000 customers.
Financial inclusion: Tell us about initiatives taken.
Banque Populaire wants to be the benchmark bank for financial inclusion. To this end, we cooperate closely with the National Treasury during inclusion campaigns and have massively opened accounts for civil servants. As I mentioned, artisans form a highly important group in our country and we do a lot of work to include them in the banking system especially in terms of payments as well as savings and credit. A large group comprises people who work on rubber and cocoa plantations. They are oftentimes in extremely remote areas of the country. We use mobile banks to reach them. For this initiative to succeed, it is essential to familiarise them with banking products and provide them with financial education. Our employees actively practice it, which we consider an essential prerequisite for wider financial inclusion. We provide these people with training in the basic techniques of their trade, in collaboration with specialised organisations. This training boosts their work efficiency.