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A CEO’s journey from frustration to digital transformation



A CEO’s journey from frustration to digital transformation

As chief executive officer of Rwanda’s largest bank, I never expected to experience the embarrassment of a failed transaction on my own card. But there I was, unable to withdraw cash from an ATM machine because my card had expired. 

This shock led me to realise that, despite our bank’s reliance on an IT system, we were not yet a fully digital bank.

I set out on a journey to constantly evaluate Bank of Kigali’s systems and customer service experience, comparing it to what our competitors offered and always searching for the best digital banking platform. 

I noticed the long queues customers faced to complete transactions, be it opening a bank account, paying bills, or settling taxes. 

Our situation was not unique compared to other banks in Rwanda and even across the East African Community.

Thanks to technological advancements, banks have moved away from the era of storing customer information in physical files and branchless banking is no longer a novel concept. 

For years now, it has become unnecessary to visit a physical branch to perform many banking transactions. 

Renewing an ATM card can now be done quickly online or through mobile banking.

The long queues in banking halls are mostly a thing of the past and remote, cashless banking has become the norm. In-person banking is becoming outdated as customers demand faster, more convenient, and more efficient services. 

However, there are still certain situations where human intervention is necessary, such as loan appraisals.

Customer-centric products

Digital banking has also created a need for continuous training of staff to ensure that they are equipped to create customer-centric products of the future. 

The journey to digitisation is ongoing, driven by rapid advancements in technology.

The banking conveniences that customers take for granted today were not possible a decade ago, but they have become an essential part of our daily lives. With computer speed and processing capacity doubling every one-and-a-half to two years, the banking industry is also changing at an exponential pace.

Through powerful servers and internet connectivity, banks have enabled customers to access their accounts via mobile devices, putting financial services in the palms of their hands. 

The competition in the industry is now not just about making banking accessible, but also about empowering customers to perform all transactions they need to, whenever they need to, and from wherever they are.

The world is becoming increasingly mobile, and banks must keep up with, and anticipate these rapid changes. 

The Bank of Kigali has invested heavily to ensure that customers have access to the cutting-edge technology that their peers across the world are enjoying.

Customers can now perform tasks such as account opening, modification, internet banking, mobile banking, and card application with little to no intervention from bank staff. 

The use of smartphones has also opened numerous possibilities for the banking industry. 

For example, opening a bank account at the Bank of Kigali only requires scanning your face and entering your ID number.

This is a complete shift from the era when opening a bank account required heavy paperwork and multiple signatures. 

The ease of access to banking services has enabled more people to reach financial services and has also helped to promote economic inclusion.

Overall, my personal experience of a failed transaction was a wake-up call that led to a complete digital transformation of the Bank of Kigali.

Digitisation is a mammoth undertaking with many moving parts and requires a clear vision and patience to achieve its full potential. 

System developers 

When system developers are done with their job, you require product developers to collaborate with designers and users to translate the platform into services that not only make sense but, most importantly, ease customers’ lives.

Some equate changing a bank’s operating system to undertaking a heart transplant or changing the engine of an aeroplane mid-air. 

That’s because you have to continue serving your customers, even as you bring about all these groundbreaking changes. 

In the end, digitisation is all about solving customers’ pain points and taking a bold leap of faith into the future.

Dr Karusisi is the CEO, Bank of Kigali

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