As days are passing by we are increasingly becoming aware of the devastating effects that COVID 19 will leave behind globally, nationally and in our regions. With COVID 19, we are experiencing first-hand the effects of globalization, albeit on the negative side. It has become increasingly easy for capital, humanity, goods and services to move within the globe. For us, we perhaps thought this “thing” may not reach us but with the turn of events, even “far off” counties from Nairobi have started to register cases.
During this period it is natural to be cautious of the way we do business and handle operations. Yes, safety of staff and members come first. We however should not be afraid as fear can paralyze judgement and obscure visibility of opportunities even during this period.
As SACCO Executives, we share varied experience with regards to growth and development of our SACCOs. Nonetheless, we agree that preserving cash during uncertain times ranks high in our list of priority.
We also know that institutions that make investments during downturns, in readiness to move first post downturns normally emerge stronger. While these paradigm of preserving and investing are contradictory, we could try and strike a balance between them. So, what can we do during this downtime to stimulate demand for our services? Can we rescue the growth momentum we had and probably emerge more resilient from the downturn? I share some thoughts below.
- Accelerate your SACCO’s Digital Capacity – Presence and Operations
COVID 19 is reshaping the way we interact and with the on-goings of the pandemic, we need to be ready to adjust to a new normal. In banking, digital banking is solidifying and the so called alternate channels are becoming primary.
As executives we must build our respective SACCO’s digital capabilities. Majority of SACCOs possess some digital capabilities. We however need to improve them up to carry out member recruitment, deposit mobilization, credit process and improve our digital presence in cyberspace. It may also be time to configure a structure, strategy and people to drive digital SACCO function.
If such investments are done in the right way the SACCO can reap big in boosting liquidity and earning transaction fees. For instance, last week one SACCO CEO mentioned to us that his SACCO’s MPESA Account transacted volumes of Kshs 1Bn in year 2019. We believe this strategy is worth thinking through.
As CEO, guide your board to invest, if you haven’t, in relevant tools that facilitate full digital banking capabilities including websites that facilitate digital marketing, payment gateways, mobile applications, internet banking, bill payments et cetera. We are working with some of you to broaden capabilities of b2b and b2c.
- Transform Business Development Function
In the prevailing environment, we may not effectively tune to business development frequency. However, even thick clouds do have a silver lining. We believe that there are opportunities irrespective of tuff times. For instance, we are shifting slowly to cashless environment. How about banking mobile money agents? One CEO intimated that his liquidity issues were long solved by banking MPESA mobile agents. How about products like insurance on say health? For SACCOs serving members with small businesses, focus on market segments such as those dealing with basic needs e.g. food, health, education could be worth interrogating. Some rethinking of the business development function may be necessary to unveil the obvious in our products offering.
- Review our Product Offering – deliver product incentives & pricing
Member needs and priorities will shift as everyone get affected during this period. We may observe a preference for short-term credit over long-term for survival purposes. On business side, there may be increased need for inventory/working capital needs. If so, pricing, tariff adjustments and incentives may be necessary to align to member needs. Ultimately, it is necessary to understand how our members are affected.
- Connect With Members During This Uncertain Time
We are continuing to experience uncertain times with no clear visibility as to when we emerge out of it. During these times, when we are encouraged to physically distance and transact online, it is important to communicate frequently with members. As SACCO we have a social mission towards our members.
We have avenues to do it – send a message daily, be active on Facebook and Twitter handle. Send messages of hope and encouragement. Let the members know that you are there for them. Find out how they are affected and how the SACCO can help them. You may identify opportunities for products and services.
- Push on During COVID
It is becoming clear that COVID 19 will be with us for a long time. So, if you are postponing organizational issues to – after Corona, that may not work. For what we all know, it is humanity that will adjust the way we live and interact with each other during and after these initial phases.
Yes, we have to find a new normal, even as we get to increase the speed of testing, and wait for a vaccine. Experts tell us if all goes, late 2021 and 2022 could be the period we expect availability of a vaccine. The humble face mask is the new normal, shaking hands and large gatherings a thing of the past.
An attitude that strikes a balance among being cautious and courageous, financial prudence and taking calculated risks is required as the struggle continues. An attitude of fear and waiting passively for COVID 19 to pass, is misguided. Let us be guided by facts, caution and push on even though slowly as we wait for the experts to advance in mass testing and vaccine discovery.
STAY SAFE and OBSERVE HEALTH GUIDELINES
I have a vast consulting experience in business advisory services in private sector, public sector and development world. I have worked with World Council of Credit Unions and the founder of Strathmore Research and Consultancy Centre at Strathmore University
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