In our second issue of SG Insider, we are pleased to introduce Mr. Andy Cottam, Executive Manager Risk, and Mr. Stuart Mathison, Head of Operations at the National Bank of Vanuatu (NBV). Today they will share their insights on the marketand the technology challenges they face in the sector. The National Bank of Vanuatu Limited was established in August 1991. With a network of 27 branches on 15 islands, NBV is the only bank that provides services outside the main population centers of Port Vila and Luganville. NBV offers a comprehensive range of services in Business, Retail, Rural, International, Treasury and Investment Banking. NBV has purchased the following Software Group’s (SG) products – UT Route, UT Net, UT SMS, UT Bio, UT ID, UT Mobile and Mirrors.
Hello Andy and Stuart, thank you for accepting our invitation to participate in the second issue of SG Insider. To start with, could you please describe the market your company operates in and what the main challenges are?
Andy: Vanuatu is a very small country of around 250, 000 people, spread across 83 individual islands. The main center is Port Vila, with a population of approximately 55 000 people, so it is very small. Some of the places where we operate do not even have electricity and this makes it very challenging to run a bank there. Many of the branches are classed as offline branches, as they cannot use computers or other devices because there are inadequate communications or not enough electricity. That’s why, all deposits, cheques and withdrawals are processed here at Port Vila.
Stuart: The market challenges are related to the small, but widely dispersed population. It is a very specific, almost unique market context. Before introducing our delivery channel solutions, serving this market was very difficult. Everyone in Vanuatu had a passbook and we had to fly cash around the country in planes. Our company had tiny branches with one or two staff. With many of them, we could not communicate with them at all, as there were no phones or other reliable methods of communication. We used to send notes on an airplane; almost like they were carried by a pigeon.
What were the main challenges your company was facing before implementing SG solutions?
Andy: We are running a small bank, and for us to offer any type of electronic banking, we needed to team up with Westpac in Australia (through their local office in Vanuatu) and EuroNet which was Westpac’s e-banking solution. At some point, we started thinking we needed our independence. This was the moment we started discussions with SG.
Stuart: There were two main challenges. One is the reality of Vanuatu – a small country spread out over a lot of islands. We needed electronic and mobile delivery channels, which are the only way to reach many people. The other thing is that for a very small bank like NBV, providing ATMs, mobile and internet banking as well as other delivery channels is very expensive. This is where SG came in from two fronts. Firstly, they offered us a very cost effective way to do business, and secondly the competitive products they have. SG is able to develop innovations which work in a place such as Vanuatu which has small number of transactions. We have microfinance offices out in the jungles, serving only a hand full of people. Customer service representatives will take their tablet on a motorbike, hop in the jungle and do the transactions through a USSD interface, enabling us to serve people through electronic delivery channels. So, we are able to get that flexibility and innovation from Software Group that we were not able to get from other vendors.
Please describe how your business changed after the implementation and what were the benefits for NBV?
Andy: Using SG products enabled us to provide our clients with much better services and utilize multiple delivery channels.
Stuart: We have reduced the costs of serving the islands and offer much better customer service. Furthermore, we have been able to introduce new transactions and services which generate additional income streams.
What do you value most in your relationship with Software Group?
Andy: This comes from the CEO Mr. Kalin Radev. He is very approachable guy and he doesn’t know the words “never” or “we can’t do that”. I just love the enthusiasm Software Group has, there is always a way to achieve something. I very much respect the knowledge which the employees of the company have, especially the developers and project managers, they are very professional.
Stuart: Software Group is flexible and listens to what we need. Together we can design solutions for our business and impact the lives of people here. The employees of Software Group are very dedicated and technically competent. Software Group is easily our preferred supplier.