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Banking on a better future

finance-trust-uganda.jpgAugust 27 2014

Finance Trust Bank is a Ugandan microfinance bank and Oikocredit partner which was founded in 1984 to give women access to financial services. The bank was founded by a group of women who realised that the reason women were more economically disadvantaged in Uganda was because of their lack of access to financial services. Today the bank has over 200,000 clients, majority of which are female. We spoke with the CEO of Finance Trust Bank, Annet Nakawunde Mulindwa, about the history of the bank and how it continues to empower women 30 years on.

Finance Trust is one of the oldest microfinance providers in Uganda and began almost as a women’s self-help group. Can you give us an overview of the bank’s history and the impacts it’s made over the years?

“Because of the lack of access women had to financial services in Uganda, our female founding members put together their own small savings to provide loans to groups of poor women. Over the years, the organization has grown and gone through various transformations to also include men as clients; however providing financial access to low and middle-income women is still the focus. To keep this mission of empowering women, we determined that at least 60% of our total clientele should be women.”

You have many different products such as savings accounts and education loans. How are new products developed?

“First and foremost our products are demand driven. We listen to our customers, who ask for certain products and loan conditions. We also conduct market research to find their needs and develop products that suit those needs. For instance, a farmer who takes a loan to buy seeds cannot pay back their loan immediately, so that loan will be structured with flexible repayment terms.”

Can you give an example of a financial product that you have developed from scratch?

“An example that comes to mind is the ‘Mama safe’ savings account. The product was born out of consideration of all the challenges women face and how we could support them. In Uganda, one important area is healthcare, as women require a safe place to give birth. So we developed a product that combines savings, credit and insurance. Health insurance costs around US$ 150 per year, which is paid directly to the insurance companies in a lump sum. However, we found that many women could not pay the insurance cost all at once. That's why we developed a loan of US$ 150, so that women could pay the insurance, and then repay the amount gradually over the course of a half or full year.”

You also have special savings products for girls. Why is this an important product?

“In Uganda, there is a high rate of young pregnancy as well as sexual violence. It is also common for girls to leave school without any qualifications. It is also not uncommon for a girl to be married by 12 or have children of her own by 14. So we developed a product to take care of young girls and help them to prepare for challenges they may face. Among our clients we have 5,000 girls between the ages of 10 and 18. For these girls, we have a counter with an elevated stage set up in our branches so that they can speak with the staff at an equal level. We do not provide these girls with loans, only savings accounts. We also train them in basic financial literacy, health issues and entrepreneurship. We also try to bring the girls together once a year for a conference.”

Finance Trust Bank has been a partner of Oikocredit since 2005. 

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