Congrats ! The Trust Merchant Bank wins The Banker's Award for Financial Inclusion 2017

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The Banker Awards 2017
A message from Oliver Meisenberg, CEO

TMB is honoured and delighted to accept The Banker’s Award for Financial Inclusion 2017 at the Bank of the Year Awards 2017, London.

We are equally delighted to have the opportunity to share briefly with attendees our story, or let’s rather say our thoughts and approach within TMB on Financial Inclusion, and to acknowledge and celebrate the crucial role banking plays in supporting sustainable economic growth in all the markets and communities in which we all operate.

Who at the Bank of the Year Award were familiar with the term Financial Inclusion before the early 2000s about financial inclusion? We were not.

Did you know that only in late 2003, the then Secretary General of the United Nation declared: “The stark reality is that most poor people in the world still lack access to sustainable financial services, whether it is savings, credit or insurance. The great challenge before us is to address the constraints that exclude people from full participation in the financial sector. Together, we can and must build inclusive financial sectors that help people improve their lives.”

Ten years later, in 2013 during the IMF-World Bank Spring Meetings, it was formally acknowledged that "Financial inclusion is no longer a fringe subject. It is now recognized as an important part of the mainstream thinking on economic development based on country leadership."

The Banker introduced the Financial Inclusion Award for the first time in 2009, most probably to the surprise of many participants attending the awards ceremony at the time. Back then, bankers were all too familiar with a culture of downsizing, and faced DFI’s and Development Organizations approaching them for “downscaling” projects that most commercial banks observed with a critical eye.

Did we know about Financial Inclusion at TMB when our founders created the Bank in 2004? We could proudly say yes, but that wouldn’t be the whole truth.

The truth is different, TMB was founded on the principals of fighting Financial Exclusion, we were committed and convinced that we had to build a viable business model that strengthens the financial sector (in those days there were only 30,000 bank accounts in the DRC) by addressing our services particularly to the unbanked population and entrepreneurs, thus having a sustainable impact on economic development in the communities in which we operate.

Ever since, we’ve maintained our Leitmotif of “fighting financial exclusion”. You will ask yourself what is the difference between “fighting financial exclusion” and promoting “financial inclusion”...

None to be honest, at TMB we simply maintained our terminology as it illustrates that throughout our growth and development our business model has stood aside from the world of technical assistance. We are a 100% privately funded, for profit-company. Since our creation, we have grown operations without the participation of DFIs or any other donors. Our track record is a clear demonstration that fighting financial exclusion can be a profitable endeavour. Our success is testament to what private sector players can deliver, even in a frontier economy like the Congo. At TMB, we are more confident than ever that the solutions to financial exclusion lie with the attendees of The Bank of the Year Awards ceremony.

As bankers, our choice is to either embrace or neglect the market potential of the unbanked. Clients will ultimately be the winners, regardless of the final approach of the banking sector. The convergence of Telecoms, Fintech Providers and Banks is revolutionizing access to financial services.

This convergence is changing how we operate, affecting the economics and viability of what we do.

At TMB we had no intention of surrendering the fintech space to the telcom operators in the Congo. With Pepele Mobile, our mobile banking service, TMB has firmly taken ownership of the fintech revolution in the country. Pepele Mobile has transformed our ability to deliver banking services across rural Congo.

We are comforted in our approach, not only by our achievements in building and sustaining our client base, and driving our Leitmotif of “fighting Financial Exclusion” into remote arears at lower operational costs, but also by our maintaining full ownership of all KYC/Compliance aspects of doing business in the financial sector.

Attendees of the Bank of the Year Awards know as well, as we do, that the de-risking trend of correspondent banks has a considerable impact on financial sectors and economies. The Financial Action Task Force considers the de-risking phenomena to be a real and serious threat to financial inclusion.

By maintaining ownership of our client data and compliance standards without outsourcing KYC to service providers or partners, such as Telecoms, Smartphone Application Suppliers, or Peer 2 Peer Networks, we at TMB are comfortable and confident in being accountable for compliance and providing the utmost of confidence to our correspondents.

Having said this, we are well aware of the revolution to come with P2P transactions over social media, a trend that will provoke a paradigm shift in the financial sector by converging financial inclusion into global P2P networks. How will banks position themselves, who within the banking community will be attending the annual The Banker Awards in 10 years’? The majority will be banks and financial institutions, but the financial inclusion award winner might be a surprise to all of us present today.

Financial inclusion in many areas of the world is still about proximity, being and delivering on the ground. This fact gives banks like TMB a head start in the race to fight financial exclusion.

All too often the public image of Congo is a negative one. Certainly, the country faces immense challenges, but positive things are happening in the country, the people are incredibly resourceful, and the country’s potential is immense. Truth be told, the image of the banking sector remains tarnished in the public’s eye. Yet a vibrant banking sector is crucial to deliver economic growth and well-being for the communities we work in. It is vital that all stakeholders understand the importance of a strong, stable banking sector, and the contribution we make to sustaining economic growth and the well-being of communities in which we operate.

I would like to thank my team for their dedication, loyalty, and sheer hard work, without which TMB would not be the success story it is today. The Congo can be a very difficult business environment to operate in, it places demands on, and challenges our staff in ways over and above those faced by bankers in most other locations. And yet a remarkable team at TMB overcomes all obstacles to provide financial services to those most excluded from the financial sector, often in extremely remote parts of the Congo.

I would also like to thank our founders and shareholders, and management team who together have always believed in fighting financial exclusion, and thus made possible the results we have achieved to date by combining financial inclusion with a sound and viable business model.

As TMB CEO, may I congratulate all fellow award winners at The Bank of the Year Awards 2017, and may I thank The Banker team for all their hard work in organising this year’s event.