Ghana’s first Bank on WheelsThe bank that comes to its customers
Inconvenient working hours and never any time to go to the bank? This bank teller in Ghana comes to the customer who can't make it to them. It is reaching out to Ghana's many small and medium-sized entrepreneurs. Read More
It has happened to us all: At the cashier’s a quick look in our wallet reveals we are low on cash again. But there is no ATM in sight, and no time to make a bank run.
We’d have to go in to the teller to make a deposit, send money abroad or another similar transaction, but the bank’s opening times don’t mesh with our own working hours. And while mobile banking is a good option for simple money transfers or to check an account balance, a smartphone can’t top up the cash in your wallet.
How convenient would it be if the bank would occasionally come to you? If it regularly travelled to your place of work bringing cash, offering financial advice or any other service you needed?
What would be a nice convenience for private customers can be a lifesaver for a small business. So one bank in Ghana has set up a travelling teller service to visit customers who rely on the daily services a bank provides, but find it hard to make a bank run during regular hours: dealers in the wholesale markets.
CASH for GHANA’S WHOLESALE MARKETS
There are a number of huge markets in Accra where stalls, cookshops and small shops cover entire quarters. Here dealers hawk their wares to local retailers, sewing shops look for fabric, hotels purchase shampoo and restaurants stock up on fresh fish.
The people in business here often juggle large amounts of money. At the centre of the bustling Makola market, for example, Alhaji Mohammed Hemidu runs a shop for flip-flops he imports from China. Twice a year he travels to Asia to put down a deposit on his next shipment: 30 percent of around 90,000 dollars. He has to pay his six workers every month.
How convenient would it be if your bank would travel to your work place bringing cash and financial advice?
For small business owners like Alhaji, bank services are extremely important: They need loans, savings accounts and have to transfer wages. They want to be able to withdraw cash in the morning and deposit their earnings in the evening after a successful business day.
But using these bank services can take a great deal of time. In Accra’s never-ending traffic jam, travelling to the next branch can easily take an hour or two, plus the time spent in the bank itself, followed by the same long journey back. All in all, a small business owner has to take up to half a day off to make a simple bank run.
Baah Kawbena gets up at 6am every morning to stand behind the counter of his shop that offers everything under the sun. He is there at Makola market until at least 6pm in the evening.
“My location is great, very central,” he says. Of course very central also means completely overrun, and just working your way through the throngs of people, past the chugging lorries and honking pickups seems to take ages.
Full banking service at your doorstep
This is exactly the kind of situation UT Bank Ghana’s Bank on Wheels is designed to solve. It is basically a portable bank branch with a teller’s window and an ATM. The converted van is as large as a 20-foot container that offers traditional banking services.
“It is designed as a mini mobile branch to allow for everyday transactions,” explains Uriel Dodoo, the Mobile Bank Manager at UT Bank Ghana. “An ATM and other communications systems enable customers to effect fast cash withdrawals and other transactions close to their businesses and during peak periods in their neighbourhood.”
“Customers can even have their wages paid out.”
In addition to withdrawals and deposits, the bank on wheels’ range of services includes opening new accounts, international money transfers, automated teller machine services and transactions to other markets. Customers can even have their wages paid out. The only thing the bank employees cannot process on site are loan requests.
The mobile van is equipped with a number of safety features to ensure customers can transact their business in a safe and secure environment. For instance, there is a bulk cash area where customers can deposit huge sums of money out of the view of onlookers. Furthermore, a policeman from the National Police Service accompanies the van en route to protect it from robbery or abuse.
Meeting the financial needs of small enterprises
Since April 2013, the van is visiting the city’s large wholesale markets on a regular schedule. It is in Agbogbloshie on Monday morning, at Jamestown in the afternoon, and in another part of the city on Tuesdays. So customers always know when the bank will be near them. Another van is covering the north of Ghana.
Small business owners, market folk, lorry drivers and hawkers make up the lion’s share of customers. “Construction workers and factory workers have also enrolled in the Bank on Wheels salary platform,” Uriel, who rides in the van through the city every day, explains.
“Feedback received from customers has been very positive,” he adds. “They are very appreciative of the availability of the Bank on Wheels at their doorstep. They are able to leave their wares, deposit proceeds from transactions and return to their premises to conduct their everyday business. It is convenient for them and offers security for proceeds from their daily transactions.”
UT Bank behind this novel idea, also takes a different approach to customers and service, so it is no surprise that they brought this idea to Ghana. While many banks focus on wealthy corporate clients, UT Bank tailors its range of services for small and medium sized enterprises, many of whom are informal micro enterprises. There is high demand from this customer base, though the range of services available tends to be limited.
In this project, UT Bank enjoys the support of some international partners including in particular the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the DEG – Deutsche Investitions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft mbG, which are seeking to strengthen the growing middle class in emerging African markets.
“UT Bank has positioned itself as a lending bank that is seeking to change the face of banking in Ghana through fast, efficient and respectful delivery of products and services. We focus primarily on the financial needs of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs),” Uriel explains.
UT Bank is certainly not the only bank to make use of the bank on wheels model. In Ghana the Stanbic Bank has now also adopted the idea. In other countries, banks use a bank on wheels primarily to reach their rural customers. In recent years the model has been established in India, the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, USA, UK and Georgia where mobile banks hit the streets to reach out to their customers.