Every company, particularly in the financial industry, needs its home grown entrepreneurs who have an intimate knowledge of business to help drive growth, increase revenue, cut costs and ultimately impact the bottom line positively. There is no doubt that Bertie Reyneke ,the General Manager of Nampost Savings Bank is in the league of much sought after entrepreneurs. Results speak for themselves. Under his stewardship, the Savings Bank continued to post impressive results.
In the year under review the bank posted an increase of 19% in revenue. As if this were is not enough profit before tax increased by 70%. The deposit book increased by 39% in value, supported by an increase in retail investors that increased by 15% compared to 13.2% in the previous year. The number of Smart Card Accounts holders increased by 11%.
The Savings Bank currently boasts a strong clientele base of 520 000 the largest of any bank in Namibia. The value of the corporate clients is N$3 b. If this is not growth in the face of financial turmoil, tell me what it is? Recently the Development Bank of Namibia awarded Savings Bank for “Good Business” in the sustainability category. We speak to the man behind and he shares the secret with us.
PF: Can you tell us what goes on in Nampost Savings Bank?
BR:Nampost Savings Bank is not a commercial bank. A savings bank in the postal environment is as old as the postal services itself. Mainly what we do in the Savings Bank is that we have a transactional savings account that is called a smart card. This card is different from the ones you find in the commercial banking settings. It has no pin number, there is no micro strip at the back of the card and it is so safe that no one can steal your number and operate on your card.
This means that you need to be there at the point of sale in order to be able to transact. The other thing is that we have the microchip on the smart card, so the money is sitting on the card meaning the card, can operate off-line, since the money is on the chip itself.
The Smart Card is very secure. We have never heard instances where somebody has had their money withdrawn without their knowledge. With this card we also offer Namibians the cheapest funeral covers. All these services are available at our 136 post offices all over Namibia.
This technology is not new, we introduced it in 2006. Since then we have grown our customer book to about 520 000 customers. So far we have the largest customer base of any bank in Namibia.
Furthermore we offer investment accounts for a person in the street. The important thing about the investment book is that it is tax free. There is no 10% tax holding like other banks. In addition there are no administrative fees, no initial fees, no fees later on. That you see is what you get.
Furthermore, he rates are compatible to those of the commercial banks. The third part of our business is treasury where we deal with corporates. We have corporate customers investing a lot of money with us. Our investment book is currently standing at N$3b, so it is a large book. Even if we are Government owned, we are also regulated by the Bank of Namibia, hence we comply with all the necessary regulations such as the Know Your Customer requirement (KYC).
PF: How do you remain competitive given this cut throat competition in the finance industry?
BR:They are a few factors that are important and they have and still work in our favour. First of all we have a strong footprint of 136 post offices around the country, which means we are the most accessible and reachable bank in Namibia, enabling people to transact. What this also means is that we have the largest network in the financial market in Namibia, thus putting us far ahead of our competitors. Our aim is to bring banking to the people and not to let people travel far to access banks. We are living this aim and it is working for us.
We also have close to 450 Point of Sale devices with merchants or retailers around the country and these are helping people to make transactions. We are now actively increasing the number of these Point of Sale devices, especially in the rural areas. To achieve this we would like to empower local business people to become agents of Nampost by providing facilities that will enable people in the villages to come and transact.
For instance, if you look at the pensioners, sometimes they need to travel long distances and queues to get their pension money. In some instance these pensioners have to endure the unfavourable weather conditions such as rain and the scorching heat. We don’t want this to continue. Since they have their Smart Card, they should be able upload their funds at any point of sale without going very far. So our mandate, which is different from that of the commercial banks is to provide affordable banking services to all Namibians. On the other hand the mandate of the commercial banks, is to serve the private investors in return for their investment. Obviously, since they are inclined to make as much money as possible, you will realise that the fees that they charge are completely different to those what we charge.
They ask more to keep your banking account running, whereas in our case the deposit fee and the transactional fees are relatively low. So that is why people are still coming and opening accounts with us. We have the largest footprint in Namibia, it is easy to transact and it is low cost banking. They invest money with us because it is tax free. That is why we are still relevant in Namibia.
PF: How do you get to the hearts and minds of your clients to make all this possible?
BR:This is quite interesting. Because we have a diverse marketing strategy, it means that If you look at the lower income groups as well as middle income, groups we make use of different means such as the newspapers, radio and post offices. For the treasury and investment book. We often advertise in the newspapers, but in some cases we have to visit corporates personally. In addition, from time to time we have luncheons where we invite these corporates to come and look at our product range and some take it from there, Government being the shareholder of Nampost clients. They are guaranteed that their money is very safe.
It is important to realise that through good service you convert your client into a customer. A client is somebody who just walks into the Post Office to buy a stamp and walks out. If you tell them about the products, they will start to use the products and then they are a customer. Through good service, you convert that customer into a supporter.
We have a lot of supporters outside who tell others that they should with Nampost. Some go to the extent of sharing their own experiences of having the Smart Card, telling them how safe and convenient it is. So we like that personal touch. This is how we do our business.
PF: How do you as leader align and deploy your vital resources to get what you want?
BR:First of all it is crucial that you as a leader understand the needs of your customers. Once you are close to your customers, there is no doubt you get good results. I do branch visits about four times a year in different regions. I visit different post offices, our different customers. I also stay very close to the post office staff, as well as to the customers and therefore I know what their needs are. But it is not enough just to know their needs. Addressing them makes a difference and this is what we do as a team.
The second important aspect is the quality of your team. I always say you are as good as the people around you allow you to be. Therefore you need to put a competent team in place; you need to motivate these people. They need to know what the overall strategy is, so that everyone can pull in the same direction. On my side we have a very good management team. We are all acquainted with the strategy. What is we do is follow up, we drive and get exceptional rewards.
I must point out that for most of us it’s not just work, it is a way of living. We are passionate about what we do. We enjoy what we are doing. It is always important to mix work and rewards. It is through that approach that we are able to provide quality products. The front line people need to have product knowledge. They need to know that good customer service is not negotiable, but it is a process. You need to keep your hands on it.
PF: Can you tell us about your rise within the Nampost structures?
BR:I started off working in the commercial banks. I have been with Nampost for the past four and a half years, I am loving it and it’s getting better each day. After matriculation my parents did not have the money to send me to university, so I started working in the bank in 1976. I have worked in the banking industry all my life.
However, did not give up on education while I was holding a full time job. I studied through distance learning to enrich myself. Through distance learning I completed three different qualifications and this played a significant role in my career path.
Through hard work in the commercial banks I ended on the corporate level of the commercial banking industry. I am one of the few guys with experience. This becoming rare is dwindling these days. I started off at the bottom of the ladder in the banking world and worked in every department in the commercial bank.
Nowadays you are appointed and you work in one department. Then you move on, yet you don’t know the whole spectrum of banking.
Looking back, I am proud that I worked in all the departments in the bank. Then I became accountant in the smaller branch, later on in bigger branches, then manager in smaller branches and manager in bigger branches. Eventually I ended up in corporate banking.
At one time I decided I needed something challenging and exciting. This decision saw me landing a position at Nampost Savings Bank and I must say I am really enjoying it. It is very rewarding to see how the bank is growing. It humbling to see that what you are doing is satisfying people out there by bringing banking dpwn to their door steps.
PF: In retrospect, to whom do you attribute your success?
BR:There are several people who played a significant role in my development, particularly those who mentored me over years. But the most important thing is to be grateful to the Lord for giving you the talent; the capability to be able to do all these things.
As far as private individuals are concerned, from an early age my father played a huge role. He told me that if you want something, you need to work for it, and that struck a chord in me.
But then over years in the commercial banking industry, I had a number of managers from whom I learnt a lot. Lastly you can still learn something from everybody, All you need is to keep your ears, and your mind on the ground. For example, you can learn something from say a cleaner or a clerk. They know something that you don’t know. The bottom line is to keep your mind, your ears and your eyes open. My motto is that you must be effective to be productive. I often emphasise that point regarding what we are doing within this business unit. I encourage my team to strive for excellence and to be effective, as this leads to higher productivity.
PF: What has been your greatest learning curve in business and in life?
BR:You must always remember that business, especially in the financial industry is what I call a brutal industry. There is no sympathy for anybody. Therefore you must be able to work hard, you must be always creative, you must be a positive thinker, and now and then you have to take one step backwards in order to take two steps forward again.
Moreover, you must have ambition. With ambition you will be able to start something, but you will not be able to finish it if you don’t work very hard.
PF: This is Christmas time. What is your message to your client and everyone in the Namibian space?
BR:Clients should make sure before they bank anywhere. They should acquaint themselves fully with the products they want to engage in. Clients should check things such as the fees and the capability of the product. Sometimes people open a bank account only to receive the shock of their lives when they look at the fees and the limitations of that product they have signed for.
So I would like to appeal to everyone to do their research beforehand so that they can see which is the best product for them. There are some great products with the commercial banks and equally some great products with us. You need to do research before you open a bank account.
Then, as clients, they must always insist on quality service. Quality of service is not negotiable. They must insist on that. They must always have it in their minds that they are not just a number. They are clients who need personal attention.
PF: Thank you so much for sharing these kernels of wisdom.
BR:Thank you. It was a pleasure indeed. PF