In around 2012, a friend convinced me to open an account with a local commercial bank that ‘understands’ the inner workings of a society that is laden with poor people struggling to get on their financial feet.
At the time I had just returned to Uganda and had little or no understanding of the workings of the financial sector here, so I asked that particular friend to take me through all that I needed to know about banking in Uganda and then asked him to help me make a suggestion.
At the time the options of local commercial banks that easily come to mind included Centenary Bank, Stanbic Bank, National Bank of Commerce and Crane Bank, the latter which my friend recommended.
As I am wont to do before taking a decision that touches on the fringes of finance, I carried out a ‘background check’ on the four banks and zeroed in on Crane Bank. Here the Internet came in handy, revealing that Crane Bank had over 20 branches spread across the country, coming only second to Stanbic Bank.
The first information that calmed my nerves was that Crane Bank was one of the ‘100 best taxpayers’ in Uganda, contributing over 40 billion shillings to the country’s coffers annually. This trend, I am told, had been consistent for about 8 years earlier, and was to continue for the next three years.
Much as Uganda’s economy is not that gigantic, for an indigenous commercial bank to contribute huge sums to the national coffers is a sign that it is afloat and buoyant, meaning its management is sound. This also meant that the depositors’ monies were safe.
According to my friend, a businessman in Kikuubo, the branch there had ‘changed’ the rules of the game, providing services way beyond the ‘official hours’ in order to serve the clientele in Uganda’s business hub.
Against such a background, he said, banking in Kikuubo was made easy, enabling the businessmen to carry out transactions without the fear of losing money to planned thefts of money while in transit.
That aside, banking with Crane Bank was such an experience, what with tellers working round the clock to make sure the services were satisfactory.
Indeed, at one time someone sent me money though the Western Union, but I did not have all the required identification to successfully carry out the transaction. However, when I approached the Manager at the Crane Bank Bugolobi branch, he was kind enough to help me with his phone so I could call the sender in the US for clarification and indeed, we both spoke to the sender and after that the Manager led me to his office and called the teller to bring the amount indicated. I only handed in my employee Identity Card, and in a flash the money was with me! A real change in approach to modern-day banking.
That single act, when told to my other family members, endeared them to the Bugolobi branch, a place where we have all been carrying out all our transactions since that memorable day when the Manager showed me a different approach to banking.
Fare thee well Crane Bank, for the time you served Ugandans, you surely changed the face of banking Uganda!
I will always remember ‘growing to serve, serving to grow’.