JOÃO FIGUEIREDO

Mozambique 2020 | FINANCE | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to João Figueiredo, Chairman of Moza Banco, on financial inclusion, Mozambique's response to the pandemic, and managing a network of over 65 branches.

In which ways does Moza Banco contribute to financial inclusion?

Moza Banco has been one of the banks at the forefront of financial inclusion in Mozambique, by launching innovative products and services for the non-banked and creating new models of banking to further push inclusion. As the only bank with an almost entire Mozambican capital, our responsibility toward inclusion, innovation, and development is even greater. To date, we own the third-largest network of banks in the country, with 67 units in all provincial capitals and various districts, and we are looking to further increase this number, once the current COVID-19 scenario allows. We are also aware that financial inclusion cannot be reached simply through the expansion of our physical branches and must combine alternative channels, including digital services and products that allow us to address the needs and concerns of the lower segments. This is currently a focus of our strategy, as we expand our offerings to stand-up to the innovation, functionality, and efficiency that denote best practices across the market. We are complementing these efforts with actions to boost financial literacy and education, in order to ensure an effective and conscious utilization of financial services.

Moza Banco has gone through a few difficult years following the crisis that started in 2016. How did the bank manage to emerge from this crisis?

The history of Moza Banco has unfortunately not been a linear one, culminating in an inevitable and much-needed intervention from the central bank in 2016. Since then, the bank has achieved a remarkable performance, with proven positive results in gaining clients' and the market's confidence as well as economic and financial indicators. This process was amply certified by the entry of new shareholders A Kuhanha and ARISE, which now hold the majority of the institution's capital and the acquisition of niche bank Banco Terra. The fusion through incorporation resulted in a vaster and more complex operation of Capital Restructuring for Moza Banco, which led the bank to become a universal bank—even though with a segmented market approach—and one of the main players in the national financial system, counting on a robust and functioning operational organization up to the highest international standards. It must be noted that the bank's recovery process was hindered in the past year by exogenous circumstances, i.e. the devastating impact of cyclones Idai and Kenneth and the current COVID-19 crisis. However, we are well placed to continue the positive route started in 2016, once the circumstances improve.

How should the Mozambican banking sector structure its response to assist the economy during COVID-19? Specifically, what was Moza Banco's response to COVID?

The central bank was quick to implement countermeasures to minimize the impact on the financial sector, such as the temporary relaxation on payment terms for companies and a 250-point reduction of interest rates. While vital measures have been taken to relieve the burden of preexisting borrowing, these have not proven sufficient to stimulate an increase in credit to support vulnerable families and enterprises. The current low appetite for credit in a context of weak demand and offer—due to the lockdown restrictions that were put in place to fight the pandemic—must be understood also in terms of a pre-existing environment detrimental to the growth of SMEs and employment and highly uncertain in terms of economic recovery across sectors. The central bank's measures must be rapidly complemented by decisive governmental measures to keep business flowing and safeguard jobs. As of July 2020, more than 25,000 people from 1,200 companies have already lost their jobs. In June, the government approved a MZN1-billion (USD15 million) line of credit for MSMEs affected by the pandemic. The challenge is not to make the terms and conditions for this line more readily accessible to the public. In terms of Moza Banco's response, our main strategic focus has always been the client. Since the beginning of the outbreak, we have shaped our response to support our clients during the difficult times. We have implemented a program to restructure credit responsibility, including debt moratoria to reduce the burden of pressure for both individuals and companies. We have incentivized the utilization of digital channels for transaction and account management, so to facilitate compliance with the State of Emergency restrictions on movement. We have also extended the deadline of all our clients' debit and prepaid cards. In our physical branches, we have proactively implemented all hygiene and safety measures recommended by the government, the National Health Institute (IND) and OMS, in order to ensure the wellbeing of all our stakeholder, workers, clients, and partners.

Looking to the future, what are the main objectives for Moza Banco?

The current context of macroeconomic uncertainty requires a constant and dynamic revaluation of priorities and objectives. Our main goal in the short term is to assist our clients during this critical phase, ensuring the continuity of our services with the highest safety standards. In the long term, we strive to continue betting on innovation and the digital world, incorporating new transformation technological platforms. We want to keep growing our commercial activities, capitalizing on the network of branches and increasing our range of products and services. We seek to do this by betting on our internal human capital and a constant optimization of our operational structure.