The management of Bank Populaire has reassured its clients that their deposits are safe in the wake of resignation of former Chief Executive Officer, Herman Klaassen and his deputy José Habimana.
In an exclusive interview with The New Times, the Bank's Chairman Board of Directors, Afrique Ramba said the bank's board is confident the new Acting CEO, Paul Van Apeldoorn has the capacity to run the bank.
"As you may already be aware, the board recently decided to make some changes at Bank Populaire...the board decided to appoint Paul Apeldoorn as the acting CEO. Paul has been with the bank as the chief commercial officer and knows the market and the board is confident that he has the skill required to run the bank during this transition period," said Ramba.
Ramba said talks that the bank had stopped granting loans were false.
"Of course there are rumors whenever there are changes in senior management. I would like to inform the public that Bank Populaire has even granted more loans than were initially planned. To be more specific, we surpassed our loan projected growth by Rwf17 billion. That is, 15.4 percent above the initial projection," he aid.
The bank's loan project for this year was Rwf115 billion, which is a significant amount compared to Rwf97.6b in 2011 and Rwf78.1b granted in 2010, according to Apeldoorn.
The Rwandan economy experienced a healthy growth especially in the last quarter of 2011 and in the first quarter of 2012, the reason for more demand for loans.
The government also spent a lot at the close of financial year 2011/12; this created a lot of activity and opportunities for customers who required more loans, according to Apeldoorn.
"There was also increased prices for coffee and tea which led to more players in the agricultural sector to require loan facilities. Fuel and oil products also increased in the third and final quarter of 2011 and the first quarter of 2012. All these combined contributed to the desire for more credit in the market, where Banque Populaire was very active."
On cases of theft and fraud, where the bank's employees were reported to have vanished with customer's money, Ramba acknowledged, saying investigations are underway. At the core of the theft was bank's teller who allegedly disappeared with Rwf42m from the bank's branch in Kirehe. He was later arrested.
"This kind of behavior cannot be tolerated by the bank and we have procedures to respond appropriately. Bank theft and robberies happen everywhere but I am sure that our clients are satisfied with the way we handle the cases," Ramba said.
Noting that banks base their operations on trust because they deal with money, Ramba pointed out that sometimes some employees breach that trust, "but the customers can always be sure that the bank has their interests at heart and will always protect the bank against such illegal activities."
Asked whether the bank would be able to face the rising competition in the banking sector, Apeldoorn said they were ready for the competition.
"We are aware of the new competition and this explains the recent developments at the bank that are geared to strengthen our market leadership position. They include the complete automation of our branches and to connect all our 190 branches to one network. We have invested heavily in installing over 100 ATMs countrywide, refurbished some of the old branches," said Apeldoorn.
He disclosed they have launched IZICash, the only service of its kind that enables customers to send money to anyone using their telephones.
Apeldoorn explained that the bank has standardised processes and procedures to ensure consistent service delivery across the entire network.
According to Apeldoorn, one of the initiatives that the bank has put in place is to have a fully staffed call centre, whereby customers who experience any type of transaction challenge can call and speak to informed agents who will either resolve their problems right away or contact other departments to resolve the issues.
"We also want to ensure that for example when one customer walks into our branch in Rubavu, he gets the same services as the customer at any other location. We have made significant improvement and are sure that our customers already see the difference," he said.
"Banque Populaire has strong ratios which are in line with the requirements of the central bank. We have indeed experienced significant growth of our loan book and we expect that the bank will continue to get stronger in the coming months and years," Apeldoor concluded.