Founded in 1975, by a group of ordinary Rwandans in a village called Nkamba in the Eastern province, Banque Populaire Du Rwanda has seen and experienced every revolution the country's banking sector has gone through.
44 years on, the bank is continuing to flourish in the ever-changing banking industry. Many who are currently enjoying its nuance and fully-fledged customer experience may not be quite acquainted with the journey, the bank has taken all the way.
The management of the bank has an intriguing story to tell - one of dedication to transformation and resilience in the face of challenges, which has enabled the bank to grow its portfolio from negative profits to record a return of Rwf 1 billion in 2017 and an extraordinary increase of 400% to Rwf 4billion in 2018.
A week ago, the bank presented to the media its Award as the overall best Exhibitor in the recently concluded Rwanda International Trade Fair (Expo 2019), a development which Maurice Toroitich the Managing Director of the bank described as a reflection of the transformation journey the bank has and is still going through in a quest to provide world-class banking services to the Rwandan community.
"I think it is a sign of appreciation for the remarkable work that we have been doing as a bank and the transformation that has been happening behind scenes," he said.
Soraya Hakuziyaremye Minister of Industry and Trade handing over the Award of Overall Exhibitor to Maurice Toroitich Managing Director of BPR Plc
"We have been building internal capacity, renovating and inventing new ways of doing things and products that are best suited for our customers and being awarded as the best exhibitor gives us the strength to keep the momentum, striving to maintain the lead" he added.."
Toroitich took the media through the bank's transformation journey.
BPR was transformed in 2008 as a fully-fledged commercial bank. The following few years, it struggled to establish itself as a profitable venture - being faced by numerous challenges.
Toroitich, singled out capital constraints and inadequacy in the connectivity of the internal operation system as major challenges the bank grappled with for a number of years.
He said that there was a need for a far-reaching renovation that would not only make the bank profitable but also have a bank that is driven by the customer first banking services.
Toroitich reiterated that for years customers could not do any transaction or access any service anywhere apart from the branch he or she opened the account.
This had to end with developing and introducing a system that could harmonize the operations enabling customers to work on their transaction at any branch they could find in their proximity.
To make it affordable and more viable to customers, the institution and the management had to embrace the very latest new technology; mobile banking, internet banking, debit cards and among others to try and make it easier for the bank's customer to access different services on various touch points.
The idea paid off, because since the introduction of such services the number of mobile-banking users and debit card holders have skyrocketed, to more than
35, 3099 and over 65,000 respectively.
To better facilitate the invention the bank has installed more than 90 Automated Teller Machines in different parts of the country that offer 24 hour banking services.
To try and promote inclusive service delivery, these services have also been made available to customers with feature phone by using a USSD Code.
This has enabled them to cut down the number of physical branches from 195 to 186, this happened in regions according to the bank were no longer profitable to have a physical branch.
In areas where business is thriving the bank is opening new branches , as of recent it opened up two new branches located on two new commercial complexes of MIC and KBC in the city of Kigali and renovated and expanded its Nyabugogo and Gisozi branches all aiming at extending better services to the customers.
For capital struggles, in 2016 came the merger of BPR with the commercial wing of the Rwanda Development Bank following the buyout of both banks by Atlas Mara group. This kind of merger, not only boosted the bank's ability to issue new loans, but enabled the management to reform.
The new reforms aimed at developing new structures to enable the bank build internal capacity that could help the administration to achieve the targets.
This has brought in a more efficient internal system, allowing the bank to bring down non-performing loans, giving it leverage to venture into other areas of the economy, to try and increase its portfolio.
Toroitich revealed that although they did not meet the target of reducing non-performing loans (NPLs) to 5 percent, they have been able to bring them down from 15 percent to now 8 percent.
This has improved the financial status of the bank.
The funding ratio stands at 4 percent and the liquidity ratio is above 40 percent, an indicator of the good health of the institution.
The bank has also recently reduced its base lending rate from 16.5 percent to 14.5 percent making one of the most competitive rate now available on the market.
Toroitich also said that the current improvements have allowed the bank to increase its interest in other lines of business; mining, agriculture, small and medium enterprise among others.
To bring down more the cost while not jeopardizing its customer service, the bank partnered with another real estate developer, perfect city developer (PCD) to construct an ultra-modern new building that will host the head office and also convene now scattered departments under one roof.
The bank has so far invested over USD 20m in the new building.
Toroitich observed that the building is going to create much more space, bringing together departments under one roof, making it easier for clients to process and follow-up especially those with quite big deals.
Toroitich also revealed that it is such transformation that has and still making the bank now to be recognized by the business community.
The lender says it will continue to innovate and invent new products with a target to offer seamless banking services the customers.
BPR Plc was also last year awarded the best overall Customer Service Exhibitor during 21st Rwanda International Trade Fair in Rwanda which was held from 26th July -15th August 2018.