ZANZIBAR President Dr Hussein Mwinyi last February appointed seasoned banker and former University of Dar es Salaam lecturer Dr Muhsin Salim Masoud to head the People’s Bank of Zanzibar (PBZ). In an interview with editor-in-chief MASATO MASATO, the new CEO pledges to transform the five-decade-old financial institution into a trillion bank within three years …
Q: A new vision that you bring to the biggest financial institution in Zanzibar, 55 years old?
The People’s Bank of Zanzibar (PBZ), as you rightly say, is Zanzibar’s oldest and largest financial institution. Yes, I have a vision, which is well articulated in our five-year strategic plan-2021/2025, currently under approval levels.
We aspire to an efficient, affordable and competitive operational commercial bank that houses a wholly owned Islamic Bank subsidiary in Zanzibar and mainland Tanzania.
Q: It has been almost six months since you were appointed to your current position on February 11, 2021. How did you find the bank, operationally?
As I said before, PBZ is the industry giant in Zanzibar both in terms of profitability and asset growth. But, there is still untapped business potential, which we are determined to explore comprehensively. We want to amplify the impressive performance that the bank is already enjoying.
We are considering the retail trade in particular the issuance of financing to employees; we also target corporate clients with caution. In general, we want to expand the scope of activities through more branches, especially on the Tanzanian mainland; increase the number of service centers and recruit more PBZ agents.
Plans are underway to establish an aggressive commercial department, which will be responsible for promoting the activities of the bank, with the aim of making PBZ one of the largest banks in Tanzania. We aspire to become the Bank of a Trillion by 2023.
Q: In short, how is PBZ faring in the industry, especially now that the whole world is grappling with the devastating effects of COVID-19?
Certainly, Covid-19 has had devastating effects not only on PBZ or Zanzibar, but on the entire world economy. Of course, for the nature of our activity, which is based on the tourism sector, we have been hit hard especially during the lockdowns. Fortunately, Tanzania and Zanzibar in particular had put in place corrective measures against the epidemic.
These measures have helped to build confidence in Zanzibar as the best place to visit. Last year we received many Russian tourists whose support to the economy we greatly appreciate.
Q: In general, how can you describe the environment for banking activity in Zanzibar?
The banking environment in Zanzibar is good. The tourism sector contributes enormously to banking activity; we also have the clove business whose payments use the banking system.
As per government directive, all payments to clove growers must go through the bank, and that’s a good deal for us. PBZ is also focusing on retail banking through the issuance of financing facilities to workers.
Fortunately, the large projects underway promise good business for the banks, as they (the projects) will be accompanied by requests for banking facilities in the execution of construction projects, for example. And, PBZ controls about 50 percent of the domestic market in terms of both customer deposits and funding.
But, we have to improve our services to survive the fierce competition. Really, the competition in the market is tense and many banks are coming in.
Q: The Eighth Phase government has embraced the blue economy as the engine for all progress towards social and economic prosperity. What is the role of PBZ in this company?
We have a big role to play. In fact, the main focus of our five-year strategic plan is on the blue economy although we are already making a significant contribution to the sector through massive funding of related projects – shipping, fishing and fish processing. Even our sponsorships prioritize events that have an impact on the blue economy.
We have just, for example, just sponsored the 2021 Zanzibar International Marathon, which we strongly believe will have immense benefits in the country’s tourism sector.
Q: How does the bank integrate new technologies into its operations?
It is unfortunate that many people still have a mistaken view of the PBZ as an obsolete bank, but the truth is that we are very modern. We are working hard to automate all of our operations for increased efficiency in customer service. We already have the VISA card and we are working on the MASTER card to meet the differing demands of customers.
Through mobile and branch banking as well as point of sale (POS), we are committed to making the most of technological advancements. We want to go entirely to electronics; and we have already, for example, thrown papers in our management meetings. The goal is to make PBZ a full-fledged paperless bank by 2024.
Q: Poor customer service remains a serious problem among many service providers, including financial institutions in Zanzibar and Tanzania as a whole. Is the PBZ an exception?
No it is not. We have serious problems with poor customer service, but we have started to address them vigorously. A PBZ front office manager is currently strongly prohibited from using a cell phone during working hours – I have already issued this directive to all agency managers. And, we have systems for receiving customer complaints and are planning to embark on on-site customer service training. Of course, it may take some time to complete all the challenges, as some issues are cultural.
Q: Last year, PBZ acquired a 75 percent stake in MUCOBA with the aim of expanding its operations. What other expansion strategies are underway?
We have two approaches in our expansion campaign. First, we aim to open at least two branches per year, focusing on areas with high business potential in mainland Tanzania – Arusha, Mwanza, Tanga and Mbeya. And, in addition to our network of operational agencies in Dar es Salaam and Mtwara; Dodoma and Tandahimba branches are ready to launch at any time. Second, we will seize merger and acquisition opportunities as they arise.
Q: How is PBZ doing on corporate social responsibility?
We are doing quite well in CSR. We have a certain percentage of our profits that we donate to the community and our priority areas are education, aquatic infrastructure and sports. However, we are planning to establish a special foundation with CSR professionals to do the work on our behalf.
We will give the funds to the foundation, which will allocate them in a more professional way and leave us with what we can do best in the banking business.
Q: Under your tutelage, where do you see PBZ in the next five years?
My dream PBZ is a giant financial institution; one of the top five banks in Tanzania; highly competitive and providing the best services to customers. I dream of a PBZ that will attract the best talent and retain the happiest workforce, ethical conduct in the industry.
Personally, I believe that there is nothing I can accomplish as an individual unless I have the best people around me.