Franck: “I spent the first twenty-two years of my life in Cameroon, where I saw the difference cooperative banking can make first-hand. My grandparents made a living out of farming and small-scale trading. Without a fixed income, they could not access the regular banking system. However, cooperative banks did give them loans. And tailor-made advice. As a result, they were able to build a better life and expand the opportunities available to their children and grandchildren. When I got to know BRS through my work at KBC, I knew right away that I wanted to work for them.”
Cool KBC colleagues
Franck: “My first assignment brought me to RCPB, a network of cooperative banks in Burkina Faso. The customers of these banks include farmers, teachers, small-scale entrepreneurs such as tea or palm oil sellers, etc. KBC volunteers Alain Baeck and Lieve Meganck from the BRS Institute accompanied me; they are really cool colleagues with a lot of experience, also at RCPB. Our task was to support the development of structural internal control and audit systems. Because without a comprehensive monitoring system, RCPB member cooperatives risk losing their banking licence.”
Franck: “While Lieve and Alain gave hands-on workshops on audit and internal control, I examined the risk processes of the RCPB cooperatives. What checks do they carry out? Are they carried out properly? How can they tell if a customer is in default? I did this with Mahamadi Soaré, the new director of internal audit. And with people from the cooperatives, with whom I ran through the credit processes in detail.
This was done with complete transparency, after all we are colleagues. They did not hesitate in sharing their information with me, even in areas that were not going well. For example, it turned out that the guarantees they request from their customers - such as land ownership - were not always registered and checked. Their open attitude made it possible to offer very specific advice on how to improve this situation.”
The power of cooperative banking
Franck: “My work for RCPB made the added value of cooperative banking very clear once again. In the portfolios of one of the banks, I found a farmer who took out an initial credit of fifteen euros in 2011. Over time, his loans became larger and the area he cultivated increased. This customer now has a credit of 1,000 euros and is building up a large business.
The story confirms what I saw with my grandparents, that cooperative banking and microcredits really are a very powerful tool to help poorer people improve their situation. And if cooperative banks keep their risks under control, they will become stronger and more sustainable. The impact of this process cannot be underestimated. Cooperative banks really help the country to make progress.
BRS supports them in this important endeavour. My appreciation for their work and my belief in the power of cooperative banking serve as incredible motivation for me to continue contributing as a volunteer. A commitment that comes straight from my heart.”