You create impact yourself

18 January 2024

KBC employee Patrick Van Loij likes to look beyond the border. After the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Ireland, with a brief return to Belgium in between, he now lives and works in Bulgaria. And even after 25 years of living as an expat, other horizons still appeal to him. BRS’ request to share his product development expertise with MFIs (microfinancing institutions) in the Philippines was therefore received with enthusiasm. 

BRS and me

“I like working abroad because it gives me the opportunity to be part of organisations in development. That makes the impact of my work more tangible. I also enjoy discovering new countries and other cultures. And thanks to my experience at CERA Bank, I am familiar with the cooperative spirit of Raiffeisen. BRS’ request was completely in line with my interests.

It wasn’t my first assignment for them either. Ten years ago, I gave a workshop on product development and marketing in Tanzania. That was my first introduction to microfinancing, at an MFI that was then in its infancy. Launching new products, determining pricing and organising promotion was uncharted territory for them. That’s where I learned that it is best to start from their experience and from there look at how you can help them. 

Do what you can

With that insight, I left for the Philippines in early December, along with two other KBC colleagues. Right from the start, the context of a metropolis like Manila was very different from the more remote area that I visited in Tanzania. But poverty was just as present there. I am not given to reflecting deeply on that subject. I look at the situation very pragmatically: it is what it is, let’s start out from here and do what we can. 

That ‘do-what-we-can’ approach turned out to be a little different among Filipino MFIs than in Tanzania. The cooperative banks with which we worked - K-Coop and GSAC - are more mature organisations, which are familiar with product development and marketing principles. Their challenge lay at a different level: too many products as well as underlying processes that were not aligned to each other. 

Expectations exceeded

They needed methodologies to streamline their product portfolio and simplify processes. We went into that in more depth, with practical examples and exercises that they applied to their own portfolio. In this regard, the idea of client segmentation was new to them. How do you divide clients into groups, each with their own specific needs and possibilities? With market research and a survey of their members, they intend to tailor their products, promotion and services better to the various needs in the coming months.

The results of the workshops exceeded my expectations. Both MFIs went home with a more consistent portfolio. And an action plan for the short and medium term. The starting level was very high, allowing us to deepen our approach immediately. And although I had felt in Tanzania at the time that we had achieved our aim, I consider this assignment even more successful. I came home feeling recharged and very positive. 

Real impact

I encourage all colleagues who want to change something as a human being and don’t know how to do it to head out on behalf of BRS. Not only do we have the responsibility to share our knowledge and experience with the South, it also gives you so much energy and satisfaction! Moreover, you are part of a fantastic team, a family almost, and you visit countries you otherwise never would. And - very important! - you are doing something that really has impact.”