ConsumerCentriX best-in-class training to support financial institutions serving the SME segment goes virtual

ConsumerCentriX best-in-class training to support financial institutions serving the SME segment goes virtual

ConsumerCentriX has a long history of working to support financial institutions serving small- and medium-enterprises (SMEs).

SMEs face a tremendous financing gap, and many do not have access to the kinds of business development services that make them stronger potential borrowers with the skills to grow their businesses as usual or to manage disruptions like COVID-19. SMEs face unique challenges and have specific needs.

On the other hand, financial institutions have a hard time grappling with understanding the full financial picture of many businesses in this segment, and as a result, find it challenging to lend to SME entrepreneurs, whose recordkeeping varies and who may bank with multiple banks (or none at all).

The financial institutions that serve SMEs – both those who want to serve them for the first time and those who want to serve them better – need to consider implementing an approach that enables them to better understand their SME customers: a relationship management approach. This approach entails establishing and maintaining long-term relationship with customers centered around providing solutions that meet customer needs rather than just promoting one product or service. In turn, this ensures a greater share of wallet for the bank.

Effective relationship management in SME banking requires strong Relationship Managers with skills in connecting with customers and understanding how to analyze businesses in this unique segment as well as in monitoring post-disbursement to address potential issues before they arise or to identify additional needs customers may have. Earlier this year, ConsumerCentriX developed and launched a four-part virtual training program to support Relationship Managers in honing their skills to better serve the SME segment. The best-in-class curriculum centers around four key areas essential to serving SMEs:

Relationship Management

Provides trainees with foundational skills needed to build a relationship with customers and real-life examples to complement learnings

Gender Awareness

Identifies and addresses potential biases trainees may have in approaching or assessing women entrepreneurs

Business and Credit Analysis

Focuses on techniques to collect, cross-check, and analyze business information to conduct an efficient credit analysis using quantitative and qualitative information

Decision Formalization and Portfolio Management

Hones trainees’ technical skills in preparing credit proposals, including identifying potential risks and mitigation strategies that are monitored from loan origination throughout the repayment period.

ConsumerCentriX transformed these topics, normally covered in 8 days of in-person classroom training, into 4 online modules with 26 mini-sessions of between 20 and 45 minutes. The mini-sessions include animations, exercises, and videos that aim to bring life to self-paced virtual learning.

We recently piloted the training with Stanbic Bank Uganda Limited (SBU), one of the largest commercial banks in Uganda with a strong footprint among SMEs that aims to expand its reach and deepen its engagement in the sector.

What have we learned?

While the pilot is still underway, ConsumerCentriX is already seeing results and has been able to leverage preliminary learnings to make small tweaks to enhance the effectiveness of the virtual training.

Importantly, trainees are successfully learning the theoretical knowledge presented in the self-paced virtual sessions. While online learning has become frequent due to COVID-19, the sessions developed for this training are short and as interactive as possible to avoid some of the fatigue that has become common with participating in online events.

Pearl Akol, an Enterprise Direct Business Banker at SBU, shared that as a result of completing the relationship management component of the online training, she has “understood that you have to listen to the customer carefully and match a solution to the customer’s need” rather than to focus on selling a particular product. It transforms the way she approaches conversations with new and existing customers and is sure to have an impact on the bank’s bottom line. For Alex Insingoma, an Enterprise Direct Business Banker, the gender awareness module was eye-opening. “After going through this training, I was able to recognize the importance of women in business given their big numbers and their unique way of running businesses,” he said.

While theoretical knowledge can be effectively transmitted through self-paced virtual sessions, live online discussions and practice sessions best ensure information is internalized by trainees. Typically, ConsumerCentriX follows up our in-person SME training programs with hands-on coaching and mentoring done with trainees at their branches and in the field. This kind of approach can be difficult to replicate online, but other techniques can be used instead. We incorporated live virtual coaching sessions moderated by our expert SME team to smaller groups of 5-7 people for 1.5 hours at a time. They focus on addressing main challenges faced by participants on any of the content, provide a dedicated time for trainees to practice specific tools or skills acquired, and offer participants the opportunity to discuss real case studies from actual entrepreneurs.

Lastly, proper planning and oversight by the financial institution are critical to success. ConsumerCentriX usually conducts multiple planning meetings in advance of in-person training to outline the objectives, ensure staff availability, and to identify how outcomes will be tracked in close collaboration with the partner financial institution. These steps cannot be skipped for virtual learning.

  • First, an institution needs to identify its goals – particularly the behavior changes and outcomes that it aims to see as a result of the training.
  • Then, time needs to be set aside for staff to complete the training – this can be a number of hours per day or week within a certain period of time. This needs to be communicated to staff, and follow-ups should be conducted by managers to ensure staff are completing modules within designated deadlines.
  • Finally, the institution needs to identify the key performance indicators it will track to understand outcomes – if a financial institution wants to see additional business generated as a result of the training, key performance indicators around new leads or a greater share of wallet should be clearly communicated at the start of training, monitored during training, and tracked over time once training is completed.

ConsumerCentriX looks forward to completing the pilot training with SBU over the next few months and partnering with other financial institutions across Sub-Saharan Africa and beyond to continue to serve SMEs despite challenging times. If you are interested in learning more or partnering with us, contact


Advice from Banking Sector in Rwanda, Supporting your Business Series

Supporting Your Business Series: Advice from the Banking Sector in Rwanda

Supporting Your Business Series:

Advice from the Banking Sector in Rwanda

A version of this article was originally posted on the SME Response Clinic

Improve your business management skills with AMI’s free Bootcamp and Trainings:
Bootcamp: Thursday, June 5th, 2020 –
Open Webinars: 

Many SMEs have questions about banking services right now, given that businesses have faced low cashflow, difficulty in repaying loans, and uncertainty. In response, the SME Response Clinic brought together a panel of bankers for a Facebook Live Event.

On May 28, this live webinar entitled “A Discussion with the Banking Sector” kicked off the Supporting Your Business Series. The interactive session engaged banking experts Maurice K. Toroitich, Managing Director of BPR Atlas Mara, Robin C. Bairstow, CEO of I&M Bank and Chairman of Rwanda Bankers Association, and Christine Baingana, CEO of Urwego Bank. It was moderated by Tony Francis Ntore, Executive Secretary of the Rwanda Bankers Association, and Jean Bosco Iyacu, Director of Programs at Access to Finance Rwanda.

Bankers offered advice to SMEs on managing businesses and relationships with their financial institutions. Here are the top recommendations to help your business survive the pandemic:

Many SMEs operate without keeping accurate and up-to-date records, given their small staff and small revenues. However, banks will look MORE at accurate and complete records when they assess your creditworthiness than they look at collateral. This means:
• Keeping written records of cash in and cash out on a daily basis
• Ensuring that you can prove your cash flow by using your current account or mobile account for business transactions
• Using an EBM machine so that your transactions are recorded
• Paying your taxes, and keeping your tax paperwork in order – this also proves your cashflow and can be provided to the bank when applying for a loan
Many small business owners focus on collateral – like building houses – when they think about obtaining a loan. But, if your records are not in order, you may not qualify. Businesses must show the bank that they not only have cashflow, but also that they are able to manage it.
Improve your business management skills with AMI’s free Bootcamp and Trainings:
Bootcamp: Thursday, June 5th, 2020 –


One of the main mistakes banks see small businesses make is using one account for both business and personal funds. When you start a business, it is important to open a separate business account so that you can track your earnings and expenses in an organized way. A good rule is to pay yourself a salary, but to pay it from your business account into your personal account so that you have a clear idea of your cashflow.

Keeping separate accounts will help you to better understand your own business’s profitability and will help if you decide at some point to access credit from a formal institution.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many changes to the business climate in Rwanda. Those businesses that learn to be flexible, to assess the effect that the crisis has had on their businesses, and who learn to plan three to six months in the future will be best placed to survive.

One important piece of advice from bankers is for businesses to plan for a much different market than they experienced in the past. For example, if a business made a certain revenue pre-COVID, they should not assume that this will go back to normal after the crisis has passed. Planning for a different customer base, and for reaching new customers will be key. Some businesses may move online, or adapt a model with more delivery services, for example.

Another thing to keep in mind is that now is not the time to venture into a completely new business line. Trying to start a new business in a new market is one of the riskiest propositions during a difficult time. While there will be changes and modifications in existing businesses, trying to take on a new venture without the knowledge of the business, good or service, and without the capacity to run that new venture, may lead to failure. It is important to first ensure that you have the knowledge and capacity for a new venture before seeking capital from a bank. If you cannot demonstrate this, you are likely to be disqualified.

Learn more about keeping accurate records with AMI’s free Bootcamp and Trainings:
Bootcamp: Thursday, June 5th, 2020 –
Open Webinars:

To keep you, your staff, and your clients safe, new digital solutions can be used in place of cash. Currently, there are zero fees when you transfer from a mobile wallet to a bank account, transfer between mobile wallets (person to person transfers), pay a merchant with mobile money, or pay your bills with mobile money. There are also no fees when you make a payment at a merchant with a card via a point-of-sale (POS) device.

These digital solutions help not only in avoiding touching cash, but they also help to keep solid records of your business cashflow. It is important to keep separate wallets or digital accounts for personal and business transactions so that if you need to access a loan or other solution from a bank, you can clearly show these records as proof of your creditworthiness.

For current clients, banks have developed a number of services to help repay loans. These include grace periods on interest and principle, other deferments, and waiver of late penalties and fees. Banks understand that many SME businesses are experiencing a decline during the lockdown.

Talking to your bank – to your relationship officer or loan officer – is key. If you are having trouble do not wait, do so right away. The bank will work with you to decide the time period needed for grace periods or deferments, often depending on the sector you are in and how hard it has been hit.

On June 4, 2020, the National Bank (BNR) has launched the Economic Recovery Fund, a fund which will allow banks to offer discounted loans and other services to businesses struggling due to the crisis. However, it is important as a business to plan carefully about your capacity to borrow and to earn enough to repay your loan. Even though loans will be available at lower interest rates for qualifying borrowers, they are not a grant. These loans will come with the same terms and conditions as a normal loan – to repay in full, on time and with all applicable fees and charges.

If you do qualify, and have a clear plan for how you will use and repay the funds, you may learn more by talking with your relationship officer or loan officer. They will help to make sure that you have all of the paperwork needed, that you have been a responsible client in the past, and that the loan will be a help rather than a burden for your business.

Learn more about assessing your capacity to borrow with AMI’s free Bootcamp and Trainings:
Bootcamp: Thursday, June 5th, 2020 –
Open Webinars:

Banks find that sometimes clients will use the loan funds that they have received for something other than their business, and when it comes time to repay, they no longer have the money. This is the number one reason that banks lose confidence in a customer. While it seems like a good idea in the short term, it will affect your ability to take out loans in the future, especially now that defaulting on a loan will affect your credit rating with the Credit Reference Bureau.

Rather than diverting funds – even if you have a crisis – as always, you should talk immediately with your relationship officer or loan officer. Your bank is not there to judge you but to help you. Without clear, truthful, and up-to-date information from you, they will not be able to discuss your problem and come up with a solution that will avoid you falling into default.

Many business people ask themselves: “Why should I get insurance and spend money that I will not see again if I do not experience a problem?” However, insurance is one of the most important products that a business can purchase to help manage risk. One rule the bankers offered is that if you cannot afford an insurance premium, then you cannot afford to not be insured.

In the case of an emergency – theft, a fire, an automobile accident – you need to protect the assets and infrastructure of your business. Insurance is available through financial institutions as well as through insurance companies to help you protect yourself against unforeseen events and avoid losing your livelihood.

The relationship between a business and its clients and customers cannot be ignored, even when the business climate is difficult. You have got to stay in contact with both customers and suppliers so that they know what you are doing to continue your relationship once business begins to pick up again.

For example, many small businesses struggle to pay rent or other suppliers because revenues were low or nonexistent during lockdown. While suppliers do not look forward to losing revenue, many are open to negotiation so that rather than losing ALL revenue, they still are able to make some earnings.

In terms of customers, you may not be able to supply goods and services in the same way that you could pre-COVID. You may need to negotiate with those who have paid in advance or reassure customers that you have a plan to reopen and will be working again as soon as possible. The key is to keep the lines of communication open so that your customers do not seek another business who is willing to speak with them and value their business.

Learn how to negotiate with suppliers with AMI’s free Bootcamp and Trainings:
Bootcamp: Thursday, June 5th, 2020 –
Open Webinars:

There are many misconceptions about banks and other financial institutions – they are only for the rich, they are not available to talk with me, they are just there to make money. While banks are indeed businesses, their business is to provide services to clients like you. The key to building a beneficial relationship with a bank is trust.
Sometimes clients are afraid to tell a bank that their business is struggling or having difficulties in repaying a loan, for example. However, banks are well aware that this is a difficult time for many small businesses, and it is in everyone’s interest to help these businesses survive. As a client, it is imperative that you talk with your relationship or loan officer right away and provide clear, up-to-date and truthful information so that they can work with you to come up with a solution.
Sometimes this may be a deferment or grace period on payments, it may mean adjusting the repayment schedule for a longer period, or other solutions. But without trust and communication, none of these services are available.
The world of business will be different post-COVID, and banks and other financial institutions are there to help SMEs navigate a more uncertain business climate. If you have not yet established a relationship with a bank, now is the time to do so. So:
• Get your financial records and other business paperwork in order
• Open an account so that you can start to keep good records that will help you as your business grows – especially if you will seek a loan at some point
• Keep your business and personal accounts separate
• Follow a course – like AMI’s Bootcamp or open courses – to learn important bookkeeping, risk management, and planning skills
• Keep the lines of communication open with your suppliers and clients
• Look for ways in which to adjust your existing business so that you can continue to do business
• View credit as a tool, but a tool that comes with responsibilities and not as a grant or a gift
• Use your loan for the purpose for which it was intended
If you keep these points in mind, and talk with your bank or financial institution so that they can help you when you need it, you will have a much greater chance of weathering the COVID-19 crisis!
ConsumerCentriX is a Proud Co-Sponsor of this Event

Online Business Bootcamp

Rwandan Online Business Bootcamp Launched

Rwandan Online Business Bootcamp Launched

By Alejandra Ríos and Jessica Massie

A version of this article was originally posted on the SME Response Clinic

To support entrepreneurs in these challenging and unprecedented times, Access to Finance Rwanda (AFR) has partnered with the Rwanda Private Sector Federation and ConsumerCentriX on the SME Response Clinic. This digital platform provides entrepreneurs in Rwanda with information on financial management and industry insights to improve their response to this crisis.

However, information alone is not enough. As a result of this conviction, the SME Response Clinic is promoting a series of webinars and virtual programs through a partnership with the African Management Institute (AMI), to help entrepreneurs to adjust to financial uncertainty by deepening their skills and business acumen.

On Tuesday, May 12th, small businesses in Rwanda across sectors and with different business sizes joined the first FREE “Business Survival Bootcamp”  facilitated by the African Management Institute (AMI).

Jean Bosco Iyacu of Access to Finance Rwanda (AFR), opened the webinar with a message of solidarity for the SME Response Clinic and SMEs in Rwanda.

The webinar takes businesses through important tools for planning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

These include:

  • Scenario planning for your business – how do you deal with issues regarding customers, suppliers, infrastructure, staff and cash flow? How will these be affected if I close or have slow business for two weeks? What if it is two months?
  • Organizational risk assessments – looking at the different dimensions of business, the risks they face, and how to mitigate them. What do you do if you can’t get the goods you need for your store, or supply your customers?
  • Impact on cash flow – what to do if and when your cash flow is affected by an unexpected closure or low period.

All participants are given access to tools, such as cash flow planning spreadsheets, from AMI to use to help in their own businesses. These resources are free and designed specifically to navigate the issues in the COVID-19 pandemic, and include additional courses.

These tools and conversations are important given that the pandemic is likely to continue to affect SMEs in Rwanda – and around the world – for an unknown period of time. According to Diederik Wokke of AMI, many small businesses originally thought they would be affected for just the first two weeks of the lockdown. Now that the situation is stabilizing but slowly, businesses still need to build these skills and plan for a more uncertain future.

Conversation during the training highlighted some of the questions that SMEs have right now. For example, supplier negotiation is becoming more difficult now that businesses are able to open little by little. A shop renting a space may have had more flexibility in terms of payment during the lockdown, but this is changing as the country opens.

Finally, there are still many questions around payments and transferring to contactless mechanisms as much as possible. Many businesses are switching to digital payments and are still in the learning phase.

But with planning, management, and resources like those available from the SME Response Clinic, small businesses will be more likely to survive this pandemic.

Find out more about the upcoming sessions at “Expanding My Skills” on the SME Response Clinic website and on Facebook.

About the Authors

Alejandra Rios is an expert in inclusive finance with a focus on small-and-medium (SME) enterprises, advising leading commercial banks and microfinance institutions in emerging markets for the past twenty years. Her portfolio in MSME finance consultancy covers change management, housing finance, rural finance, institution-building, strategic planning, and credit management.   She is a Partner at ConsumerCentriX.

Jessica Massie is a consultant in financial capability and microfinance based in Kigali, Rwanda. She has lived and worked in a variety of African countries for almost 20 years, and specializes in curriculum development, training, research and writing, with a focus on skill-building and behavior change. She is working with the ConsumerCentriX team on the SME Response Clinic in Rwanda.

Anna Gincherman speaks at Financial Alliance for Women Annual Summit

Anna Gincherman to Speak at 2019 Financial Alliance for Women Annual Summit

Anna Gincherman to Speak at 2019 Financial Alliance for Women Annual Summit

Anna Gincherman, a Partner at ConsumerCentriX, will speak at the Financial Alliance for Women Annual Summit.  With the presence of bankers, policymakers, multilateral and bilateral representatives, academics, and other stakeholders, the Financial Alliance for Women Summit is the seminal and most comprehensive event for women’s financial inclusion in the world.

The 2019 Summit, “Building Resilience Through Inclusion,” will be held in Paris June 17-19 and is hosted by AXA.

Learn more about the event here