‘Rebranding reinforces Letshego reputation’
LETSHEGO Financial Services Lesotho Limited (Letshego Lesotho) has been in operation since September 2012. The financial services provider provides a range of products and services targeting the low to middle income segments of the working population.
Letshego Lesotho will today launch its re-branding exercise meant to foster financial inclusion.
Lesotho Times ( LT) reporter Bereng Mpaki caught up with Letshego Lesotho CEO Malehlohonolo Van Tonder ahead of the rebranding exercise.
LT: Briefly explain to us what Letshego Lesotho is? From where does it originate and when was it launched in Lesotho?
Van Tonder: Letshego Holdings Limited (LHL) was incorporated in 1998. It is headquartered in Gaborone, Botswana and has been publicly listed on the Botswana Stock Exchange since 2002. Today it is one of Botswana’s largest indigenous groups, with a market capitalization in excess of US$500 million (M6.7 billion) and an agenda focused on inclusive finance. Through its 10-country presence across Southern, East and West Africa (Botswana, Kenya, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Swaziland, Tanzania and Uganda), Letshego Holdings Limited’s subsidiaries provide consumer lending, micro finance and deposit-taking solutions.
Letshego Financial Services Lesotho started its operations in September 2012 as a credit only licensed financial service provider. It has positioned itself as the preferred financial solutions partner for the people of Lesotho. Through the provision of good customer experience, customers have stayed loyal to the brand.
Since its inception four years ago, Letshego Lesotho net advances have grown impressively. The growth in advances can be attributed to over 7 000 clients and in order to service them efficiently, the company has had to expand its customer access points from just one in 2012 to five in 2016.
LT: Can you outline the products and services offered by Letshego Lesotho?
Van Tonder: Letshego Lesotho offers consumer finance to government employees and is looking into including private companies and parastatals. Currently, we are about to sign an agreement with the Lesotho Housing Development Corporation that will enable us to give low-cost housing loans to Basotho. We will provide you with more information once this is finalized.
LT: What is the primary market for these products and services in Lesotho?
Van Tonder: As already mentioned, the market that we currently target is government employees. However, with our vision of becoming Africa’s leading financial services group, overtime, Letshego Lesotho will follow in the footsteps of our other subsidiaries and introduce more innovative financial solutions and access points in order to improve customer experience and convenience.
LT: Financial institutions in Lesotho are often accused of not offering products and services that respond to Basotho’s needs. Does Letshego Lesotho have responsive products and services?
Van Tonder: Letshego’s solutions are targeted at bringing inclusive financial services to Basotho. We aim to provide simple, appropriate and affordable solutions to our clients. Each service will provide customers with access in the most appropriate way, solving their needs and allowing them to build their financial dignity as they borrow for family and business needs, living a life of dignity and prosperity.
LT: What inspired LHL decision to open shop in Lesotho?
Van Tonder: Letshego had seen the gap in the Lesotho financial services market, wherein traditional financial institutions did not assist formally employed individuals who had no collateral, or who were below a certain income level. The potential of the Lesotho market then became attractive to the Group as it provided an opportunity to service those that were excluded. So far, Letshego Lesotho has grown in leaps and bounds and brings a healthy contribution to the Group’s bottom line.
LT: What is Letshego Lesotho’s footprint around the country?
Van Tonder: Letshego Lesotho has five access points around Lesotho; two in the north and two in the south. These include the head office in Maseru and satellites in Leribe, Butha-buthe, Quthing and Mafeteng. Our intention is to grow our footprint in 2017 with two more satellites to increase our reach.
LT: Please tell us about the re-branding exercise the institution is currently involved in?
Van Tonder: The brand refresh comes at a time when the group has entered a transformation phase with many positive developments taking place to propel its growth. We believe that this is an opportune time to refresh our brand as Letshego marks 18 years of existence this year, having made strides in diversifying across our footprint. Also, launching the refreshed brand accompanies our focus on delivering simple, appropriate and affordable solutions, with access anytime, anywhere. Together, the Letshego team is working to build a leading African financial services.
LT: How does this re-branding help Letshego Lesotho’s strategic direction?
Van Tonder: The new brand promise, “Let’s Improve Life”, is a call to action as the Group aims to make a positive impact with a focus on financial inclusion in Africa. This sense of improvement and adding value is one that has been carried through in our business. Delivering on this will only be possible through strong relationships with our customers, with our strategic partners, and with communities. Our refreshed brand mark reinforces the strong Letshego reputation with the company depicted as providing support and upliftment. Letshego is a Setswana word meaning support.
Letshego, a three-legged artifact as depicted within the Group logo, symbolizes the upward and forward motion of Letshego customers (largely individuals and micro-andsmall entrepreneurs) through the provision of simple, appropriate and affordable inclusive financial solutions. This is done from a solid foundation - the company and its people - and in partnership with key stakeholders and strategic partners. Together, these 3 components represent the 3 triangles in the Letshego “tripod”.
LT: What are the institution’s core values?
Van Tonder: Letshego’s brand promise is “Let’s Improve Life”. A promise that the company’s people live through our uniqueness: simple, appropriate, responsive, accessible, inclusive and ethical.
LT: Letshego Lesotho has been involved in a number of charitable activities where it helped different sectors of the community. Why is this important as part of the institution’s operations?
Van Tonder: Our long-term commitment to social development is driven by prudent business sustainability practices and reinforced by our corporate values. The Group commits up to one percent of profit after tax annually for investment into programmes where real needs exist in health, education and livelihood upliftment.
Letshego’s approach to Strategic Social Investment (SSI) is that we must achieve a pragmatic balance between meeting the so- ciety’s developmental needs while deriving strategic business value. We have embraced a variety of socially responsible business practices. We drive a commitment towards pro-active investment in the social development needs of our countries of operation. Our SSI objectives are to: Make a relevant and notable contribution to the low and middle-income communities’ social development in the areas of education, healthcare (with a specific focus on non-communicable diseases) and livelihood improvement; Deliver value to communities in conjunction with our key strategic partners, and in alignment with our strategy; Ensure the programmes are designed to achieve widespread impact of scale in the community (not restricted to a small number of beneficiaries); Achieve meaningful outcomes that are instrumental in the upliftment of the poor and disadvantaged in Lesotho.
LT: Can you tell us about some of these charity activities?
Van Tonder: In 2015, Letshego Lesotho gave back to three charities which are based in three regions of Lesotho. These were Centre for the Deaf, which has the mandate to care for less privileged children and offer them an opportunity to study in their current state of health. Letshego Lesotho went on to Teen Mothers Home which caters for young mothers who have to go to school whilst looking after their babies. The centre accommodates the mothers and their kids. Another centre we assisted was Centre for the Blind.
This home caters for the blind and offers them education whilst they are accommodated at the school. In 2016, we had the honour of sponsoring High School entrants with school fees. Eight of the best students were identified in the Butha-buthe area and their 12 months tuition fee was taken care of by Letshego Lesotho. In October 2016, Letshego visited another centre in the Quthing area whereby we donated towards the request they made.
These included mattresses, big pots and stationery. In their vote of thanks, the centre’s representative said Letshego was the first organization in Lesotho to sponsor their facility. This area is situated about 100km out of the main road on a difficult terrain which truly shows that we strive to include everyone.
LT: What do you believe is the one strength that enables Letshego Lesotho to survive competition in Lesotho?
Van Tonder: Letshego has proven to be a transparent organisation. Letshego exceeded expectations when it comes to customer service. These attributes and others have positioned Letshego as the best micro lender in the country that is licensed by the Central Bank of Lesotho.
LT: Letshego Lesotho recently opened a bank in Mozambique. Can we expect the same happening in Lesotho at some point in future?
Van Tonder: Yes. Mozambique is one out of five countries with deposit-taking licenses across our footprint. Four other countries operating a bank are Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda and Tanzania. We will invite you for an interview if we decide to move in that direction.
LT: What are some of the plans that Letshego Lesotho has in store for its clients in Lesotho in future?
Van Tonder: Letshego Lesotho is looking into diversifying their products to accommodate other sectors apart from government employees. We believe financial inclusion should be able to cover the nation at large and that is our main focus right now. We will soon offer loans that are tailor made to our customers’ needs. Customers can look forward to the launch of the “Improving Life Campaign”. A customer engagement campaign rewarding productive loan use behaviour by Letshego customers and to drive greater financial inclusion.
Customers will be invited to share their stories of how they have used their Letshego loan to sustainably improve their lives, and they stand a chance to win a productive asset.
Letshego Lesotho is also looking into adding financial literacy as one of its mandates of giving back to our existing and potential customers. By training our customers, we will be providing a value-added offering that will inform their financial decisions.
LETSHEGO Lesotho CEO Malehlohonolo Van Tonder.