‘Re­brand­ing re­in­forces Let­shego rep­u­ta­tion’

Lesotho Times - - Big Interview -

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.

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