We have extracted below the Chairman’s Statement from the 2018 annual report of Holdings Limited (LETSHE.bw), listed on Botswana Stock Exchange
OUR ROLE IN SHAPING SOCIETY
At Letshego, our objective as a focused, pan-African financial services provider, remains consistent in increasing access to simple and appropriate financial solutions to underbanked and emerging consumers across sub-Saharan Africa.
We aim to be the first choice for customers seeking swift access to capital, leveraging our strengths and experience in Deduction at Source lending and unlocking value by optimising our delivery channels and core capabilities.
With only approximately 34% of adults having a bank account in Sub-Saharan Africa, Letshego’s mandate remains relevant. One of our key priorities is to ensure our financial inclusion strategy remains sustainable, both in social and commercial terms, so we may continue to deliver value for all our stakeholders – our people, customers, regulators, investors, as well as commercial partners.
Unemployment remains a challenge in emerging economies the world over. Letshego contributes to job creation on the continent through direct and locally empowered employment across the 11 countries where we operate, as well as via the provision of financial solutions to Micro and Small Enterprises (MSEs). These MSEs in turn, employ more members of the community as their businesses benefit from the increased access to Letshego’s productive capital.
Letshego has always acknowledged the benefits of knowing and understanding our customers. The data gained from our annual social impact survey, launched 3 years ago, not only provides us with insights into lifestyle and behavioural trends, but will also start to support our portfolio risk management strategy as we commence correlating demographic data with financial behaviour. Education, home renovation and small sideline businesses continue to be the leading factors spurring our loan applications. This is in line with Letshego’s commitment to foster and promote productive use of loan capital with all our customers.
MODEST GROWTH IN CORE MARKETS
We have delivered modest growth numbers during tough economic times, with 2018 growth in Sub-Saharan Africa estimated by the World Bank at only 2.7%. Low global growth also impacted our continent. Botswana, Namibia and Mozambique continue to generate the bulk of Letshego’s income for our Deduction at Source model. Our remaining Deduction at Source markets have yet to reach scale, an ongoing priority for our leadership teams. Efforts to diversify the MSE portion of our loan portfolio continue, with a focus on Housing, Education and Agriculture segments.
During 2018, we piloted short term mobile loans in Ghana. While this was successful in gaining large customer numbers, the commercial viability of the structure continues to be reviewed in line with our due diligence process for all new projects.
Regulatory policy across Africa’s financial sectors continues to progress in line with evolving global standards and trends, with a particular focus on customer protection and corporate conduct. As a responsible lender, we welcome interventions to improve standards in risk management and regulation in protecting customers. Complying with updated regulatory policy comes at a cost in implementation and monitoring, but Letshego recognises the collective gain such policies provide in sector and economic stability for Africa’s growing markets.
In 2018 Letshego applied for a Banking Licence in Botswana, but subsequently chose to put the application on hold – a decision fully supported by the Group’s Board. Letshego has ventured on an aggressive growth strategy in the last 5 years, and any multinational with acquisition experience understands the attention and time an inorganic growth strategy demands in achieving sustainable and productive alignment in culture, operations and strategy.
Our business in Ghana will transition to the Letshego brand in 2019, while final hurdles in information systems and technology alignment continue on a concurrent basis.
BUILDING AN INCLUSIVE AND DIVERSE CULTURE
Our culture engenders values-based decision-making and shows how our policies and practices align with our strategy. In addition to our own defined ethics and culture, our laws, regulations and codes further define expectations of how we conduct our business. These cover a wide array of aspects within our business, from Know-Your-Customer requirements, to the protection and processing of information, to how we design and sell our products and services. Regulations driving consumer protection and ethical behaviour in the financial services industry continue to evolve, and will be proactively supported by the Group.
CHANGES IN MANAGEMENT
Chris Low stepped down as the Group Managing Director following almost five years with the Group. The Board, following a due process, appointed Smit Crouse as the Group Chief Executive Officer on a long term contract. Regrettably, Smit was only able to serve until the end of March 2019, when he tendered his resignation. This was unexpected. However, the Board accepted and respected his decision.
To maintain business continuity, the Board has appointed Dumisani Ndebele as the Interim Group Chief Executive Officer. Dumisani has a rich history with Letshego, having joined the Group in 1999 and served in various senior management positions until 2016. He returned to the Group in January 2019 as the Company Secretary. The Board is confident that Dumisani and the management team have the necessary experience to continue the Group’s positive trajectory.
Colm Patterson, our Group Chief Financial Officer, is also leaving Letshego to pursue personal interests, having been with the Group for more than 11 years. A former Board member, Josias De Kock has been appointed Acting Chief Financial Officer while a successor for Colm is sought.
On behalf of the Board, I wish to extend my appreciation to Chris Low, Smit Crouse, and Colm Patterson for their commitment and contribution to the Group during their tenures. We wish them every success in their future ventures.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
Despite ongoing economic challenges, micro-lending and traditional banking remain sectors set for long term growth, supported by increased public and private sector recognition of how inclusive finance can play a role in supporting broader economic development.
Providing capital to micro and small businesses can lead to fledgling entrepreneurs moving up the supply chain, both in volumes and output quality. This ultimately enables small business owners to increase their own social capital. In simple terms, as Letshego invests and improves our own social capital, we in turn wish to help the growth of social capital for others.
To my fellow Board Members, I wish to thank you for your ongoing support in overseeing governance responsibilities on behalf of our stakeholders, and guiding us through both challenges and successful milestones. I wish to thank Robert Thornton, Josias De Kock and Christian van Schalkwyk for their tangible contribution, leadership and expertise dedicated to the Letshego Board over the years. Robert Thornton, Josias De Kock and Christian van Schalkwyk have resigned from the Group Board since our last Group Integrated Annual Report. Josias De Kock will continue to add value to the Group in his role as Acting Chief Financial Officer.
I am also saddened, but honoured, to pay tribute to another great and historic member of the Board, John Alexander Burbidge. It is with great regret that we mark his passing in 2018. John was a selfless man who gave so much of himself and left a shining legacy as Independent Non-Executive Director and Chairman.
In conclusion, and on behalf of the Letshego Group Board, I wish to express my heartfelt appreciation to our diverse and valued stakeholders who make Letshego what it is, contribute to our unique culture and ensure our ongoing success and future potential is realised.
Thank you to our people, customers, regulators, investors as well as our public and private partners for your ongoing support.
E. N. Banda