At a Glance

Deploying core banking platform in 13 countries

Handles 1,000 concurrent users on the system every day 

• Over 3,000 disbursements per day

• Flexibility to deploy on-premise or in the cloud depending on each country’s regulators

ASA International is one of the world’s largest international microfinance institutions. It provides small, socially responsible loans to low-income entrepreneurs, most of whom are women, across Asia and Africa. Headquartered in Amsterdam and Dhaka, it has 2.3 million clients across 13 countries and employs 13,400 people. It has an outstanding loan portfolio of $369.2 million.

For Rob Keijsers, the company’s Chief Digital and Information Officer, success is the ability to constantly adapt to uncertain markets. “We operate in countries that are more susceptible to geopolitical risks and where credit rules vary and change.” The goal, he says, is to bring stability to these markets by reducing the number of unbanked and underbanked people. “There’s a big market to win in the next couple of years.”

Bringing modern to the masses

To achieve that goal, ASA International has turned to Temenos, deploying its core banking platform across all markets. Along with an in-house built front-end app, the aim is “to give people at the bottom of the pyramid the same, modern phone banking experience that is typical in developed countries.”

Deployed first in Pakistan in February 2024, the Temenos core replaces a bespoke loan system that the business developed in-house 15 years ago. Rob explains that the upgrade to Temenos reflects the importance of having cutting-edge technology. “To achieve a world-class digital experience, you can’t simply put an API layer on top of an old system. We needed a modular, open-architecture system to run our API on top of.”

Part of the issue was scope. “Our loan management system was just that—it only did loans. We wanted a full-blown core banking system, so that we can offer bank-like services and experiences. Temenos core allows us to move into savings, payments, and micro-insurance. We couldn’t scale like that with our old system.”

To broaden the range of services it offers, ASA International needed a regulated banking license, for which a modern core banking platform is a prerequisite. The company has also deployed Temenos Financial Crime Mitigation to reassure regulators and clients alike of its maturing responsibility.

Country by country adaptability

The key to selecting Temenos was its Financial Inclusion platform.

Temenos Financial inclusion is a great core dedicated for microfinances, with simpler screens and tailored features and functions. It was just what we needed.”

Rob Keijsers, Chief Digital and Information Officer at ASA International

Along with the modularity of the platform, it allows ASA International to easily switch-on new capabilities, on a country-by-country basis. Rob adds that this flexibility can also be applied to deployment. “We needed to take different hosting approaches for each market, in part because data sovereignty regulations vary. The underlying architecture of the platform meant we could choose cloud (Microsoft Azure) for some countries, and on-premises for others. That was a big driver for us.”

People-led implementation

Those not close to the implementation project may be forgiven for thinking it was a simple switchover; and that was the point, says Rob. “On the Friday we closed shop with our old system, and on the Monday morning we were live with Temenos, and it all worked perfectly.”

In truth, that switch-on was preceded by 12 months of hard work. Experience had taught Rob the challenge that comes with large-scale implementations, and the importance of preparation. “It’s like open-heart surgery whilst running a marathon! You’re doing all this work in the background, and having to keep your legacy system running.”

Rob points to the expertise and dedication of the Temenos team as key.

Everyone we came into contact with, from product development to technical support and account management, was phenomenal. It was a real point of differentiation for us.”

Rob Keijsers, Chief Digital and Information Officer at ASA International

Rob recalls how, having dropped its implementation partner midway through the project, Temenos helped them source Systems Limited, who proved to be more suitable. “It’s that sort of dedication and willingness to go above and beyond that defines our relationship with Temenos.”

He says that a big lesson from the implementation project is that IT transformations are more about managing business change than deploying new systems. “I’d say 70% of implementation should focus on user adoption. The technology requires a completely different mindset, a different way of working and redesigning new processes. That’s not always easy to do if your company has been used to working in a certain way for the last 15 years.” His advice for others is to invest in training. “Train, train, and train…and not only your IT operations people, but also all your business users. Make sure that everyone is trained up to the max.”

Bigger, better, faster

The rebooted implementation exercise, which included migrating 700,000 clients in Pakistan alone, is already reaping rewards.

We have 1,000 concurrent users on the system every day, and make more than 3,000 disbursements per day. That’s a significant increase from our old system. When our loan officers come back from the field and they all start working on the system at the same time, without any hiccup, that’s an incredible step forward in reliability for us.”

Rob Keijsers, Chief Digital and Information Officer at ASA International

Rob says another long-term benefit will be the ability to standardise products and processes across the business. “That means less waste, and more focus on driving efficiencies and raising standards, both in our operations and the customer experience.” As an example, he points to the alignment of Temenos core and the company’s in-house front-end app. “Immediately that enables straight through processing (STP) and so takes out a multitude of manual, cumbersome processes. In turn, it frees up commercial resources to focus on new business opportunities.”

Agility will be another benefit. “Now we don’t have to hard-code anything into the product suite, we can make simple improvements to our products fast. That’s a big change.”

Market making

Deployment now moves to Ghana, Tanzania and Kenya (all three will be running on the Azure Cloud), expecting the first country to be live in summer 2024 and the 2 others in 2025 and then to fully rollout the platform to all remaining 9 markets.

Temenos is really investing into this market. Having such a tailored platform for inclusive finance, dedicated to microfinances, is something that Temenos does in a fantastic way that no other company matches. It illustrates that they are not simply a traditional vendor, but a partner that is helping to grow our business and the entire sector.”

Rob Keijsers, Chief Digital and Information Officer at ASA International

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