Increasing financial inclusion in Ghana with innovative services tailored to underserved client groups
At a Glance
• Supports development and launch of “game-changing” services that empower disadvantaged people
• 30-35% growth year-on-year
• 1 million daily transactions and 600K accounts managed seamlessly through Temenos Core Banking for Financial Inclusion
• 63K signups for mobile banking, including 54.3% women and 33.3% from younger demographics
Since 1994, Sinapi Aba has helped financially disadvantaged Ghanaians to build a more prosperous future for themselves. Originally a non-governmental organization providing financial education, Sinapi Aba gained a license to offer savings accounts and deposits in 2013. Today, while Sinapi Aba Trust runs sanitation, apprenticeship, and mentoring programs, Sinapi Aba Savings and Loans focuses on increasing financial inclusion across Ghana.
Aaron Rex Opoku-Ahene, Chief Operating Officer at Sinapi Aba Savings and Loans, explains: “We aim to reach customer groups neglected by larger financial institutions. These include micro, small and medium-sized enterprises [MSMEs], which are often run by women, as well as farmers in isolated rural locations. Our goal is to help them to expand their businesses, build homes, pay their bills, and support their families and local community.”
Hitting roadblocks on the growth journey
Previously, Sinapi Aba managed its lending and savings operations using spreadsheets, stored locally on devices at branches. However, if a device malfunctioned or an authorized user was unavailable to access the right file, business was disrupted and customers requesting a statement went away disappointed. This technology model also made it difficult to scale operations.
King Asante-Frempong, Head of IT/MIS at Sinapi Aba Savings and Loans adds: “For every new customer, we had to create and maintain a new spreadsheet to record transactions and loan repayments. As we expanded, this was becoming unsustainably complex. And relying on legacy systems also restricted our ability to innovate, which was essential for us to bring financial services to more people, especially those that could not easily get to our branches.”
The operating model had drawbacks for internal efficiency and transparency, too. “Preparing close-of-business (COB) and end-of-month reports on our overall lending performance was tough. A member of our team would have to pull together all the spreadsheets from our branches and then calculate consolidated figures, which was very time-consuming, tedious, and error-prone work,” adds King Asante-Frempong.
Adopting a more agile and robust business model
To increase its outreach to underserved communities, Sinapi Aba decided to modernize its technology capabilities. The objective was to replace spreadsheets with a scalable core banking platform supported by a central customer database. After assessing potential solutions, Sinapi Aba selected Temenos Financial Inclusion.
“The modern client-server architecture of the Temenos solution would allow us to transform our operations and adopt more agile ways of working. And the robust processing capabilities were ideal to support high volumes of transactions. Plus, Temenos offered a choice of certified partners with years of experience working with African financial institutions to roll out the platform and train our users.”King Asante-Frempong, Head of IT/MIS at Sinapi Aba Savings and Loans
Accessing leading-edge core banking capabilities
Since the initial deployment, Sinapi Aba has worked with STRAJ Solutions to complete multiple upgrades of the Temenos platform, enabling access to the latest functionality, integration, and support. Among the most important enhancements that the microfinance institution has gained with recent releases are non-stop 24/7 transaction processing capabilities and a more intuitive browser-based user interface.
King Asante-Frempong continues: “The latest Fixed Assets module in Temenos Transact is really useful, enabling us to automate accounting tasks and remove a lot of headaches for the finance team. Recent upgrades have also streamlined our backup strategy, which helps ensure customer data always remains secure and available.”
Temenos Financial Inclusion also simplifies data analytics and report generation for Sinapi Aba. Rather than spending time scraping data from complex spreadsheets, business users can quickly create reports for senior stakeholders that provide insights into the COB or end-of-month position, the overall performance of the lending portfolio, and other key metrics, such as operational costs.
At any time, Sinapi Aba can call on STRAJ Solutions for additional support. “The training from STRAJ Solutions was excellent, so we have a strong knowledge of Temenos Transact and the Financial Inclusion configuration. Whenever we face challenges, they provide great service and quickly bring in help from Temenos when required,” adds King Asante-Frempong.
Bringing financial services to clients in isolated regions
Sinapi Aba is using the open API capabilities of Temenos Transact to innovate and launch new customer services. For example, the microfinance institution has integrated its core banking platform with the Ghana Interbank Payments and Settlements System managed by the country’s central bank—enabling customers to make instant transfers from their Sinapi Aba account to other banks or digital wallets.
In another major initiative, Sinapi Aba used Temenos Transact to develop a mobile banking platform specifically for underserved customer groups. Available as an iOS or Android app or a USSD service, the mobile offering gives users a secure, accessible, and convenient way to make loan repayments, check savings accounts, pay bills, transfer funds, and more. It also offers access to a series of ‘How-to’ educational videos in multiple languages that help to increase financial literacy and build confidence in managing money.
Although only launched recently, Sinapi Aba has recorded a total of 63,000 customer signups for the mobile banking offering, with 65,000 transactions being made through the app and USSD service every month. In total, 54.3 percent of users are women, and 33.3 percent are from younger demographic groups. Sinapi Aba believes the mobile offering will be a game-changer for financial inclusion.
“Our innovative mobile service helps us reach people in isolated rural areas that cannot visit a branch; instead, we are taking banking to their doorway. We offer access to valuable tools that empower MSMEs to bank their daily takings, or for women to save and build a safety net for their families in case of adversity.”Aaron Rex Opoku-Ahene, Chief Operating Officer at Sinapi Aba Savings and Loans
Reaching more and more disadvantaged Ghanaians
Today, Sinapi Aba uses Temenos Financial Inclusion to support operations at 44 branches, manage more than 600,000 accounts, and process more than one million daily transactions. “We are achieving an average yearly growth of 30 to 35 percent and consistently hitting our targets,” adds Aaron Rex Opoku-Ahene. “One key factor behind this growth is having a reliable, scalable core system that allows us to manage more and more transactions seamlessly.”
King Asante-Frempong concludes: “We have worked with Temenos and STRAJ Solutions for more than 20 years now, and they remain valuable partners to us and an important part of our success. Temenos Financial Inclusion enables us to develop innovative services that increase financial inclusion and help hundreds of thousands of disadvantaged Ghanaians to achieve a brighter and happier future for themselves.”