Habarugira is a finance and business development professional with over 14 years of professional experience specialising in financial institutions, business (investment, treasury, payments, export, and trade finance) and economic development in emerging markets.
Speaking to IGIHE recently, the new CEO of Cogebanque appointed on 1st May 2021, expressed delight for the trust bestowed upon him and pledged to overhaul the bank’s services to meet customers’ expectations.
“I welcomed the appointment with humility. It is a demanding responsibility to serve the institution diligently, manage employees, offer top notch services to customers, consolidate gains and maintain constant improvement to satisfy customers,” he said.
Habarugira’s appointment was announced during difficult times of COVID-19 pandemic which brought unprecedented effects and affected financial institutions globally among others.
In 2020, Cogebanque registered Rwf3.8 billion net profit in 2020 translating into a decrease by 4.7% compared to Rwf4 billion of 2019.
Despite dropped net profit in 2020, Habarugira explained that the bank’s operations remain steady and expressed optimism to continue helping customers to mitigate COVID-19 effects.
“The management of the bank has expended much effort to mitigate effects brought by the pandemic. We have extended loan repayment tenor for customers in hospitality and transport businesses affected by COVID-19,” he noted.
Habarugira also attributed last year’s performance to Government’s efforts to fight the pandemic.
Generally, the bank’s non-performing loans increased to 8% which is above 5% maximum ratio set by the National Bank of Rwanda (BNR).
Habarugira explained that the high percentage of non-performing loans is expected to reduce gradually as businesses return to normal working conditions.
He revealed that Cogebanque stands firm to maintain its operations, continue offering loans and reassured customers of the bank’s commitment to meet their expectations.
“Clients should rest assured because we have active shareholders willing to take the bank to greater heights. We still have enough funds and hope borrowers will continue the repayment process appropriately as much as the economy continues to thrust forward,” he stated.
Habarugira has emphasized that Cogebanque pulled many lessons from COVID-19 pushing it to increase investment in technology.
“Revising the way we used to work is mandatory to promote technology and serve customers fast. It is part of existing projects but the pandemic convinced us that we need to fast track their implementation,” he said.
Among other areas of priority, Habarugira explained that the bank will draw much attention to supporting e-commerce businesses and help customers to embrace digital transactions.
As he said, the bank has gone far with digital uptake which is set to undergo upgrading to reach all customers.
“We are going leverage technology to improve service delivery. We are undergoing this process and understand the need to embrace digitalization as a way to reduce workloads and sustainably serve clients with convenience,” noted Habarugira.
During his first year at Cogebanque, Habarugira wants to speed up response to customers seeking different services.
“Within the first year of duty, customers should expect quicker feedback whether the loan application is approved or need an update,” he said.
Habarugira further stressed that the bank wants to streamline sources of income without heavy reliance on interest rates and service charges.
The bank’s profit was previously generated from interest rates accounting for 81%. Non-Interest Income accounts for 17% while the remaining 2% comes from other activities.
“We will prioritize other services instead of heavily relying on loans. We want profit from other services to reach 21%,” explained Habarugira.
Habarugira also seeks to decentralize services where branch managers will have a certain level of autonomy in decision making.
“We want to build capacity among branch managers where they will make some decisions to solve customers’ problems without interventions from main headquarters in the near future,” he noted.
In 2020, Cogebanque disbursed Rwf 158 billion in loans from Rwf 144 billion of 2019. The bank’s deposits also hit Rwf 213 billion in 2020 from Rwf 179 billion of 2019.
Established in 1999, Cogebanque has 28 branches countrywide, 600 agents and 36 Automated Teller Machines (ATMs).