Micro finance sector in Papua New Guinea expanding services

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Sharing nearly 500,000 clients, Papua New Guinea’s micro finance industry is expanding its reach, its numbers and its services. Business Advantage PNG looks at what three industry leaders are offering.

Microfiaince collagePapua New Guinea has 12 licensed finance institutions, including the People’s Micro Bank, Nationwide Microbank, PNG Microfinance and the Women’s Micro Bank, which was launched in August 2014.

Each provides loans, some provide banking services, and with the advent of mobile phone technology, each is expanding across the country with more than one taking up the challenge to compete with the commercial banks by offering a foreign exchange service.

Bridging the gap

‘Micro-credit is increasingly becoming an important means to bridge the gap of providing access to formal banking services for the marginalised and unbanked population of the country,’ Anthony Dela Cruz, Chief Executive Officer of the People’s Micro Bank (PMBL), told Business Advantage PNG.

So what is micro-credit?

Small loans, is the short answer, with a wide range of loan amounts on offer. Nationwide Microbank, for instance, will loan between K200 and K200,000.

‘Micro-credit is increasingly becoming an important means to bridge the gap of providing access to formal banking services for the marginalised and unbanked population of the country.’

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Nationwide Microbank's Tony Westaway

Nationwide Microbank’s Tony Westaway

‘We loan to small business people, who we like to call micro entrepreneurs,’ says Nationwide’s Tony Westaway.

‘Many of them are small traders with under five employees, family businesses, bakeries, public motor vehicle operators, and fishing businesses.

‘We have 140,000 accounts,’ he says. ‘Our main focus is on the grass roots, those 85 per cent who live in rural areas, farmers, subsistence farmers rural dwellers, people who are finding it a bit tough out there.’

Mobile technology

Mobile phone technology is allowing PNG’s largely rural dwellers access to banking services. Westaway says about half his account holders use mobile phone technology.

‘In the very remote locations, 80 per cent of our new accounts are with people who’ve never banked before and they’re all banking by mobile wallet.

‘They’re taking the money out of the fireplace, out from the bamboo pipes and from around their village and putting it into their bank account.’

‘We are seeing an increase in women banking. It gives them more of a feeling of safety and security. Something like 38 per cent of our mobile wallet customers are women. Across the industry, bank accounts for women would only be about 30 per cent.’

A saving culture

But are these people also saving?

‘They’re taking the money out of the fireplace, out from the bamboo pipes and from around their village and putting it into their bank account,’ says Westaway.

‘There really hasn’t been a savings culture in the past and we’re trying to engender one now.’

The People's Microbank's Anthony Dela Cruz

The People’s Microbank’s Anthony Dela Cruz

The People’s Microbank (PMBL) offers two main types of loan products: consumer loans of K500 with an interest rate of up to 18 per cent, and business loans of between K500 and K500,000 at 16 per cent.

‘Loans are either secured by cash, salary deductions, or personal assets or real estate depending on the value of the loan amount,’ says PMBL’s Dela Cruz.

New markets

The micro institutions are looking to expand.

‘We will open new branches in Mount Hagen, Kundiawa, Mendi, Aitape, Arawa, Tari all in 2015,’ says PMB’s Dela Cruz, who aims to have a client base of ‘at least’ 200,000 within five years.

‘We will open in Goroka and Kavieng in 2016.’

Forex

Nationwide is also moving into the foreign exchange market.

‘Our desire is to make access to financial services affordable to more Papua New Guineans and traditional commercial banks charge high fees and they charge many fees,’ says Westaway.

‘I know the Governor of the Bank of PNG welcomes competition and we are happy to oblige.

‘There are more Papua New Guineans working in mines overseas and more students studying overseas than ever before so it’s important that individuals can transfer funds to and from PNG at an affordable rate.

‘Insurance penetration in PNG is still very low; it’s still under five per cent, and there is still a great opportunity to deliver insurance.’

‘There are 5,000 living in Cairns, and a significant number in Mt Isa.’

Insurance

Nationwide  Microbank's successful Micash mobile phone banking service

Nationwide Microbank’s successful Micash mobile phone banking service

Westaway also sees insurance as a huge untapped market.

‘Insurance penetration in PNG is still very low; it’s still under five per cent, and there is still a great opportunity to deliver insurance.’

‘Also we’ve currently got a project to introduce ATMs and EFTPOS for our customers as well.

‘When you consider 81 per cent of the country is still unbanked, you can see the potential.’

Comments

  1. Ignatius Talania says

    I wanted to start a small poultry project but I have just open my Micash account last year December 2019 can I be eligible to get are 5000 kina loan to start my project.

  2. Stacey Garia says

    What great institution you have. Its good to see that PMBL is looking forward to provide forex services and also in opening atm’s and EFTPOS machines, it’ll make it convenient and faster for clients to access their money .

  3. That was a great story to tell, however alot needs to be done to get the message down to to bulk of the population living in remote parts of Papua New Guinea. Lets count everyone as equal participants by promotion and marketing the products and services to that far.

  4. Ken Monz says

    For me personally, I would like Micro-finance banks and institutions to be seen more in the formal banking industry. Commercial banks are taking everyone in their path with little or no attention paid to the ‘grass roots’ who are caught up in their net. This problem can be corrected if Micro finance is marketed and promoted widely throughout the country.

  5. So pleased to see and hear the informal sector developing at a rapid rate by the financial institution mentioned above it is wonder how the bank can transform small entrepreneurs into successful Business Men and Women through the Financial assistance and also Consultations.Keep up the Good Work as we continue to strive for a better Economic Standard.

  6. Norah Kila says

    I have heard and also opened an account with the Peoples Microbank at 4 Mile 3 years ago. Just by reading very encouraging financial supports and women become well off by starting small businesses and I am grateful about and admire them. Would it be possible to start up a small business to start up one for my family. As a woman and a working mother, need something small to support me and my family to start up a small business. Small but in the long run it will turn out well. I trust and believe this is the right bank to help and support small people like me to start with. Need your assistant in providing me more information on the email provided on how to proceed with a small business lending.

  7. peter kambua says

    I had been a former employee of the nationwide microbank, and I admited, nationwide microbank is a very rural oriented bank. It has very huge opportunity to becoming the premier rural bank.

    It has the best saving product in the mobile wallet which is becoming a hit among rural communities.

    Only hope soon it would come up with a rural loan product specifically for rural people and must blend with rural social, traditional, cultural and economic lifestyle of the rural majority. By then, surely its district penetration would be much quicker then expected.

    Otherwise, it is a bank that is on the move in the right direction.

    However in order to expand into other branches and increasing the deposit volumes, I believe a rurally oriented loan scheme or product needs designing . One that could allow every rural depositing household becoming eligible for a loan, a super savings account and an insurance account concurrently.

  8. Eric Tom says

    I have heard a lot of good things about your organisation so I decided to log on and read about your good Finanace Company which I did so and confirmed brilliant, I am currently unemployed and I am keen in starting up something at a lower scale, there is potential market in property rental in Moresby so I would like to try thru your good Organisation.

    Eric Tom

  9. Cristian Shoemaker says

    Great article, please continue to highlight microfinance and the progress of financial inclusion in PNG on a regular basis. Microfinance is a key area where the formal and informal economies of PNG meet.

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