The Business Year

Moza Manuel Soares

MOZAMBIQUE - Finance

Manuel Soares

CEO, Moza Bank

Bio

Since 2021, Manuel Soares has been the President of the Executive Committee at Moza Banco. In 2014, he served as the Executive Board Member (CFO) at BCI – Banco Comercial e de Investimentos, where he was also responsible for Logistics and Procurement, as well as treasury finance control and planning. At the same bank, he held various roles between 2001 and 2014, including Director of Finance, Treasury, Control and Planning, Risk Management, Settlement, and Cash Management. He was also the first PMO for the Lider+ Project, which aimed to transform BCI into the market leader by 2018. He began his professional career at Ernst & Young Mozambique in 1997 as a financial auditor, eventually reaching the position of Audit Manager, where his main clients were in the banking, insurance, and oil and gas sectors.

"Our primary project in the past year involves financial literacy programs in the north and center of Mozambique, conducted in local languages."
Manuel Soares, CEO of Moza Bank, about financial literacy, new technology uses, and goals for the near future.
What digital services and products has Moza Banco developed in recent years, and how did they address the needs and concerns of the lower segments?

Our primary project in the past year involves financial literacy programs in the north and center of Mozambique, conducted in local languages. Moza, being a Mozambican bank, engages mainly with local stakeholders. While Portuguese literacy suffices in Maputo, adapting to rural areas necessitates speaking their language, which is what we have been focused on. We commenced in 2023 and aim to expand to more areas now given the impact it has had. Another new initiative that we are pursuing is identifying local influencers to host radio programs, promoting economic awareness and collaboration with banks. One further concern is updating our marketing language regarding finance. Financial literacy in Mozambique is relatively low, so selling a product such as a deposit requires framing it differently. Instead of citing the 10% interest rate, we emphasize the benefit: deposit MZN100 now, receive MZN110 in the future. This adaptation applies to credit as well. We adjust our language daily, particularly with fixed interest rates, considering fluctuations in the central bank’s rate. It is challenging but essential work. For these specific programs, we are focused on 19 local languages. Moza boasts one of the highest numbers of branches in rural areas, benefiting all banking institutions. The more people understand banking, the more receptive they are to all institutions; therefore, all institutions reap the rewards without needing to individually persuade or educate. Our vision at Moza bank is rooted in recognizing Mozambique’s cultural diversity. While other banks may opt for Portuguese or English or focus on influencers from Maputo, a Mozambican bank must embrace cultural diversity. While we initially believed financial literacy in Portuguese sufficed, we have since learned otherwise. In 2023, in collaboration with the Fernando Leite Couto Foundation, we staged a theater play for children aimed at teaching basic financial principles. While the presentation was in Maputo in 2023, in 2024 we aim to extend it to other areas as well. This is an additional method to impart fundamental financial knowledge. Furthermore, still on the path of investing in education, we will support vocational training and the creation of leadership opportunities for women and girls, with the aim of ensuring that they reach their full potential and thus actively contribute to the nation’s progress. In implementing the “Fazer Acontecer II (Make it Happen II)” campaign, we have established a partnership with the Clarisse Machanguana Foundation, a non-profit organization led by the only Mozambican to play in the WNBA, which works tirelessly to “Turn Dreams into Reality: Empowering Young People through Sport”. By making this partnership happen, we want all Mozambicans and friends of Mozambique to join us and Clarisse Machanguana on the journey to empower young people through sport. At Moza Banco, we believe in the ability to “Make it Happen”, not just in words, but above all in actions that shape a better future for all.

How is Moza Bank leveraging technology and partnerships to improve financial accessibility, especially in underserved areas?

Considering the country’s size and the economic status of many districts, traditional banking is not always feasible. The solution lies in interoperability, which has been our focus in recent years. In 2022, we initiated agreements for small loans via mobile phones, aiming to reach clients in areas where we lack physical presence. Currently, we are exploring further steps, such as establishing agent networks in remote rural areas. This would simplify banking for people, allowing them to conduct transactions locally instead of traveling to our offices. Additionally, it addresses concerns about money laundering. Moreover, we are collaborating with various fintech companies to enhance financial accessibility. Recognizing the impossibility of physical presence everywhere, partnerships with fintechs enable us to foster a more inclusive financial ecosystem. While some projects are on hold, we have been modernizing our banking system since 2023. By 2025, we anticipate introducing new products in collaboration with fintechs. There is considerable opportunity in municipal and tax collaborations with Moza and fintechs. As the banking landscape evolves, Moza aims to lead the modernization of Mozambique’s finance sector, essential for collaboration with other banks. Our products prioritize simplicity and accessibility, ensuring availability 24/7, anywhere.

What is Moza Bank’s strategy to build trust and confidence in the Mozambican banking sector?

Our vision involves showcasing our Mozambican bank as a beacon of good risk management practices and embracing cultural diversity, exemplified by our language program. We are determined to highlight our advantages. Historically, Mozambique lacked trust, leading to the recruitment of executives from larger, foreign banks to instill confidence. Now, we are leveraging reputable figures from the market to foster growth. Our responsibility is to continue this legacy.

Looking ahead, what are the key opportunities and challenges that you foresee in Mozambique?

Mozambique, like many African countries, requires patience. The notion of investing now for returns in two to three years is not realistic here. Understanding the local market is crucial, and if expertise is lacking, we must develop it, which takes time. Mozambique is on the brink of significant change; the GDP is poised to double. With strong technical teams in the central bank and supportive state departments, we have a foundation for sustainability over the next 20-30 years, fueled by substantial investments. Currently, Mozambique heavily relies on imports. However, we aim to revitalize local industries to create jobs and reduce dependence on finite resources. Promising examples like Dubai illustrate the potential for growth. Historically, Mozambique exported rice until 1976; similar opportunities still exist. While we import medicines at high costs, there is potential for local production. Understanding our country’s capabilities and dimensions is crucial. Mozambique possesses significant potential in tourism, energy and abundant water resources. These opportunities attract investments and pave the way for growth, offering a brighter future for Mozambique and its people.

What are your plans and goals for the bank in the near future?

We have outlined a strategic plan extending to 2026. For this year and the next, our focus is on modernizing our communication infrastructure, banking systems, and channels to ensure sustainable growth. Despite having 64 offices across the country and serving 252,000 clients, we aim to double our client base. Acquiring new clients is challenging but retaining them is even more critical. Hence, we are bolstering our communication systems to ensure a positive experience for new clients from the outset, minimizing potential complaints about functionality issues. Additionally, we are dedicated to reshaping our internal culture. Despite being only 16 years old, Moza has a diverse team originating from seven different banks. However, we have yet to establish a unified organizational culture. We are aiming for a less formal, more client-centric approach, aiming to demonstrate understanding and empathy towards our clients. We are also committed to having staff in certain offices who speak the local language, enhancing accessibility and connection with our clientele. Strengthening infrastructure, digital channels, and internal culture are our primary focuses. Recently, we launched a program aimed at empowering women in banking, focusing not just on loans but also on creating opportunities and enhancing financial literacy among women. Furthermore, we are collaborating with a Brazilian foundation to establish the Moza Academy, which will concentrate on supporting SMEs and empowering women. We aim to provide dedicated offices equipped with computers and personnel to support this initiative, along with access to online courses. These programs are among our most significant endeavors for the year. Another area of concern is fostering a culture of risk implementation, particularly in aligning with company requirements and regulations from the Mozambique central bank. It is essential for stakeholders, including those from Spain, to recognize Moza as a Mozambican bank with exemplary practices.

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