FINCA’s Zambia headquarter is well-located in Lusaka’s city centre. It is a two-storeyed building with the open for clients Loan Office on the ground level and the Accounting, Process & Project Experts, HR and Marketing offices on the upper level. The headquarter employs about 30 people, with nearly 300 employees across all eight Zambia branches. With around 28’000 clients, FINCA is one of the biggest players in microfinance in Zambia. As regards products, FINCA Zambia focuses on business loans, small group loans and village banking. They plan to launch even saving products and to further expand to other rural areas opening up more branches.
Everybody is supposed to be in office by 8am, whereas after 5pm it is getting noticeably calmer in the office. For lunch most bring their own food and stay in office, but you can always order some rice or the typically Zambian dish “N’shima” – a kind of maize porridge. As a European novice it is rather challenging to eat N’shima properly as I am not very experienced to eat with my hands. Apparently, some of my colleagues at work seem to be quite addicted to N’shima as they eat it daily for lunch and at times for dinner as well. Until now, I am not yet acclimatised enough to completely withstand the temptations of Asian food which you can get everywhere in town.
My welcome by the FINCA team has been very warm and cordial. My new colleagues at work are all extremely helpful and motivated to do good business. In particular, I am going to work closely with Social Performer Officer Priscilla, Credit Manager Jackson, and Credit Assistant Crispin (see picture above). Humphrey, Ignatius, and Andrew, all three IT experts (see picture below left) as well as the Operations team (see picture below right) will be key-stakeholders in the project. The SPO as well as the Credit Managers are reporting to COO Mikhail, one of my main contact persons in the project (who, by the way, is very keen on practicing with the new Swiss army knife I gave him as a present from Switzerland).
Apart from resolving the ever-unavoidable IT malfunctions, I am currently trying to better understand the business on the ground and to clarify the scope of the project. Next week, I am already going to join some of the Loan Officers in the field, which means some travelling in and out of Lusaka. I am happy to keep you posted about those experiences and impressions…