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Interview with Andy Jury, CEO at Mukuru

Andy Jury Mukuru CEO

Mukuru is one of the largest money transfer providers in Africa and a leading Next Gen Financial Services Platform that offers affordable and reliable financial services to the emerging consumer.

The foundation of our business was built by providing the continent’s migrant diaspora with safe, convenient international money transfers. From this base we have grown a wide range of products and services that take their cue from our customers’ needs and aspirations for greater financial security and a better life.

Celebrating their success this year and having participated in the 9th edition of Global Brands Magazine Awards, they have won the international award for “Most Innovative Online Remittance App – South Africa, 2021”.

Global Brands Magazine was pleased to have the opportunity to interview Andy Jury, the CEO at Mukuru, to find out more!

1. What is your professional background and what events led you to becoming the CEO of Mukuru? What are your biggest life accomplishments?

Prior to joining Mukuru in 2017, I worked at Edcon as Chief Executive of their Specialty Stores Division. My prior experience spans the financial services, retail, transport and consulting sectors.

Without doubt the life accomplishments I am most proud of are convincing my wife to say “yes” and the slightly chaotic but happy family we’ve established together that currently numbers one dog, two parents and three energetic kids.

2. What are you personally bringing to Mukuru that it wouldn’t get from having a different CEO?

I try to be no-one else other than myself so I suppose the alchemy of energy, perspective, engagement, experience and judgement is by definition unique to me, as it is to all of us individually. But what’s most important to how we think about things at Mukuru is how we combine these individual capabilities as a collective to deliver on the promises we make to our customers.

3. What are the key responsibilities of a money transfer provider’s CEO? What do you focus on an average day at work?

I’d imagine it’s similar to most other leadership positions in multinational organisations: a lot of what I do is striving for balance across functional focus, the tyranny of urgent operational considerations and decisions that need to be made, longer term strategic directional thoughts and making sure that we’re all focusing on the needs, wants and feedback from our customers.

4. How do you see the company changing in the next two years, and how do you see yourself creating that change?

As with any digitisation journey, there are formidable challenges for the formal fintech sector in African markets. Each step must take its cue from the customer’s daily pain points. The purpose of Mukuru’s evolving digital ecosystem is to take customers on a digital journey of Financial Inclusion that suits each person’s individual circumstances. Over time, there can be no doubt that this gradual but deliberate progress towards a fully digitised ecosystem will play an integral role in boosting Africa’s economic recovery.

Fintech is pioneering by its very nature and we will continue finding new and innovative ways to deliver services to customers where and when they need them. Looking ahead, Mukuru will look to build on its network and expand on existing capabilities.

Increasingly niche fintech players can provide a service in their areas of specialisation more dexterously and efficiently than a larger, legacy institution. This usually comes with better a customer experience too, and almost certainly at a more attractive cost base than what they could achieve. The outcome is that we will likely see more and more banks decide that instead of competing with agile fintech players like Mukuru, they will be asking how they can leverage our expertise. Rather than reengineering solutions that already exist, the keyword will be partnerships.

Ultimately, the customer, the person on the street, will be the beneficiary as the entire financial industry will be in a better position to share experiences and learn from each other, not least in how fintechs are managing to serve the unbanked and underserved segments.

There’s no turning back the clock and both the regulators and industry players know this. It is important that the fintech industry sees the inherent value in engaging constructively with the regulators. Compliance is a business enabler, not a disabler. It’s by working together that we can unleash the true power of innovation and technology to solve important challenges and serve more people.

5. How do you differentiate Mukuru from your competitors? Give us an elevator pitch for Mukuru.

We have 3 main differentiators which are that we have built Mukuru on the foundation of resilient African DNA, we have a very successful customer engagement strategy that allows us to speak the language of our customers and have an understanding of their pain points and finally, we harness robust digital platforms.

The Mukuru business was created to solve problems for the financially excluded and underserved African market by seeing opportunity where formal institutions see challenges. The Mukuru business is built on creating a seamless experience for our customers by overcoming obstacles in pursuit of financial inclusion.

Mukuru is built on resilient African DNA. Our founders originally built a platform to enable family and friends in the UK to send fuel coupons and groceries to friends and families in hyperinflationary Zimbabwe. As the business grew, we expanded into new African markets and have used technology as a means to help people on their own journey towards financial empowerment.

Successful customer engagement strategy. Mukuru speaks the language of its users and gains a grassroots understanding of the unique pain points that customers face in each market. Engagement platforms that serve its 9+ million cash, card and wallet customers include WhatsApp, USSD, App, website, contact centre, branches, roaming agents who cover over 30 languages, and a network of booths in rural and peri-rural areas. From humble beginnings in 2004, to an African fintech giant in 2021, our journey has been one of constant innovation in order to turn challenges into opportunities. We have harnessed robust digital platforms in an at-times complex African context, to grow critical products and services that add value to the lives of the communities we serve.

We harness robust digital platforms. Within our own evolving digital ecosystem, we make every attempt to ensure nothing is retrofitted – instead, we build continuously and take each customer on a digital journey that suits their individual circumstances.

For more on Mukuru:

6. Did you react to the pandemic with any special measures or changes to how you do business? Did it have any significant impact on Mukuru’s bottom line?

In response to the COVID-19 Pandemic we embarked on a journey that focused on delivering the best service to our customers, we did this through listening to what they were asking for and through innovation and strategic partnerships were able to meet their needs during this time of crisis.

In March 2020 Mukuru launched WhatsApp self-sign up feature and a new App to support and empower customers. We deployed major enhancements to two of its customer self-service channels to simplify the customer user journey. In order to give our customers even more control of their financial destinies, we upgraded their App as well as added a new self sign-up feature to its WhatsApp offering. Both channels have and will continue to enable customers to sign-up and conduct important transactions from home, while also providing a central and simplified source of information to support customers along their financial journeys.

Along with the upgraded Mukuru App, the company gave customers the ability to sign-up for Mukuru services (and submit personal documents) via WhatsApp directly to the Mukuru verifications team. This removed the onerous task of submitting Know-Your-Customer (KYC) documents to an agent or Mukuru branch in person – and allowed customers to register and begin transacting with us far more easily. We provides timely feedback via WhatsApp as to whether a prospective customer’s ID documents have been effectively verified or not (and if the customer needs to take further steps).

In May 2020 we launched Mukuru Groceries to support Zimbabwean families during the pandemic. Mukuru Groceries – a service that gives South African based customers the ability to send groceries to their families and communities back home in Zimbabwe. Customers can place orders for a basket of groceries that include 21 staples such as Mealie Meal, cooking oil, sugar, salt, rice, etc. To facilitate ease of use, this service is available via USSD and Whatsapp.

At a time when many families are struggling to obtain basic commodities, Mukuru Groceries ensured that families are provided for and given the best chance to remain healthy throughout the crisis period. We listened carefully to what our customers are asking for, and we have innovated and added to our service offering to make sure that Zimbabwean families receive the resources and support that they so desperately need right now.

In June 2020 Mukuru partnered with WorldRemit to expand its network of remittances into Zimbabwe. The partnership facilitates money transfers to Zimbabwe from across the globe and has been instrumental in bringing world-class financial services to Zimbabweans and generating new synergies for African financial inclusion.

With many families in dire need of financial resources during the coronavirus pandemic, the partnership deal enabled and still enables WorldRemit customers in over 50 countries including the United Kingdom, United States, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Europe to send money to their loved ones in Zimbabwe. Recipients are able to collect their WorldRemit remittance at any of Mukuru’s 120 orange booths and branches, which are located across the country in both rural and peri-urban areas.

In April 2021 Mukuru partnered with global payment network, Thunes. The partnership initially extend our reach in Nigeria followed by a rapid rollout to other corridors such as DRC, Ethiopia, Senegal and India. Thunes’ global network connects mobile wallet providers, banks, fintech companies, payment platforms and money transfer operators, allowing them to process cross-border payments in a cheaper, faster, more transparent and secure way.

The upheavals and opportunities of the last 12 months have highlighted the importance of strong payment system interoperability that enables the scalability of digital remittance channels. The main point of congruence between Mukuru and Thunes is the use of technology that supports interoperability using highly automated, scalable platforms with modular APIs.

There can be no doubt that almost every sphere of banking and financial services is being transformed by new, digital ecosystems. Characterised by agility, innovation and partnerships, many of these emerging ecosystems are being shaped by dynamic and nimble fintech players in alliance with more established, traditional banking partners.

7. In a recent article on Moneyweb, you were quoted as saying that Africa’s economy is heavily informal. How does a money transfer provider stay relevant in such a challenging environment?

The persistent gap between the informal and formal and the cash and digital financial worlds makes the financial services landscape on the continent incredibly fragmented but filled with immense opportunity.

Understanding that for the most part, “cash is still king” is an important consideration when developing solutions for African, emerging market conditions. Large sections of the economy in Africa, are cash-based. This means a fintech solution that aims to drive financial inclusion among the least-served sections of the population must appreciate the proliferation of cash or it will miss the mark. The solution must integrate cash distribution networks and appreciate that the journey towards digitisation is a series of inter-connected links in a value chain as opposed to a single, binary “switch.

At Mukuru, this understanding has been developed by rolling up our sleeves and developing solutions specifically for Africa, in Africa. This is why, in our efforts to deliver services to customers, we serve customers across a comprehensive, vertically integrated cash and digital network. Communication, delivery, engagement and distribution spans WhatsApp, USSD, contact centre, App, website, agents and over 1000 physical locations across Southern Africa and 60 partnerships worldwide to enable more than 320 000 pay in/ out points. By developing this robust footprint of talking to people on the ground, we have seen first-hand the importance of the next key element in unleashing the power of fintech: education.

It is all good and well to integrate with cash distribution networks, but why would someone agree to move from cash to digital? Contextualise it in your own experiences: reading this, you probably had a parent, and grandparent, who has had bank accounts. When you left school and entered the workplace, storing and managing your money digitally was natural, it’s the way it always was.

Now imagine someone who has had no one in their family and support network store their wealth digitally, never mind partake in elaborate financial management. How can we expect someone who has never encountered what you and I take for granted to have the same generational trust in a digital store of value and be able to make the transition in one leap?

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