Chief Executive Officer, Urwego Bank, Rwanda
Christine Baingana is responsible for Urwego Bank’s Christian-based mission to provide a ladder of opportunity to underserved communities in Rwanda. She has fostered an organizational culture that makes the mission possible—a culture where both staff and clients flourish. Her greatest achievement over the last five years as CEO is driving profitability in the year 2021, despite the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Since 2012, Urwego Bank has failed to make a profit and struggled to manage multiple bottom lines, while consistently serving clients with excellence. Christine spearheaded a turnaround strategy from 2017 through 2019, which centered around culture change and involved vast organizational changes in staff positions and operating processes. Some of the changes were iterative, and by the end of 2019, the right staff were in the right positions and fundamental processes, such as loan origination and delinquency management, had been rebuilt to both reduce risk and improve efficiency.
The onset of COVID-19 in March 2020 dampened operations; however, the momentum she had led carried their microfinance business through the most challenging operating environments in recent history. With her guidance, Urwego focused on stabilizing liquidity; building the portfolio through diversification and reaching underserved communities; and, pushing forward digitization to serve existing clients better.
In 2021, Urwego Bank achieved the unlikely: profitability. For this monumental milestone, she is credited for pushing through “courageous” cost controls, including migrating the bank’s branch network to a more financially sustainable footprint; a “back-to-budget” strategy; and gaining buy-in across the organization. Today, Urwego is an efficient, digital-driven microfinance bank. Over 80 percent of transactions at Urwego are fully automated over digital channels.
The bank has grown its microfinance portfolio and expanded its agent network amid a particularly challenging operating environment. As the bank has grown, risk metrics have been carefully monitored and delinquency metrics have improved. The bank has worked with existing clients to encourage loan repayments and provided fresh capital to businesses that are recovering and growing in the current COVID-19 environment.
Christine is excited to help Urwego emerge as a leading microfinance bank, not only in social transformation but also in financial performance and stewardship. Outside of her role as CEO of Urwego Bank, she has been heavily involved in multiple ministries at Christian Life Assembly (CLA), including helping to launch a ministry for teenagers. She is part of a group of professionals who advise managers on ways to manage people, and better manage their financials. And when COVID-19 lockdown protocols were announced, she volunteered in events held via Zoom that provided an open platform to anyone seeking advice on their wellbeing.
A talented singer, Christine performs often during women’s conferences convened by her church and provides career guidance to younger women. Additionally, she has supported the Rwanda Bankers’ Association’s (RBA) financial inclusion programs.