Luxury Banking in Uganda: Barclays Prestige

Luxury Banking in Uganda: Barclays Prestige

Whether it is called “personalized” banking or “hassle-free” banking, three banks are creatively constructing a trendy and innovative concept of new luxurious banking services in Kampala by offering some unique and fresh benefits to an elite circle of customers to maintain their clientele relationships, and to enhance their customer care services.

By Aretha Frison
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First published: June 3, 2005

The bank trio that consists of Barclays, Nile and DFCU banks are not just depending on low-interest rate loans and savings accounts to gain interest on a quarterly basis to keep their customers happy any more. These days, it seems these banks are actually listening to the word on the street from their customers, and having a sincere interest to please their eclectic clientele base. Their execs are actually scratching their heads to come up with cutting-edge ideas, resulting in well-designed promotions and schemes that are taking new-age banking in East Africa to the next level.

And, it is working.

For instance, the bank trio are using tactics like serving freshly-brewed coffee, rigorously training and hiring friendly customer service oriented representatives, displaying luxury like leather reception areas and offering discounts at chic health facilities to win over in vogue Ugandans—while recruiting business-savvy common folk who may be willing to sacrifice their shillings to join their high-profile banking clubs.

In the Beginning…Barclays Prestige

In order to understand this new trend in banking, we must first go back to the roots of the concept. United Kingdom-based Barclays, self-proclaims to be the trendsetter in this luxury, or “personalized” banking arena.

Launched in 2000, Barclays created “Barclays Prestige” for what it calls its “high-valued” customer, who pays a Ushs 20,000 membership fee that exclusively provides extended banking hours to withdraw or deposit funds, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., while also offering services on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., for those special business ventures or to get some pocket money for weekend shopping.

In addition, representatives at Barclays also say other benefits include obtaining the Visa© Electron debit card and Prestige Barclaycard credit card, which can be used worldwide and at selected outlets in Uganda. However, a condition to maintaining the membership is for the Prestige members to make sure that Ushs 1.2 million is utilized every month for its credit turnover—the total amount of withdrawals and deposits that must be transacted in the members’ current account per month, according to Barclays officials. Or, a customer can opt to pay Ushs 35,000 for a Prestige “upgrade,” which also includes the membership fee, member benefits, plus a monthly account maintenance and special rates on certain banking transactions, officials also said.

Lilliane Byarugaba Mwandha, the marketing and public relations manager, and Ronald Kamulegeya, the product manager and performance analyst for Barclays, strongly believes that its personalized-banking throne is not being threatened at all. In fact, both say they are very confident that its Prestige customers are very satisfied because their clientele is a sophisticated bunch that is more interested in first-class service than a first-class meal.

“A Prestige customer will not come to eat and drink,” Kamulegeya said. “But, for the banking service. What brings them to us is our reliability.”

He said the Prestige customer wants two things: convenience and reliability.

“It is very simple to invest in people, and to have the right proposition for your customer—and it’s not simple. Ambiance and design is simple to create, but meeting the customer’s specific needs is the real challenge.”

Nevertheless, Byarugaba said Barclays in Uganda is working on tweaking its Prestige services by next year. She said Barclays wants to build partnerships with companies like the South African retail store Game and South African Airways to add more rewards to customers. It will also use a “bank miles” scheme—similar to frequent flyer miles offered by most airlines—so customers can have more reasons to stay dedicated to Barclays.

“How do you really keep in this banking game?” Byarugaba said. “It’s through product development and customer care. Unlike our competitors, we offer a variety of products for our customers. Our services and products are not one size fits all.”

For example, according to Barclays’ monthly feedback from customers and surveys, Prestige customers are attracted to the bank because of its variety of savings and current account services, bank loans, preferential interest rates and charges, and its customer care with a personal touch.

They said unlike their competitors, Barclays did not look at personalized banking as a trend, or a promotional gizmo. Prestige banking was designed five years ago to suit a specific need for its high-valued customers.

“They are walking in the dark,” Byarugaba said about its competitors who are new to this personalized banking game. And, she said Barclays knows a thing or two about this since the bank is serving about 4,000 Prestige customers throughout Uganda. Byarugaba and Kamulegeya said Barclays does not want to fall into the trap of adopting the “next big thing,” because the bank will lose something more valuable than a marketing gimmick—they will lose customers.

“The brand is what keeps us stable,” Byarugaba said. “And not the ambiance. If you can keep giving your customers all these things and everything they want, then you will lose the brand.”

Currently, Barclays have several Prestige banking locations for members, including its Garden City and Lugogo Mall branches. Plus, Barclays is in the process of expanding its Rwenzori Courts Prestige branch to cater to its esteemed customers.

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By Aretha Frison
more from author >>
First published: June 3, 2005
Aretha Frison is an African American writer based in Kampala.