WITH  ITS ROOTS IN MURANG’A , THE COUNTY WHERE THE FIRST SACCO IN KENYA  WAS ESTABLISHED, MENTOR CONTINUES TO SPREAD ITS WINGS

Mrs. Joyce Ndegwa, Chief Executive Officer Mentor Sacco, during the MID at Ruiru primary school, Kiambu county.
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 Mentor  Sacco leverages members’ education and information days to grow  its  footprint

By George Gichuki

The trend  continued.  As early  as early as eight o’clock, members of Mentor Sacco started arriving at Ruiru primary school in Kiambu county. It was  one of venues of the Sacco’s members’ information days ( MIDs) on the second last Saturday of May. The others were : Moi Avenue, Kiambu Township and Ithanga primary schools.  By around ten in the morning, with scores of members having turned up, only a few chairs in the mega tents were  unoccupied.   The presentation by the facilitator ( Mr. Leo Ndegwa; a clinical nutritionist) focused on the need of taking the right diet  in order to remain healthy and avoid  incurring huge medical expenses.  It resonated well  with the theme of  Mentor Sacco’s MIDs   in 2024 : ‘ Empowering members to add  value to their lives through prudent financial management.’

Mrs. Joyce Ndegwa the  Chief Executive Officer ( CEO)   of Mentor Sacco while addressing the media on the sidelines of the MID emphasized that one of the goals of coming up with the said theme was to ensure that  members are well informed about  the array of   products and services the lender offers.  “ We would like to add value to our members’ lives by giving them as much information as possible,” said Mrs. Ndegwa.  “ Consequently, they will  avoid spending a lot of their valuable time visiting our  head  office and branches    to make enquiries.”  To that end, members   were given booklets with detailed information about the Sacco’s products and services.

 Commenting  on the high turnout of members in this year’s MIDs,   the CEO  said that their loyalty has been enhanced by the Sacco’s  quick turnaround  time while responding  to their needs; especially  processing    loans. “ Through these forums, we onboard very many new members after taking    them through our history, financial performance, target market and product offering among other important issues.” She added :  “ They are therefore able to make decisions that are well informed.”  

Growth and product offering

Within the last five years, Mentor Sacco has grown fast  in key parameters like : membership, profit and asset base. For instance, in 2018, its members were 19,056, while  currently, they are over 40,000. Additionally, its asset base in 2018 was Kshs.7.163 billion; it   has currently grown  to   over Kshs.13.5 billion. Mrs. Ndegwa attributed this growth to  the members’ loyalty and zeal to serve the Sacco.  “ The loyalty of our members can be demonstrated by the fact that through the word of mouth marketing,  they have helped us to  win  many of their colleagues  hence making our Sacco strong,” she said adding that members are their  foremost  brand ambassadors. 

The  Sacco has continued to make a strong entry into new regions like Kiambu, Nairobi, Machakos and Kajiado.  This has contributed a lot to the growth in its membership.  In this regard, according to the CEO, it is finalizing  on  plans   to launch a new branch in Kiambu town before the end of this year hence increasing  the  network to six. Its other branches are located in:  Murang’a, Thika, Kenol, Nairobi and Ithanga.  It also has satellite branches in Kangari, Kandara, Kiria-ini, Kangema and Kahuro ; all in Murng’a county.

Milfred Mwangi, co-operative officer, Murang’a county making her presentation to Mentor Sacco members.

 By using its   flagship digital  product ( dubbed Mentor QuickCash), the Sacco is able to serve members  even  in areas where it doesn’t have a physical  presence. Through this platform, members can  deposit and withdraw cash,  access loans, check balances  and transfer money among other functions.  “ The product is cost effective to our members  since they don’t have to visit our branches to make transactions like depositing and withdrawing cash,” Mrs. Ndegwa said.

Decent shelter is a basic need.  For that reason, by accessing  a  long   term  loan   product dubbed ‘jijenge’,  with a  term   of   ninety six months and an interest rate of 1% per month on a reducing balance ( which translates to 6.2% per annum), many members of Mentor Sacco have been able to put up modern houses for their families.  According to Mrs. Ndegwa, in order to meet the high demand for houses   among  the members, Mentor Sacco is in the process of developing a mortgage product with a longer repayment period.

 Front  office  services activity  ( FOSA),  the banking  section of the Sacco has also contributed to its fast growth.  “ Through FOSA, we offer  both   savings and  credit   products  to our members depending on their needs,”  Mrs. Ndegwa said adding that even   children  can access a savings  product  tailored for them in FOSA.  The flagship product in this section  is the FOSA pride loan.  Through this product, members are advanced loans against the salaries they are expecting in a given month  so that they can meet emergency  needs. Members are encouraged to channel all their income through FOSA in order  to  boost their chances of accessing loans. “ We would like all our members to make FOSA their one –stop- bank so that when we are appraising them for loans, the process is seamless  and   they don’t have to bring statements from other financial institutions,” Mrs. Ndegwa advised.

The Sacco  has also  developed  a  product  targeting   the  youth  in order to tap into the  fast  growing   market segment.  “ We are now  financing  new members –  mainly  the youth –  when they   have  fifty  per cent  of the non- withdrawable   deposits required  to access a loan product   by evaluating  other parameters like their nature of employment and sources of income,” said Mrs. Ndegwa  adding that   the appraisal process is undertaken carefully in order to avoid putting guarantors at risk.  She  further  said  that many young members ( like university and college students) are joining  the Sacco after being introduced by their parents, once again demonstrating the effectiveness of  word of mouth marketing.

A section of members who attended Mentor Sacco’s MID at Ruiru primary school.

 Importance of MIDs  and road ahead

The CEO noted that MIDS are very important  forums   for    the Sacco because the management is able to interact  and actively engage small groups of members, getting invaluable feedback in  the process. “ During MIDS, members are able to ask pertinent questions  and provide feedback  about our performance and consequently, we are able to offer them better products and services,” she said.

The CEO was upbeat that in the next five years, based on  its  current  performance,  Mentor Sacco will have attained a membership of over one hundred thousand. She noted that in particular, over seven thousand members joined the Sacco in 2023.  “ We are preparing to have more members by improving our infrastructure and systems,” she said with optimism.  In the same breath, she  encouraged couples who are members of the Sacco to support one another  in order to achieve financial freedom. “ Adding value to life as our mantra goes should begin at home,” she quipped.

The co-operative movement in Kenya

Milfred Mwangi, a co-operative officer in Murang’a county made a presentation    on the pivotal role that is played by the co-operative movement in improving the socio-economic  status of various  households.  The co-operative movement in Kenya is ranked first in Africa and seventh globally. It has a rich history which dates back to 1908 when the first co-operative society was established by the white settlers in Kipkelion,  Rift Valley, to market  their dairy  products. It was  known as   Lubwa dairy co-operative.  By  the same  token,  in 1964,  Mariira Parish Co-operative Savings and Credit Society in Murang’a   was the first  Sacco  to be  established in  Kenya.   Its founder was  Father Joakim Gitonga, a Catholic priest.

Milfred informed the members that  they have   the right to attend and participate in passing resolutions during  annual general meetings ( AGMs),  the highest decision making organ of their society, in addition  to    voting    leaders and  being   elected into various organs.  Moreover, she said that members have the right to use all the society’s  facilities,  to share its profits and to appoint a nominee.  In the same vein, the co-operative officer informed the members that they are expected to comply with the Sacco’s by laws, patronize its products, besides attending    AGMs and MIDs.  By so doing, members will help the Sacco to attain its goals and ultimately become a solid organization.

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