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05 November 2018

Q&A with social enterprise Rise Financial Services

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We spoke to local social enterprise, Rise Financial Services who are pitching at our Angel Pitch event sponsored by Barclays Eagle Labs on 13th November.

The Angel Pitch Event, sponsored by Barclays Eagle Labs will give local startups the opportunity to pitch for local angel investment. There will be prizes awarded for best company and best pitch. We spoke to local social enterprise, Rise Financial Services who are pitching at the event on 13th November.

What is your background? 

RISE Financial Services is a social enterprise started by a team of six passionate and like-minded individuals in Guernsey and Uganda. Philip Smith, Louise Smith, Warren Mauger and Justin Sykes make up the Guernsey element of the team and Joseph Byabazaire and Adrine Atusasire in Uganda. The experience across the team covers microfinance, community savings and loans, marketing, technology, impact investment, education and government. This creates a great blend for our team to make RISE Financial Services a success. We were formed on 2017.

What inspired you to start this business?
A number of the team work with Guernsey based charity This Is EPIC, and through that work have identified a need for members of the village savings and loans groups requiring the next level of financial services as they overcome poverty. The need identified is essentially a graduation process from community or village savings and loans groups to accessing more formal financial services through mobile phones.

What kind of problem you are solving?
Our aim is to play a significant role in solving the problem of financial inclusion in the developing world. Latest statistics from the World Bank indicate that 1.7 billion adults remain unbanked, yet two thirds of them own a mobile phone and could access digital financial services. Our aim is to offer digital financial services, through mobile technology, to the poor and the unbanked.

Is your product unique?
Our product is not unique but our delivery method to the market and client growth is unique. Our initial approach to market is to access the 12,000 VSLA customers that This Is EPIC has delivered projects to. We also have access to circa 18,000 customers of another NGO in Uganda (Stromme Foundation) for the second phase. Following our initial roll out phases we will partner with more NGOs in Uganda to deliver our services to customers as they graduate through the VSLA process. There are currently over 17 million active VSLA group members globally.

Who is your biggest competition?
We have various competitors, the likes of FINCA who are offering similar services but traditional banks are likely to be the biggest competition as they are beginning to offer services targeted at VSLA group members but unbanked people do not trusts traditional banks and many rural people have to travel over 2 hours to access the nearest branch.

What are your biggest challenges?
Our current challenge is year 1 funding to get our pilot roll-out of the platform operational. The next challenge will be obtaining our Tier3 license with the Bank of Uganda. We are currently applying for our Tier4 license which allows us to operate loan services to individuals but in 2 to 3 years’ time we want to obtain a Tier3 license to expand our services to savings and deposits as well as micro-insurance.

How do you plan to grow the business?
Our growth with come from partnering with NGOs who already operate VLSA projects. They will be customers who have a financial track record and to the end of phase 2 we have access to 30,000 customers from two NGOs that we are already partnering with. Alongside this growth in terms of customers we also want to develop our product / service offering which will come with our Tier3 license.

What milestones have you met?
We have identified and selected the technology platform we will be using. At present we are currently:
• Incorporating the holding co in Guernsey
• Incorporating the company in Uganda
• Awaiting our Tier4 license from the Bank of Uganda

We expect all three of the above to be in place before the end of January 2019.

How are you going to get the word out?
As our initial focus is on a known customer base (through NGO partnership) our focus does not need to be on direct customer awareness, however we will have mobile money agents in our primary country (Uganda) who will work with village savings and loans group to make them aware of our services. Alongside this ‘local on the ground work’ we are also planning working with specific agencies in Uganda, such as FSD Uganda, to engage with them regarding our services and increase awareness of RISE Financial Services in the Uganda market as well as establish ourselves.

What help do you need?
We have two significant areas of help needed at this stage.

1. Financial input towards our year 1 operating costs in order for us to initiate our phase 1 pilot
2. Financial Modelling support / skillset

Rise Financial Services will be pitching at our Angel Pitch event sponsored by Barclays Eagle Labs on Tuesday 13th November at 6pm at the Digital Greenhouse. To attend, please register here.

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