Launched by the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation and Crédit Agricole SA in June 2018, Solidarity Bankers is a skills volunteering programme aimed at all Crédit Agricole group employees for the benefit of microfinance institutions or impact enterprises supported by the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation. Andreas Brunner, Solidarity Banker of Crédit Agricole Assurances, carried out a field mission in favour of Oxus Kyrgyzstan in October 2021.
Testimony of Andreas Brunner, Supervisor Internal Audit, Crédit Agricole Assurances
A social commitment in favor of financial inclusion
From my beginnings at Crédit Agricole (14 years ago!), I have been sensitive to the solidarity actions offered by the group. I first discovered the Solidarity Bankers program when a colleague shared the call for applications for a mission in marketing. He once carried out a Solidarity Bankers mission in Africa and his feedback motivated me. I therefore applied in October 2019 for this marketing mission in favor of OXUS, a microfinance institution in Kyrgyzstan. After several interviews, I got selected for the mission. It fully met my expectations: to put my skills at the service of a solidarity project and discover a new culture and activity. My mission was initially scheduled for March 2020 and we believed in it … until the lockdown. Then another attempt in April 2021 which again resulted in a postponement. Finally, I left in October 2021.
Preparation of the mission
My mission in favor of OXUS Kyrgyzstan had two main components: the definition of an annual marketing plan and the creation of a loyalty program to increase the retention rate of their customers. Several interviews with the teams of the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation and OXUS allowed me to better assess and understand the challenges and objectives of the mission. In order to prepare my visit in the field, I analyzed documents about the institution’s strategy and the microfinance market in Kyrgyzstan before departure. I also had a long discussion with an employee of the main shareholder of OXUS, the NGO ACTED. Once my schedule was defined, nothing left but to go!
In the footsteps of the Silk Road
I have to admit: I didn’t know much about this beautiful Central Asian country, not even its capital. In addition to the documentation I read before my departure, the long flight was a good opportunity to review the geography and learn more about the history of the country.
Arrival in Istanbul, the airport reminds me of the crowds before the Covid-19 crisis and I feel like I am on the Silk Road. After a second 5 hour flight, I finally arrive in Bishkek (IATA code: FRU, for connoisseurs) where I am welcomed by the Managing Director himself! First stone of our friendship.
Two weeks of intense work followed: interviews, agency visits, analyzes … Time flies by but I can count on the availability of my interlocutors. The exchanges are done mainly in English, but I am happy to be able to exchange a few words in Russian, which helps me not only during interviews but also at the restaurant. I spent the second week of the mission finalizing my deliverables (strategic and tactical analyzes, annual plan, loyalty program and practical tools for teams) and testing my proposals. It was also an opportunity to discuss with the OXUS teams on the work they will have to carry out in the coming months. Thanks to the support of the CEO and the Board of Directors, I am leaving confident that they will be able, on the one hand, to carry out a large number of actions planned in the 2022 marketing plan, and on the other hand, to implement their new loyalty program.
An unprecedented human experience
Above all, I remember a warm welcome and meeting great people. The Kyrgyz people taught me a lot to their culture and showed great hospitality. I was able to discover the capital with its history, its architecture, its Russian heritage. An excursion organized over the weekend allowed me to get to know this country better with its yurts, its cuisine, its agriculture, its petroglyphs, its huge salt lake at an altitude of 1600m, and above all, its high mountains towering at more than 7000m and surrounding the city.
I would like to thank the CEO of OXUS Kyrgyzstan, Denis Khomyakov, for his generosity and his trust, the entire team of the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation for the support (Carolina Viguet, Cécile Delhomme, Julie Serret, Philippe Guichandut), Aurélie Cacciotti of Crédit Agricole SA for the logistics as well as all the people of Crédit Agricole Assurances who have contributed to make this mission possible.