1 February 2021

By Daniel Hoarau, IT Manager, Crédit Agricole de la Réunion

Launched by the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation and Crédit Agricole S.A. in 2018, Solidarity Bankers is a skills-based volunteering programme open to all Crédit Agricole Group employees in favour of microfinance institutions and social impact enterprises supported by the Foundation. Discover the interview of Daniel Hoarau, Solidarity Banker of Crédit Agricole Reunion, who left for Bosnia in 2020 to support Partner Microfinance Foundation (Partner MKF).

A dream of discoveries

Once upon a time, an employee of the CA Regional Bank of Reunion Island dreamed of committing to a solidarity project and discovering other cultures and companies. An employee and friend told him about the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation and its Solidarity Bankers programme. This is the beginning of my story as a Solidarity Banker. I applied and was selected to support Partner MKF, a microfinance institution in Bosnia, in structuring its IT system.

Partner is a local microcredit organisation that offers banking products and services to people excluded from the traditional banking system. Today, Partner has more than 40,000 clients, 46% of whom are women and 86% live in rural areas. It is an organisation funded by the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation since 2019.

The mission preparation was marked by regular exchanges with the teams of Partner and the Foundation. I was also able to study several documents and evaluate the existing IT infrastructure as well as the first evolution plans considered by the institution. I was ready for my mission in the field.

Departure for Bosnia

The departure is announced, after several adjournments due to the Covid-19, thanks to the determination of the Foundation and the logistic teams of Crédit Agricole SA. Covid-19 test planning obliges, the flight plan is set up: Saint-Denis, Paris, Vienna, Sarajevo, Tuzla: a 24 hour trip, departure on 31/10 at 25°C, arrival on November 1st in Tuzla at only 10°C.

First contact on arrival: Salih, the driver, or when two English beginners meet. Arrived safely, the light: Ivana, the interpreter in charge of guiding me, thanks to her all becomes simple and fluid. She will be the marker of the whole mission.

The next day, I discovered Partner: the teams and the welcome are wonderful; they all give me confidence and allow breaking the ice both literally and figuratively. The mission is short and we have to be efficient. Multiple interviews with different department managers (information system, human resources, compliance and credit) are followed by an audit of the technical installations, an analysis of user needs and the preliminary scoping of the project. Over the days, the light shines and the recommendations appear. The last step is a review meeting with Partner’s management: analyses are presented and the IT structure evolution plan is validated.

Bosnians have a very different work routine: it starts at 8 am, breakfast break at 10 am, no lunch break between 12 and 2 pm and work ends at 5 pm. This leaves the opportunity for many convivial moments organised by Partner. Dinners, moments of discovery of the Bosnian culture, customs, and even the ascension of a local mountain gave even more meaning to my mission!

Back to Reunion Island

After another 24-hour adventure for the return flight, I arrived to Reunion Island. I have finalised my 34-page report, which aims at lighting up Partner’s decisions for the framing of its system and infrastructure.

I come back enriched by this experience with teams committed to the company’s values: Responsibility, Fairness and Honesty. Values shared by Crédit Agricole Reunion, Crédit Agricole SA and the Foundation that have made this experience possible.

“When you want to build a ship, do not begin by gathering wood, cutting boards, and distributing work, but awaken within the heart of man the desire for the vast and endless sea”, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

I wish to thank all the people from Crédit Agricole Reunion, who contributed to make this mission possible; Jasmin Smigalovic, Selma Jahic and all the Partner teams, without forgetting Ivana Bilić the interpreter, for their welcome; Caroline Brand and Carolina Viguet from the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation for their support in the mission; and Aurélie Cacciotti from Crédit Agricole SA for the logistical support.