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I&M Bank CEO Bairstow Highlights Key Milestones Ahead Of Golden Jubilee

I&M Bank Uganda CEO, Robin Bairstow

In April 2021, Uganda’s Orient Bank shareholders approved a majority acquisition and merger with Kenyan-headquartered I&M Group Plc, fulfilling I&M’s vision as East Africa’s financial partner for growth. This strategic move was preceded by Bank of Uganda’s 2011 regulations mandating diversified ownership in financial institutions.

I&M Bank Uganda’s CEO, Robin Bairstow, who stepped into the role in August 2023, has noted that the company has executed many initiatives including building their external persona⏤ the I&M brand – over the last two years from being completely unknown within the market to becoming one of the most vibrant brands with a new look and feel.

“The other key milestone was the culture change. When we took over, we had various cultures in the bank⏤ we had people who were formerly Orient Bank staff; then the new-to-bank staff, as well as a few other people from I&M Group, especially at the board level. We had three groups of people that needed to be aligned to a single culture- the I&M Culture. So, our first point of call was not spending money on new infrastructure and so on but was to make sure that the people were all aligned,” Bairstow noted.

The fostering of culture change was done at the same time across the entire group under the PAMOJA initiative. It was a greatly executed campaign to welcome Uganda, the newest kid on the block into the I&M Bank family.

“It was a smooth process, moreover during the pandemic. That cultural change gave us a common set of behaviors and values to rally around.  We were all singing from the same hymn sheet, which is really important, for if you’re going to do anything big, the people asset that’s going to do it for you⏤ the people that come up every day in the elevator⏤ is the asset that you need to focus on more, to ensure that they can then look after the other assets within the bank,” Bairstow added.

First, the bank decided as an organization to take on a new switch provider and then proceeded to change their infrastructure and architecture for all underlying IT equipment and hardware. They also changed their core banking system from Flexcube, which had hit the end of its life to Finacle, which is the same system the I&M Group uses. Finacle is an underlying platform, that helps you build all your capabilities on the platform. It gives the bank flexibility and the foundation to build and create a lot of things.

The bank also moved from being an issuer of Visa to being an issuer of MasterCard and everything. At the same time, I&M were sunsetting Visa and the old FastPay app, they were going online and on their OnTheGo App. They also introduced a new treasury system. All these were running concurrently⏤ they had to change the switch, then change the cards, then change the core banking system⏤ work started earlier in 2023 but gained more steam in October 2023 and they went live with most of the new stuff in January 2024.

As the bank prepares to mark 50 years of operation on June 28, 2024, Bairstow emphasizes that the iMara Strategy continues to serve as one of the guiding forces behind the bank’s day-to-day operations.

“Over the last six years, the most important aspect responsible for the growth within our organization has been the iMara Strategy, which started off with iMara 1.0, evolved into iMara 2.0, and now iMara 3.0,” Bairstow said.

According to Bairstow, one of the reasons why I&M Bank stands out is their ongoing commitment to customer care and their strong family-oriented vision. This dedication sets them apart, although they face challenges.

“Although we portray a very professional image, at our heart we are a family-oriented business. What makes us different is the fact that we are a bank with a soul, that we need a good corporate vision, a good strategy, a good set of values, but deep down we are a family bank,” Bairstow noted adding that; “The tagline for the 50-year celebration couldn’t be more appropriate than for our business here in Uganda and that’s Strong Foundation, Future Focus which is what we’ve just built.”

For the next phase of their journey, I&M Bank intends to expand their reach as they are currently looking for new premises in several outlets in Uganda. They are looking to invest in more technology, so customers can expect the rollout of more products, such as prepaid cards for travel wallets, and credit cards. A credit card launch is on the horizon as well as the launch of online remote onboarding for the customers, to make recruitment more seamless. The bank has already invested in the technology to do instant issuance on the card side.

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