Risk Watch with Alberta QUARCOOPOME: Building on one’s uniqueness


…the opportunity international brand

“People don’t buy what you do they buy why you do it.” – Simon Sinek,

“A brand’s strength is built upon its determination to promote its own distinctive values and mission.” – Jean-Noel Kapferer.

Hello Readers, I hope 2023 has started on a good note. Throughout the world, most people, institutions and organizations are re-echoing the generic slogan – NEW YEAR RESOLUTIONS!

The new year is a man-made event determined by the hands on a mere clock. Many eyes are glued to clocks around the world just waiting for it to reach twelve midnight. I sometimes watch the expressions on the face of people, as if there is supposed to be a natural act or bang like thunder and lightning! After that, there is nothing, and as the clock’s hands continue its journey, we slowly go about our normal life. The uniqueness of the time is that it signifies a new year which we always expect to be better than the previous.  I guess it helps us put our act together and move on.

After nine years of “THE RISK WATCH”, I will add a twist to it. The Risk Watch series has comprised of articles that focus on various risks faced by bankers or professionals in their daily routines and how best to avoid or mitigate these risks. The ultimate aim of “THE RISK WATCH” is to take young professionals through their careers and journeys of banking and finance, etc, wading through the turbulence (the darker side) as well as the glittering (lighter side), and thereby facilitate the adoption of a balanced view of their job as they stay afloat to enjoy a beautiful career and leave a good legacy behind them.

Key Risk Management Tip – Building on One’s Uniqueness

Building a strong brand identity is as vital as providing excellent services to your customers. One major risk management tip is to BUILD ON ONE’S UNIQUENESS. Instead of the usual NEW YEAR RESOLUTIONS, the twist to my articles this year will be to focus on various organizations in the various sectors of the Ghanaian economy and see how they are building on their uniqueness. My main source of information will be mostly from their website, and what they tell the world. Despite the seemingly gloomy economic future of Ghana, I still believe that all is not lost. This is going to be a year of strategies involving innovations, restructuring and most of all REBUILDING ON UNIQUENESS AND STRENGTHS.

The Story of Opportunity Savings and Loans

This week, I will start with OPPORTUNITY INTERNATIONAL SAVINGS AND LOANS COMPANY, or OISL for short. Reading from their website, let me start by identifying what makes the OISL brand unique:

Opportunity International Savings and Loans Limited is a subsidiary of Opportunity International – A global institution dedicated to helping clients transform out of poverty. It operates in 23 countries across the globe serving nearly 10 million clients with micro loans, savings, micro insurance and non-financial services. The global office is based in Chicago, USA.

With its vision of creating “a world in which all people have the opportunity to achieve a life free from poverty, with dignity and purpose”. All these sounds like a mission of a typical NGO, but really it is still a Savings and loans company. Someone will ask: Is it a Father Christmas company? No, its is not! They have been in existence since 2004 and is in serious business with the focus on empowering people particularly those living in poverty to transform their lives, their children’s futures and their communities.

The Tagline

The tagline ‘Banking Opportunity for all’ distinguishes the brand from other competitors with its unique selling proposition.

  • OISL opens its doors for financial inclusion, making product features simple and affordable.
  • It leverages on technology to serve the mass market in rural communities which are outside the reach of most commercial banks with digital financial services.
  • Transformational services which are core to Micro Finance services are embedded in its methodology which is not done by many Micro Finance Institutions.

The Uniqueness of the OISL Core Values (C-H-R-I-S-T)

  • C – Commitment
  • H – Humility
  • R – Respect
  • I – Integrity
  • S – Stewardship
  • T – Transformation

Anyone who reads their values gets a pleasant surprise, especially with the “CHRIST” bit. I guess I was l am impressed with the fact that its foundation is based on a strong sense of purpose for concentrating on the under-priviledged in society. The websites also indicate that OISL’S products and services are developed with their values in mind and are specifically tailored to meet the needs of their clients.


Interestingly these values have also earned them a long trail of awards of the local scene especially in the financial inclusion agenda. Their key highlights include:

  • In 2022, seven awarding institutions recognized its efforts with seven industry awards, including being inducted into the Hall of Fame by the Ghana Business Awards. The total number of awards won in the last five years (2018-2022) is thirty-nine (39).
  • The first Institution to introduce cinema van for financial literacy education in Ghana (2013)
  • The first to introduce a loan product for the disabled fraternity in Ghana (2013).
  • The only financial institution with a dedicated department focused on client transformation with a visible impact on clients. It has a special product to serve people who are physically challenged, and a livelihood skills programme for Kayayei (Head Porters).
  • Several success stories at the website of how some under-priviledged persons have been transformed by the products and services offered.

I believe that the case of Opportunity International proves that concentration on one’s strength in a niche market accelerates one’s relevance in that market and creates more impact. It seems interesting that the shareholders’ concentration is more on impact rather than on profit. However, all their activities are done within the prudential regulations, corporate governance, and with customers’ interests being protected. Welldone, TEAM OISL.

Managing Risks and Standing Tall in Turbulent Times 

Despite the turbulent economic times that financial institutions are facing, there is a need for a relook at the following to mitigate the risks associated with financial services delivery:

  • More intentional strategies aimed at unique selling propositions of one’s brand to make it stand out.
  • The provision of innovative financial and non-financial services as well as a widely accepted brand identity of the institution.
  • Excellent governance standards that is able to blend one’s social impact with hard core financial services.
  • The continuous development of a niche market in this space as a lifeline to one’s sustainability.
  • Carrying out client research like poverty assessments to provide data for more financial inclusive products for the target market.
  • Monitoring programs and review results on a continuous basis to provide impact assessment.

Final Remarks

The introduction of the universal banking license in 2003 created many opportunities for financial institutions to seek opportunities to enhance financial inclusion of specialized markets. Some of the universal banks with relatively smaller capital have found themselves venturing into big ticket transactions that they did not have the financial muscle to compete with the giants. One of the key take-aways in risk management is cutting one’s coat according to one’s size. I urge financial institutions to examine their strengths and ride more on that.

This week, it has been the turn of Opportunities International Savings and Loans as they manage their risks within their target market. Next week, the Risk Watch journey will focus on another unique brand that requires a pat on its back.


Alberta Quarcoopome is a Fellow of the Institute of Bankers, and CEO of ALKAN Business Consult Ltd. She is the Author of Three books: “The 21st Century Bank Teller: A Strategic Partner” and “My Front Desk Experience: A Young Banker’s Story” and “The Modern Branch Manager’s Companion”. She uses her experience and practical case studies, training young bankers in operational risk management, sales, customer service, banking operations and fraud.


Website www.alkanbiz.com

Email:alberta@alkanbiz.com  or albique@yahoo.com

Tel: +233-0244333051/+233-0244611343