From a young age of just 19 years, Marshall Chimedza was already working for Ernst & Young, rubbing shoulders with seasoned chartered accountants. Now aged 33 years, he is Deputy Chief Executive Officer (DCEO) at one of the biggest micro-lending firms, GetBucks Botswana Limited, making him one of the youngest executives of blue chip companies in Botswana. He spoke with KEABETSWE NEWEL recently.
As The Botswana Gazette team was being ushered into the plush offices of GetBucks in the Central Business District (CBD), echoes of Marshall Chimedza’s assertive voice could be heard coming from one of the offices. He was in a meeting, dishing out instructions to his members of staff. As GetBucks’ second in command, he is in charge of operations and strategy. His ascendance to that position is all but an emotional story.
Like many Africans, Chimedza says he grew up impoverished in the streets of Harare in Zimbabwe. However, he hails from the rural village of Njanja in Chivhu but went to primary and secondary schools in Harare. Because of the unfortunate economic background of his family, there were no fees for him to pay for university, especially since his father passed away in the year 2000. Chimedza immediately found employment at Ernst & Young in Zimbabwe at the young age of 19.
“I had to assume responsibility at a very young age to support the family,” he says. “I had to work so I could pay for my university education where I studied part time.”
Through all his struggles, he is now a Chartered Accountant, qualified with the Institute of Chartered Accountants (ICA) in Zimbabwe. Further, Chimedza is accredited by the Botswana Institute of Chartered Accountants (BICA), as well as the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA). In 2012, Chimedza left the employ of Ernst & Young before he completed his studies. Infact, he reveals that he failed his final exams twice before qualifying as a Chartered Accountant.
“But I did not give up. I knew that I had to be resilient and kept pushing.” he says, adding that after completing his studies, he joined a company called Deco Builders, a building materials retailer, where he was Finance Manager. Chimedza then moved to a company called African Century Limited, the first deposit taking micro-finance company in Zimbabwe. It is where he gained experience in the micro-finance business.
He then proceeded to a company called BrainWorks Limited, which is listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE). It operates in Zimbabwe but is headquartered in Mauritius. At BrainWorks, Chimedza experienced the process of listing a company on a stock exchange, as well as the corporate governance that is involved. He states that he then joined GetBucks as Chief Finance Officer (CFO) in late 2017. At that time, GetBucks’ financials were late by six months and Chimedza managed to get them released soon enough.
He left for Sure Choice where he had a short stint because the two companies were merged and he was given the position of Deputy CEO to drive strategy and ensure GetBucks was competitive. But while he may have landed his bum in the butter at least in terms of shinplasters, Chimedza says he faces a not inconsiderable amount of discrimination because his youthful age is often associated with immaturity and inexperience. “I have to work twice as hard to prove that I have earned my position,” he explains. “Remember that I went straight from secondary school to the corporate world and I was learning at tertiary as I was working. I mastered how to learn and implement at the same time, which I believe young people should adopt as a strategy.”
He thus encourages institutions to allow students to work and gain experience as they study.
MAKING IMPACT THROUGH LENDING
Chimedza notes that GetBucks is in the business of lending money. It began operating in 2012 after being licensed by the Non-Bank Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority (NBFIRA). GetBucks Botswana is 100 percent owned by GetBucks Limited, a Mauritius entity with MyBucks, the Guarantor, being the ultimate beneficial owner. The GetBucks Botswana Group provides micro-financing and insurance products that are underwritten by Hollard.
The GetBucks Botswana Group consists of three operating entities, namely GetBucks Botswana, TU Loans (Proprietary) Limited and CashCorp (Proprietary) Limited. TU Loans (Proprietary) Limited provides term loans for a period of six to sixty months while CashCorp (Proprietary) Limited provides short term credit of one-month loans. Their customer base is primarily employees of the Government of Botswana, employees of all 43 local councils in Botswana and employees in the private sector.
The issuer also provides insurance products through their insurance corporate agent entity, Regent Insurance, to the same customer, including members of Botswana Teachers Union, which the company has partnered with through TU Loans. GetBucks Botswana Group provides their products using their IT system proprietary Fincloud software, which is complemented by a physical footprint.
Chimedza notes that because their objective is to give people financial convenience and thus enable them to live comfortably, their loans are approved within 48 hours. Among the over 200 registered micro-lenders in Botswana, GetBucks – according to Chimedza – is now in the Big Five league. The company has raised funds on the Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE) and so its financials gets to be published on the BSE. Currently only GetBucks and Letshego publicise their financials. While GetBucks started with just five employees in 2012, Chimedza says they now employ 96, mostly are young Batswana. “In the next five years we will have doubled that number,” he states.
For the year ended June 2019, GetBucks made over P500 000 in profit. Its exceeded P112 million.
Chimedza’s ambitions are to grow the loan book to P1 billion. The company has over 30 000 active clients.
But while GetBucks is in the business of lending, the Bank of Botswana (BoB) cautions that Botswana households are over-indebted. Further, Botswana has a high unemployment rate that runs in excess of 20 percent which combined limits the lending market’s potential clients.
This notwithstanding, Chimedza says his institution has a competitive advantage in that it is tech-driven. To access their products, he explains that applications can be done online, relieving customers of the pressure of physically visiting branches. “Further, we are able to reach clients wherever they are,” he says.