Azmaira Thobani is the Marketing and Corporate Communications Manager at Diamond Trust Bank and runs the Marketing, Communications & Citizenship Department. Azmaira is an integrated communications professional and has molded her career in the financial services sector over a period of 10 years serving at Diamond Trust Bank (DTB). In her role, she manages marketing, communication and advertising for the Bank with her core focus being corporate communications and PR strategy.
What do you do at DTB and how long have you worked here?
I am part of the Marketing, Communications and Citizenship team at DTB where I am responsible for executing the overall communications strategy for the bank. I have been at DTB for a little over 10 years!
What are the highlights that you have experienced while here?
There have been many highlights during my time at DTB, but there are two that stand out for me as an employee.
One is my graduation from the Graduate Management Trainee (GMT) Program. I joined DTB as a GMT and went through a challenging program which provided me with exposure to every department in the bank over a 3-year period, aimed at learning about the role each department plays, gaining practical experience in these roles, and training to be a leader. It was quite interesting as it involved a range of things from calculating complicated financials to learning how to fix the air conditioning unit at a branch. Each department had a curriculum for GMTs with a performance appraisal after each. If you meet all requirements, you graduate and choose your area of specialization. I graduated after the 3 years which was fantastic! And then I chose to specialize in Marketing & Corporate Communications and have grown to a senior manager since then.
The second one is when I was elected to serve as the Chairperson for the Kenya Bankers Association (KBA) Public Relations Committee in 2019-2020. KBA is the umbrella body and leading advocacy group for financial institutions in Kenya, and the PR committee is set-up to guide the banking sector on PR & communication strategies, support industry initiatives, and amplify industry-wide communication initiatives. It comprises member bank representatives where I represented DTB on the committee since 2015. In 2019, I decided to run for Chairperson and was voted in to lead the committee for that year, which was definitely a highlight for me as it meant being entrusted to lead communication strategies not just from the bank level, but industry level in the country.
What are the challenges that the banking sector has dealt with in the past couple of years? How has Diamond Trust Bank dealt with this?
The Banking sector has had its fair share of challenges over the years. An obvious one is of-course the COVID-19 pandemic which affected all industries across the world. The pandemic saw consumer behaviour changing where customers wanted a contactless economy and this forced banks to accelerate their digital products & services. At DTB, we did indeed take a digital-first approach and launched a fully digital account, introduced digital lending and enhanced features on our mobile & online banking platforms to cater to this shift. Separately, we also introduced measures in line with WHO and governmental guidelines to protect our staff from COVID exposure and safeguard staff wellbeing.
Another challenge that has affected the sector is the increase in fraud and cybercrime. Digital banking brings its own risks on cyber security and there are many threats which have been on the rise to both individuals and businesses like social engineering, phishing, identity theft among others. DTB has put many security measures in place and made investments towards the prevention of fraud and cybersecurity incidents, monitoring and detection tools, appropriate countermeasures, and training & awareness of staff. We also sensitize our customers through communication by sharing tips and educating them on how to protect themselves.
Are there any great customer stories that you remember about how the bank has changed customers’ lives and also the lives of the community?
There are many customer stories where the bank has supported customers and changed their lives. One story that comes to mind is of a lady who ventured into the food processing business in 2009 manufacturing snacks and spices. She had taken a loan from another institution to purchase a pick-up truck which she needed for her operations, but when her business took a turn for the worse, she was unable to service the loan, and eventually saw her truck picked up by auctioneers, and she could no longer make deliveries.
She then met a relationship manager at DTB who advised her on her financials, and she opened a DTB account. Within 5 months, DTB gave her an overdraft facility which helped her sustain her business. Eventually, she qualified for a car loan, paid it back, got another loan for a truck, and kept growing her business together with the bank. Anytime she hit a rough spot, she had built a good relationship with DTB, and was able to get business advise to get her back on track. She is one of the many SMEs who have grown with the bank. For me, this story stuck because while all businesses have challenges, women entrepreneurs face more challenges, and she is an example of what hard work and dedication mean, as well as an example of DTBs support for women in business.
There have been many community initiatives undertaken as well – in 2020, DTB worked with communities in Migori county to provide access to clean and safe water. The bank invested in boreholes and water catchment springs which has enabled sustainable access to clean water for approximately 20,000 households. One of the boreholes provides clean water access to Rapogi school, and we were happy to hear the students and administration of the school talk about how they are able to drink, cook and clean with this water, which has ultimately improved performance in school.
We also have an initiative called #AchieveMoreGirl, which is a program DTB has on menstrual hygiene. The Bank made a Kshs. 50 million commitment to support school-going girls in vulnerable communities’ access quality menstrual health products and menstrual hygiene education.
This initiative was informed by data from the Ministry of Education which showed that a girl does not go to school when she is on her monthly period because she does not have the right products to enable her to attend school. This results in missing out 4 days of school a month, equivalent to missing out 6 weeks of learning time in an academic year. #AchieveMoreGirl has therefore been running since 2020 to keep girls in school, improve knowledge on menstrual health, and reduce peer stigma associated with menstruation. We have so far reached over 15,000 schoolgirls across various communities including Kibera, Kawangware, Mariakani, Budalangi, Nyandarua among others.
What can people expect from Diamond Trust Bank in the coming years?
There is a lot to expect from DTB in the coming years. We have key growth initiatives for 2022 and beyond which focus on having DTB be a top tier, customer-centric, digitally driven bank in East Africa. You will see physical branch expansion as well as increased investment in digital technology and innovative solutions. We are on a transformative journey which is quite exciting, and I’d encourage you to watch this space ?
Diamond Trust Bank is expanding its branch network. Tell us more about that.
Yes, we are expanding our branch network, and we are looking to open 20 new branches by the end of the year, and another 20 by 2024 in key locations where we are not currently present. While we are investing in digital banking, there is still a need for some of our customers to have a physical space they can visit and have face-to-face interactions with someone from the bank. We are also looking at branch transformation where the role of branches will evolve beyond day-to-day transaction processing to offering in-person advisory, sales and service.
What is the Diamond Trust Bank’s promise to its customers and one word you can use to describe the bank?
Our promise to our customers is that as they bank with us, they can always bank on us for growth and success.
One word to describe the bank – Dependable.
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