Opportunity Banka’s USP
The bank is part of Opportunity Network International which spans microfinance institutions in 20+ countries and was founded in Chicago in 1971. Of late, the bank has also become a member of the Global Alliance for Banking on Values (GABV), the umbrella organisation for the world’s ethical financial institutions. Opportunity Banka has 27 branches, 300 staff, 37,000 lending customers and 38,000 savings ones. As well as banking, it provides education, including workshops on small business finance and financial literacy. It was set up in 2002 and gained full bank status in 2007.
The GABV membership has largely stemmed from a partnership with Dutch flagship ethical bank, Triodos. Triodos now provides a sub-debt facility to Opportunity Banka and introduced its Serbian partner to GABV. Mr Vukotic explains that the financing is a useful first step but he also hopes that Triodos can provide additional help and expertise. In particular, Opportunity Banka would like to move into sectors in which Triodos is well-entrenched, particularly renewable energy.
Similarly, Mr Vukotic believes the GABV is a “great platform for us to exchange some knowledge and practices. It is a very good forum for people with the same alignments in terms of what banks should do in the community.” The bank’s mission statement reads: “By providing financial solutions and training, we empower underserved and financially excluded people to transform their lives, their children’s futures and their communities.” This is regardless of race, faith, ethnicity and gender. Bad debts are a fact of life for any bank but the bank seeks to treat everyone with respect and will write off these where necessary, without hounding the customers.
As one of the largest and sophisticated banks in the Opportunity International Network, the flow of expertise tends to be from Opportunity Banka to other members, rather than the other way. This is in areas such as risk management, governance, audit and human resources.