Simon Ziba and VisionFund Zambia clients

Interview on Microfinance with VisionFund Zambia CEO

Get to know Simon Ziba, as he shares about the importance of microfinance in Zambia, the MFI's use of innovation and digital technology to promote financial inclusion, and VisionFund Zambia’s journey of serving communities!

Simon Ziba joined VisionFund Zambia as the Chief Operations Officer in January 2019 and after 4 months with the organisation was made interim-CEO, and thereafter promoted to CEO in August 2020.

He started his career as a loan officer with Barclays Bank Zambia in 2002 and has worked for several financial institutions and MFIs, with his last position in the banking sector being Head of Commercial Banking at Access Bank Zambia.

As a long-time manager, he feels that the best managerial practices are to reward high performing teams, celebrate small victories, support teams with tools and time, and to make sure staff are trained and daily performance metrics tracked to create a sense of urgency to follow through on targets. Since joining VisionFund Zambia, Simon has reduced its portfolio at risk to 3.2% (PAR 1 DAY) and turned it into a sustainable operation.

We caught-up with Simon to ask him some important questions.

Why is the provision of microfinance and other financial services important in Zambia?
Microfinance bridges the financial gap within our population, which is mostly rural. Top-tier banks are not interested in this segment, so microfinance is a solution and VisionFund Zambia is leading the way with low-cost loans, with 62% of our clients coming from rural areas and 63% being women. Microfinance helps alleviate poverty and gives people hope so families can be well-nourished and send their children to school.

What is your vision for VisionFund Zambia?
I want to continue rolling out Finance for Transformation (savings group linkage loans) for rural clients, especially in World Vision area programmes, where there are many active savings groups. This linkage loan will help bridge the gap and provide for vulnerable savings group members to get financial services. Of course, we won’t lose track of PAR or sustainability. And, of course, we will continue to appreciate our people – this is core to our work.

How has your team used innovation and digital technology to promote financial inclusion?
We are focused on technological changes. For savings groups, we are the first MFI to roll out a digital savings box with a three-pin technology, which continues to help promote financial health and security.

We are one of the MFIs doing digital savings and disbursements for savings group via mobile money; VisionFund Zambia is a leader in this area. We also want to train loan officers in use the of tablet applications to register clients, which will reduce time for clients and loan officers and reduce costs for our MFI. We are leaders in digital, but we also want to enhance loan officers’ ability to get loan appraisals quickly via digital.

What successes do you see in VisionFund Zambia’s journey of serving communities?
At VisionFund Zambia, we are focused on lower-tiered entrepreneurs, and I’ve seen lives transformed - clients starting with smaller loans, and then growing their businesses, and it’s actually transforming communities where we serve. For example, I see a number of clients who start with a $100 loan and within three to five years, they are qualifying for $2,000 loans or more. And, they have also been able to build a house for their family. 

As a CEO, what advice would you give to others who aspire to be in leadership roles?

The advice I’d give is that they should prepare themselves for their next role. For example, if they are a loan officer, they should prepare themselves to be a Branch manager so they can reach the CEO role. They also need to ensure they have someone they can look up to as a role model, to see what they do and learn from them. To be ready for the next role, they must prepare themselves academically and professionally to create capacity within themselves to reach the CEO level.

VisionFund Zambia currently has 213 staff, serves over 17,500 clients, 63% of whom are women, via 21 branches. Over 62% of these clients live in rural areas.


Photo: Simon Ziba, CEO VisionFund Zambia, and John Hasse, National Director, World Vision Zambia, visiting a client group.