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National Bank of Rwanda
The National Bank of Rwanda is committed to ensuring the stability of Rwanda’s financial system while pushing for growth and financial inclusion. In doing this, they focus greatly on delivering services efficiently and effectively, and consistently looking for ways to facilitate continuous improvement.
Proto is the leader for multilingual contact centre automation in emerging markets. Proto’s AI Customer Experience (AICX) platform is powered by proprietary natural language processing (NLP) for under-resourced and mixed languages. The Proto team has successfully developed novel deep-learning techniques and regulatory partnerships to maximize consumer experience, protection, and lifetime value across 20+ emerging markets.
In the last decade, the National Bank of Rwanda has done a lot to help people access financial services. This resulted in more than nine out of every ten Rwandan adults now being financially included.
However, access to financial consumer protection in the country was still limited, which combined with fast financial inclusion can destabilize the financial environment.
The process for complaint resolution was decentralized and not clear for most consumers, especially the first-time financial consumers with limited access to information. This was confirmed by the survey performed by BFA Global, which showed 35% of the consumers interviewed were not aware they could lodge complaints to the National Bank of Rwanda. Additionally, the channels available, such as email, required a level of literacy and digital infrastructure out of reach for low-income, rural, and historically-marginalized Rwandans. Therefore, the recourse process had an urban, male, and high-income bias, resulting in the vast majority of the consumers having fewer to no options in cases of financial misconduct.
While the spreading digital financial ecosystem is increasing the need for effective consumer protection, the capacity of the National Bank of Rwanda's existing complaints resolution mechanisms to deliver that assurance was limited as it consisted of heavy reliance upon manual processes and outdated technology.
The issue is two-sided, with consumers having limited access to recourse and the National Bank of Rwanda not being able to apply effective policy-making when it's receiving only a small fraction of the complaints.
In order to better serve its customers, the National Bank of Rwanda, in partnership with Proto and BFA Global with funding and technical support from the Africa Digital Financial Inclusion Facility (ADFI), deployed Proto’s AI Customer Experience (AICX) solution for consumer protection and an AI-enabled chatbot named INTUMWA by public vote, which means “Messenger” in Kinyarwanda.
INTUMWA is available in French, English and Kinyarwanda, the most widely spoken languages in Rwanda. It was deployed to the National Bank of Rwanda's website and most of their regulated banks' websites, besides highly accessible channels such as SMS, WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook Messenger – which means all consumers with access to any of these channels are now included and have access to effective recourse.
It provides financial consumer protection information and can help users lodge complaints directly with the National Bank of Rwanda or their financial service providers. Complaints are all stored in the National Bank of Rwanda's Proto account and the financial service providers were given Observer roles so they can easily monitor and provide solutions for the complaints addressed to them - with the bank having a full view of all complaints and acting as the mediator, making sure every complaint gets resolved.
National Bank of Rwanda Director of Market Conduct Supervision Gérard Nsabimana said: “The National Bank of Rwanda is pleased to deploy the complaints handling and customer engagement system in partnership with ADFI, Proto and BFA. This partnership comes at the right time as the law relating to financial service consumer protection was enacted on March 3, 2021. The system will facilitate financial service consumers to raise their complaints and get feedback via different virtual channels. Our expectation is that the system will be beneficial for both financial service consumers and financial service providers.”
Africa Digital Financial Inclusion Facility Coordinator Sheila Okiro said: “Facilitation of sound policies and regulations, including those that enhance consumer protection and catalyze financial inclusion, is a key mandate for ADFI. With the proliferation of digital financial services, the financial industry needs innovative mechanisms for consumer recourse and tracking for regulators."
The automated consumer protection system has demonstrated significant results in engagement and inclusion, delivering the following results since its deployment. In several cases with the previous manual system, the stats were not gathered, thus limiting regulator insights and policy-making.
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financial institutions covered
SMS, WhatsApp and Messenger
The deployment of the INTUMWA chatbot has provided the National Bank of Rwanda with an effective, inclusive and sustainable tool to better serve all its customers and provide them with the necessary channels and recourse options in case of financial misconduct. This is a crucial step toward ensuring financial stability, improved consumer protection and consumer trust in the Rwandan financial system, leading to greater financial inclusion in Rwanda.
As financial inclusion advances globally, there is growing recognition among regulators that reliance upon existing manual processes risks failure in compliance with consumer protection legislation where financial consumers remain vulnerable to misconduct without recourse.
Regulators are responsible to take action to protect consumers from these risks and, by using advanced technology, can be better equipped to match increased volume of first-time consumers with protection systems designed for equal scale and complexity. This contributes to ensuring consumer protection, trust in the financial system, and stability of the financial system, leading to greater financial stability and inclusion.
Proto is the leader in inclusive chatbots and already works with other regulators such as the Central Bank of the Philippines, Bank of Ghana, Bank of Zambia and Zambia’s Competition & Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) to address the consumer protection problem and bring accessible recourse to consumers.
Innovation in Financial Supervision: One Key to Unlock Inclusive Digital Financial Services.
Proto and BFA Global are developing and deploying complaints-handling systems for financial regulators, using multi-lingual chatbots and Artificial Intelligence that interface with key financial service providers in Ghana, Rwanda and Zambia. The systems incorporates key local languages for ease of use, record customer complaints, including audio complaints from those unable to read and write, and track their resolution across all regulated financial institutions.
This initiative is supported with a grant of USD 1 million from the Africa Digital Financial Inclusion Facility (ADFI) to contribute to its goal to catalyse digital financial inclusion across the continent, increasing access and protection for vulnerable financial service consumers.