Gaster Lule, Managing Director of Ntake Bakery, in Nalukolongo, Masaka Road, grew his wheat supply and bread-making business alongside Crane Bank and is one of its oldest customers. Now the main supplier of high quality wheat flour and bread in Uganda, Lule first dealt with Crane Bank’s founder Sudhir Ruparelia in 1992, when he operated a general merchandise import business out of the shop-front premises where the bank would later open its doors, now occupied by Crane Forex Bureau. For the thriving Kikuubo trade business of the time, Sudhir was a major supplier. Lule shared with Teresa Nannozi why he remains a loyal customer of Crane Bank:
What attracted you to Crane Bank?
By the time he started the bank I was already a customer at Barclays and Tropical Africa Bank. But I needed a sizeable amount of money and he was the only one willing to give it to me in the way I needed it. Some friends told me I shouldn’t take Sudhir’s money – that it is not ‘lucky money’, but I did, and I have been a Crane Bank customer ever since. My business has grown and I still have all the securities I gave in as collateral.
There are so many banks in Uganda right now, all literally fighting for customers, what makes you stay?
Basically it’s because they give me money as soon as I need it. I can call the chairman in the morning, he calls the directors (who are all local) by noon and the next morning they call me with an answer. This is different from other banks where the officers in Uganda don’t have authority to lend and it takes a long time to make a decision. Unfortunately, while they are fast to give you a loan, as long as you have a viable security, they are equally fast to recover it if you fail to pay. Sometimes that becomes a problem for us customers. The money comes so quickly, we mismanage it and lose our security.
How have customer services changed over the years?
Staff at Crane have always been good – very understanding and responsive. The bank has always been in the lead in improving customer services like extended working hours, new branches, ATM, door-step services. We just call and they come and pick the money here at no extra cost. International trade services are also very efficient. If I send money abroad at 3 or 4 pm today, tomorrow morning, the beneficiary calls to tell me they received it.
Have you seen Crane Bank’s profits?
Yes, and you have to admire them. At the end of the day that’s what every owner want to see – profit. But I ask that the bank interest rates so that our balance sheets can also look a little like theirs.