What is the best way to discover clients’ needs? Talking to them in groups directly is a very effective way. This week we did three focused group discussion in three villages in Bayan, Harbin. The farmers are Bayan Rongxing VTB’s loan clients. With five to six clients in one group, we talked about their choices of banks and financial services, and ranked their preferences for saving product attributes.
I find several important needs of clients. Firstly, recognition is important. Many farmers don’t know Bayan Rongxing VTB’s background and some think it is privately owned bank which is “insecure”. In their opinion, long existed banks including the four state owned banks and Postal Saving Banks are backed up by the state, so they are secure. But the VTB is newly established for three years.
Secondly, returns on saving is the most important inventive for them to save. Many clients told us directly that higher interest rates are the best promotion of the VTB. In Chinese, what the farmers need should be “Shihui”, which means practically useful.
Accessibility is also among the most important criteria. Postal Saving Bank and Rural Credit Cooperatvies have many local branches in different villages and PSB also have many branches in Cities, so they hold the majority of farmers’ saving accounts. There’s 0nly 2 branches in Bayan so far and it is very costly to open new branches. ATMs may be installed in the future, and mobile banking has a long way to go. So this is among the biggest challenges of VTBs.