In Person

KBZ Brings 'Loving-Kindness' to Myanmar Banking

By The Irrawaddy 31 January 2019

YANGON — It all started with a poll, when an overwhelming 85 percent of the employees of Kanbawza, Myanmar’s largest bank, picked “banking with Metta,” or loving-kindness, to be the company’s core value. Emboldened by the results, the bank decided to address the current state of Myanmar’s banking sector — inconvenient, inefficient and bare bones — by making 2019 “the year of Metta” to transform the industry’s culture from the inside out. KBZ Deputy CEO Daw Nang Lang Kham tells you more here about the bank’s motives, why it is placing loving-kindness at the heart of its efforts to see Myanmar reach full financial inclusion, and its hopes that others will also be guided in the choices they make by Metta, compassion and a deeper understanding of themselves and their communities.

What is your motive to make 2019 the year of Metta for KBZ?

At KBZ Bank, we have a bold vision…to improve the quality of life through banking and achieve 100 percent financial inclusion in Myanmar. We believe that upholding Metta, or loving-kindness, as a universal value is critical to achieving this. From the way our teams work everyday to how we develop products and serve our customers better, we want to hold ourselves to a commitment of being good to others and always doing the right thing.

What inspired you to embark on The Year of Metta movement?

As the largest privately owned bank, our journey to banking with Metta began with recognizing the critical role thousands of us play as change agents in society. In a poll we conducted, 85 percent of employees at KBZ Bank responded in support of banking with Metta as our most critical value. As this was the direction we collectively wanted to pursue, we put this to action and embarked on a bold transformation from the inside out, led by our CEO, Mike DeNoma, to bring loving-kindness to our communities and society.

We recognized that the banking sector is still evolving and has yet to win the hearts and minds of everyday people in Myanmar. In a recent study, we found that banking services in Myanmar today are not as convenient, simple, time-saving and value-adding as they need to be. Reflecting on this, we made a commitment to address this gap by transforming our culture from the inside out to better care for the community we serve.

Why is it important that Metta be your company’s core value?

Being good to people and doing the right thing might seem like a simple principle, but this is rare and revolutionary for a bank. It is a transformation that requires a clear commitment from all. As 85 percent of our employees voted for Metta to be the most critical value we uphold, we were moved and compelled to act on this.

Today, KBZ Bank stands as the only financial institution in the world guided by loving-kindness. As a force of thousands of employees situated across the country, we want to internalize this value and set the example for those around us in having compassion and a deeper understanding of self and those we serve.

Apart from Metta, are there any other values the company wants to uphold?

Along with Metta, we are guided by the principles of Thet Ti, or courage, and Virya, or perseverance. Metta, Thet Ti and Virya are interlinked. One cannot exist without the other two, and all are key to realizing our ambitious goal of reaching 100 percent financial inclusion in Myanmar.

You have to be courageous to make bold decisions and take risks, but also have compassion and loving-kindness to make sure these bold decisions are for the betterment of the community and society. We combine these with Virya as the journey to financial inclusion [is a] long road and you need perseverance to reach your destination and accomplish the ultimate goal.

What impact will making Metta a core value of KBZ have on the company and its customers?

Loving-kindness is a powerful and transformative value and we have this running throughout the entire organization. From the way our teams work every day in pursuit of a common goal, to the way we manage our differences, we encourage everyone to build a thriving community with Metta, loving-kindness, ingrained in its foundation. Whether through verbal or written communication with one another or through our interactions on social networks, we are pursuing a culture of mindfulness in our actions and reactions.

We are also embracing Metta in the way we operate, develop products and serve our customers better. Loving-kindness gives each [person] in our team a powerful ability to empathize with customers and their communities and to respond decisively with genuine care and commitment to serving them.

What are your plans to spread Metta in your company and in Myanmar as a whole?

We have reorganized our entire business on banking with Metta, beginning with presenting CEO Awards to recognize employees who live and…exemplify these values, and factoring this achievement in career development.

Our products and services are also conceived from loving-kindness. For example, KBZPay, our mobile wallet, was developed as a way to offer more convenient, flexible and simple financial services to millions of customers who may not have a bank account. With fund transfers, mobile airtime top-ups, QR code payments and other essential financial services at the tap of a finger, millions of people no longer need to spend hours and thousands of kyat travelling to our branches to transact. There are many more Metta-based features coming onto KBZPay and we are excited to introduce these to our customers.

We have also made our services more accessible by moving beyond the doors of the branch. We implemented a territory model where over 500 of our branch teams reach out to their townships and surrounding communities across the country to introduce innovative banking services like KBZPay, our mobile wallet, to millions, and help understand how financial services can improve their lives. Through these innovative products and services, we want to create a sustainable future for people in Myanmar.

We believe that upholding Metta is more important than ever when the world is full of hate speech even on social media. How do you think loving-kindness can reduce the hate speech we see and heard in our everyday lives?

Loving-kindness embraces a culture of empathy. It does not respond to anger with anger, but instead brings patience and a will to understand how the other might feel, the underlying circumstances they might be facing, and ultimately offer to resolve the problem. This is a powerful force of positivity that I and many friends, family and colleagues aim to encourage in each other’s interactions daily.

It gives each of us the powerful ability to guard our speech and actions, especially when managing our differences. By empathizing with others and their circumstances, we are able to reflect calmly and respond decisively with genuine care. From verbal or written communication with one another to our interactions on social networks, we want to encourage everyone to pursue a culture of mindfulness in our actions and reactions.

Your message to others on loving-kindness is…?

Embracing Metta is not about having unlimited generosity and giving into what others please. Instead, I see it as a strength that one has in encouraging positivity in the way you go about your everyday lives. Whether you are in school, at work or at home, take each and every opportunity to be concerned for one another and have the courage and perseverance to help each other succeed. This is what will have a profound impact on our country and its future.

To what extent do you believe the Metta movement will succeed? Have you received any positive feedbacks so far?

Banking with Metta is not our ultimate mission, but the DNA and values-driven culture that will enable us to accomplish our goal — improving the quality of life through banking and achieving 100 percent financial inclusion in Myanmar.

Beyond KBZ Bank, my hope is for Metta to be a positive movement among all in society. We may not be able to determine how others act or react, but we can each do our part and raise awareness on the need for loving-kindness, and encourage a deeper sense of care for one another.

What kind of working environment do you want to see in society?

A society that prioritizes mutual respect, maturity in action, taking responsibility and having a sense of accountability. One filled with individuals who have a deep understanding of self, their immediate surrounding, and the wider community.

People should recognize their inner gifts and talents, the impact they have as a person…and the difference they can make.

Our ultimate aim is to improve the quality of life through banking and realize 100 percent financial inclusion in Myanmar. This means creating more access to financial services that provide the freedom and security for all to pursue what matters most in life.

As we work towards this, our hope is that others too will be guided in their decision-making by loving-kindness, compassion and a deeper understanding of themselves and their communities as a whole, and work to create a sustainable future for one another.