Social Good

Banking on the doorsteps of Fiji

Social Good - January 2015

The microfinance initiative helping rural Fijians with their finances

When most people in Suva are are going home after a day’s work, Sitiveni Marovia (Siti) and his team are preparing for a three-hour journey across rivers and on foot to the Namosi Highlands. In this remote province, people from the local community gather after a hard day’s work each week to listen to Siti provide financial counselling and valuable advice.

Since 2005, Siti has helped communities in the Namosi Highlands, Hills of Naitasiri, the Malolo Islands and the Vuda province to sustain and grow their businesses through microfinance. His role as a corporate sustainability, microfinance and rural banking manager at ANZ Fiji, means Siti wears many ‘hats’ – from providing support to agricultural farmers, florists and bee–keepers to working closely with people who run handicraft shops and canteens (small stalls in Fiji that are attached to homes). Siti has also participated in volunteering efforts in communities that have been hit by cyclones or other natural disasters, providing ongoing support once the initial recovery phase is over.

With access to financial services in the Pacific still limited, Siti’s efforts add to ANZ’s Rural Banking program in Fiji, which is designed to bring services to people living in remote areas.

“We go into places where traditional banks don’t have branches. The people we work with are often from indigenous communities that have experienced hardships or have very low levels of financial literacy,”says Siti.

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Accessing remote areas of Fiji

Having grown up in the Ra Highlands in Fiji, Siti is attuned to the needs of the local and indigenous communities. “My desire to volunteer is partly motivated by my upbringing. I can see over the years that a lot of communities have not advanced and I believe the missing link is financial savings. So what these communities need is the right financial information to be able to take control of their destinies,” says Siti.

In his time as a financial adviser, Siti has witnessed a number of success stories over the years, fondly recalling a woman he helped in Waiqanake village, who was selling juice from a bucket in the middle of town. He brought her into ANZ’s microfinance program and through this, she secured a $200 loan to buy a professional juice machine. Since then she has gone on to start a handicraft business and even purchased her own vehicle costing $30,000 to extend the reach of the business.

He also actively participates in the education of youth in a savings scheme. By giving regular talks at primary and secondary schools, Siti hopes to encourage young people to plan and save as well to talk to their families about the importance of having savings.

“I want to see indigenous groups really grasp what we are saying and for a saving culture to become embedded into the lifeblood of these communities"

“Siti’s passion and commitment to helping our local communities progress is exemplary.  His wide local network and knowledge base is being leveraged well and he is often the “go-to” person for our local regulators and Government on any issues relating to ANZ’s microfinance and rural banking platform,” says Rosa Johansen-Chute, a marketing manager at ANZ Fiji.

For example, he  supported the Fiji government (through Reserve Bank of Fiji and Fijian Affairs Department), in the adoption of a ‘Know Your Customers” (KYC) legislation for rural and remote communities. This involved the development of Identification forms to help people living in remote communities access banking services.

Last year Siti’s efforts were rewarded when he received the ‘Socially Responsible Banker of the Year Award’ at the 2013 Fiji Institute of Bankers Awards. Feeling humbled by the award and recognition he said, “I don’t want anything in return from the people I work with in these communities. Their blessings are enough”.

Vishnu Mohan, ANZ CEO Pacific and CEO Fiji, was impressed stating, “Siti’s achievement is a fantastic example of delivering on our brand promise by helping our customers and communities progress”. 

“For me, it’s about building relationships with these individuals and businesses. You are working with their hard earned money and that requires a lot of trust”