Unlocking Financial Freedom: Joseph Z. Tore Introduces Financial Services Firm Willbey Solutions Zimbabwe

Embark on a journey into the transformative world of financial empowerment as we sit down with Joseph Z. Tore of Willbey Solutions. From its inception in 2019 to its current standing as a licensed startup with a distinctive focus, the company has been unwavering in its commitment to providing unparalleled financial access and services. With a keen emphasis on SMEs and a strategic blend of finance and technology, Willbey Solutions has set itself apart in the dynamic landscape of Zimbabwean microfinance.

Interview with Joseph Z. Tore, Managing Director at Willbey Solutions

Joseph Z. Tore, Managing Director at Willbey Solutions

Could you share the inception and evolution of Willbey Solutions, along with its current status as a company?

Willbey Solutions, a startup, obtained its license in November 2021 with a primary focus on fostering a unique perspective. Our goal was to empower those economically active, especially those lacking access to financial resources or excluded from mainstream financial services. This vision inspired the establishment of Willbey Solutions.

Since our inception in 2019, we have positioned ourselves as a solutions provider for the SME sector. Unlike emphasizing consumption loans, our primary focus has been on facilitating productive loans for individuals in need. In 2021, we initiated the auditing process, achieving favorable results and marking a significant milestone. As of 2023, we are in our second operational year, anticipating our next audit next year.

Our growth has been promising, witnessing positive results and market penetration. We are not just limiting our impact to ourselves; we believe in contributing to our industry peers and even collaborating with competitors who share our vision of unlocking financial freedom for Zimbabweans. Our efforts extend beyond national borders, recognizing the presence of Zimbabwean entrepreneurs abroad seeking financial services for cross-border transactions and investments back home. Our commitment lies in providing accessible financial solutions for Zimbabweans both within and outside the country.

Could you provide insights into the core focus of Willbey Solutions and its business objectives?

Generally, Willbey Solutions primarily specializes in providing business loans. Issuing business loans is our main focus. However, as we navigate this journey, our approach involves identifying the unique needs of each client. We delve into understanding their specific goals and the purpose for seeking financial support. Whether individuals have been in business for a few years, a decade, or more, we aim to uncover the driving force behind their daily efforts. In the context of a country like Zimbabwe, where individuals work hard to secure a future for their families, be it educating their children, building a home, or ensuring financial stability during retirement, our mission is to assist them in achieving these aspirations. A critical aspect we address is the challenge of access to finance. We recognize that for businesses to grow and expand, they require financial backing to reach new heights.

Our strategy involves a selective approach. Rather than offering a one-size-fits-all solution, we carefully curate our services to meet specific needs. We aspire to seamlessly integrate finance and technology to provide our clients, whom we consider as partners, with easy and hassle-free access to financial resources from anywhere. Our vision is to empower them so that whenever they conceive a business opportunity, they can act on it without hindrance.

Furthermore, we emphasize the importance of certainty in our partnerships. We want our clients to feel confident that Willbey Solutions stands ready to support them financially. The idea is that they do not have to hesitate or wait when presented with a deal; they can confidently close deals knowing that Willbey has their back for all financial requirements.

As we evolve, our aspirations include the development of an attractive consumer experience, a user-friendly infrastructure, and the incorporation of intelligent technologies. This multifaceted approach is geared towards enabling all our clients to access and afford remarkable financial solutions and products. That encapsulates the essence of what we are striving to achieve.

Could you provide details about the products and services that Willbey Solutions offers to its clients?

We classify our products into various categories. Firstly, we offer salary-based loans. Observing the entrepreneurial spirit prevalent in Zimbabwe, where many employed individuals engage in side hustles, we cater to those operating their own businesses. Recognizing the potential lack of collateral, we provide salary-based loans, using their income as security to fund their ventures.

Additionally, we have SME loans, which cater to a range of businesses, from small-scale enterprises to medium-sized ones within the context of the Zimbabwean economy. When we refer to medium-sized businesses, we consider factors like registration, tax contributions, and the maintenance of financial accounts. We distinguish between those operating more formally, contributing to the tax base, and those operating on a smaller scale, perhaps independently managing a shop in adherence to local regulations.

Furthermore, we have identified a need for asset financing among our clients. Some engage in tech businesses or mining and require financial support to acquire machinery. Others seek asset financing for business properties, expanding into retail ventures. We also provide solutions for clients who travel frequently, allowing them to travel now and pay later, bundled with our asset finance options.

In summary, our product offerings include salary-based loans tailored to individual needs, SME loans for businesses of varying scales, and asset financing to support the acquisition of machinery and business properties, all designed to meet the diverse needs of our clients.

Could you shed some light on other projects that Willbey Solutions is currently involved in or undertaking?

Certainly, we have a few ongoing projects. In the initial stages, we recognized the importance of establishing a solid financial foundation for business growth. This typically involves either securing investment from an external source or independently developing the necessary financial infrastructure. We opted for the latter, initiating the issuance of loans to fund our projects. As part of our vision to become a Fintech company leveraging technology, we are currently undergoing a digital transformation. Our primary objective is to digitize our operations, utilizing data analytics tools to understand and define our clients better. Additionally, we plan to employ the results for effective risk management.

Another significant aspect of our projects is a focus on impact investment. We closely examine the type of projects our clients are engaged in and assess their contributions to Zimbabwe’s economy. We want to ensure that our funding positively influences and adds value to their endeavors. Furthermore, we are aligning our initiatives with the concept of financial inclusion, echoing the regulatory stance from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. This involves leveraging technology to reach individuals in rural areas, assessing their accessibility to finance through mobile platforms or group circles. These initiatives collectively contribute to our overarching goal of transforming our company into a digital finance entity.

Regarding international relations, we are interested in understanding the focus of your company. Is Willbey Solutions primarily centered in Zimbabwe, or does it have any connections with entities outside the country? Additionally, are there established international relationships?

At present, our company’s reach is not international; however, it is an area we are actively working to develop. As a startup, our approach has been methodical, focusing on assessing our assets and scope. We believe in starting from where we are and gradually expanding as we grow. Our conservative approach involves testing our vision incrementally rather than hastily inviting external parties. We have just completed our second year of operation, and our plan for the coming years involves exploring international opportunities.

We are encouraged by the positive results and overwhelming response we received during our initial stages. These early outcomes have been instrumental in confirming the viability of our approach and the positive impact we are making in the local economy. As we enter our third and fourth years, we anticipate exploring opportunities for potential investment and partnerships.

Indeed, there have been inquiries from individuals interested in our endeavors. They inquire about our financing needs, express interest in investing, and seek information about opportunities in the country. While these discussions are ongoing, we are cautious about how we approach these opportunities. Our strategy is to methodically assess and seize opportunities, gradually filling the funnel bit by bit, rather than impulsively pursuing a broad spectrum all at once.

Given the widespread presence of microfinance companies globally, it seems there is substantial competition. While many may face similar challenges, you have indicated that your company has succeeded exceptionally well from the start. What factors contribute to this success? How do you distinguish your offerings amidst the existing array of services in Zimbabwe?

In my 11 years in microfinance, I have learned that we are not necessarily in direct competition; rather, we aim to bridge gaps. If we identify a gap that needs addressing, we step in to close it, aligning ourselves with the other 208 microfinance institutions. Our focus is on collaborative efforts to contribute positively to the sector.

As for what distinguishes us, microfinance differs from traditional banking in the sense that we prioritize personalized customer service. Understanding our clients’ pain points requires going beyond the office, visiting them, and gaining insights into their lives and businesses. While we offer a range of products, they are not one-size-fits-all; instead, they are tailor-made to suit each partner or client’s unique situation.

A key differentiator is our commitment to personalized customer service. If our clients need business training or support beyond lending, we provide it. We identify specific clients who may benefit from specialized training and invest in external trainers to enhance their business understanding.

Integrity, ethics, and transparent practices are fundamental in microfinance. Clients appreciate straightforward dealings without hidden delays. The speed of our response is crucial, especially when clients identify immediate opportunities. We prioritize quick and efficient service to ensure they do not miss out on potential ventures.

Utilizing internal digital marketing channels, such as WhatsApp, has been instrumental in keeping our clients engaged and informed. Our robust system allows flexibility in negotiating terms with clients, ensuring our offerings meet their specific needs. Our approach to SME loans involves different categories, each designed to fit the individual’s circumstances while falling under the broader SME classification.

In essence, our focus on personalized service, ethical practices, speedy response, and innovative product tailoring distinguishes us in the microfinance landscape.

How do you envision the future of your company in the next three years? Assuming everything aligns with your dreams, plans, and best-case scenarios, what do you see for the company in the medium term?

To provide context, there are currently 208 registered microfinance institutions in Zimbabwe, as you can verify on the Reserve Bank’s website. The equity and total loans are on the rise, but it is noteworthy that out of these 208 MFIs, the Reserve Bank indicates that 30 are effectively controlling the sector. I am pleased to say that we are among those 30. Looking ahead, our goal over the next three to five years is to position ourselves even more prominently. We aim to move down the list and be among the top 10, emphasizing that it is not just about the numbers but the impact we make on people’s lives.

Our focus is on serving more people, and we want our website and social media platforms to be filled with stories and testimonies of transformation. We want individuals to share how they have progressed from their initial struggles to significant positive changes, whether it is expanding from a single branch to multiple branches or using our financial assistance to complete home construction. In the next three to four years, we want to measure our success not only by the growth in our books and income but also by the visible impact on our clients’ lives.

Our ultimate goal is sustainability, and we want our clients to acknowledge the positive changes in their homes and families because of Willbey Solutions. We are not solely focused on growing our profit; rather, we aim to grow in a way that reflects the positive impact on the lives we touch. We want our clients to share their stories on a map, demonstrating the positive trajectory from where they were to where they are now, all thanks to the support provided by Willbey Solutions.


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