With USDA Food For Progress funding, ACDI/VOCA merged three credit cooperatives to establish the nonprofit financial fund Bai Tushum in Kyrgyzstan 15 years ago. In 2006, the fund created a for-profit subsidiary to manage its growing loan portfolio and leverage its equity. Bai Tushum Bank received a full banking license from the National Bank of Kyrgyzstan in 2012, distinguishing itself as the first microfinance institution in Central Asia to become a commercial bank. Late last month, several ACDI/VOCA staff, including President and CEO Bill Polidoro, joined BT Bank staff, investors, and clients at the bank’s 15th anniversary celebration in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

From the beginning, Bai Tushum was encouraged to apply internationally accepted lending best practices. Its growth demonstrates Kyrgyzstan’s relatively permissive legal and banking system. Factors that contributed to its success include: management continuity (led by Gulnara Shamshieva) and the professional team she created; outstanding legal support received on a constant basis from Veritas and a constructive relationship with the National Bank of Kyrgyzstan; and technical assistance received from ACDI/VOCA, EBRD, IFC, and international creditors. A staff ownership program implemented in 2008 fostered team building, increased loyalty, and reduced staff turnover.

Products and services targeted to businesses, SMEs, and the general public include loans, deposit products, settlements, cash services, and remittances. The bank has a social mission to serve rural clients and combines this with excellent and consistent financial performance. With a portfolio exceeding $106 million and over 30,000 clients (37 percent of whom are women), Bai Tushum Bank’s strong business model has attracted international investors, including Triple Jump, responsAbility, and Bamboo Finance.

BT Bank is currently ranked ninth among Kyrgyzstan’s 23 banks in terms of assets, and second in terms of loan portfolio. BT Bank’s vision for the next five years is to maintain its place among the best banks in Kyrgyzstan, to increase its market and service diversification, and to become the preferred bank for small and medium businesses. Development of a sales culture, mobile banking, and a new core bank system are the main strategies in place to achieve these mediumterm objectives.

BT Bank’s range of financial products offered—from individual and group loans to commercial banking services—demonstrates the depth of ACDI/VOCA’s commitment to promoting financial inclusion, particularly for the poor, women, youth, and rural communities.