BTN’s former president director explains how the Indonesian bank is making housing affordable for all during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pahala Mansury is Indonesia’s recently appointed deputy minister of state-owned enterprises. Before assuming the role in December, he was the president director of BTN, the Indonesian bank appointed to provide finance for housing. There he played a critical role in the government’s ambition to increase homeownership among low-income earners. In 2015, the government launched the “One Million Houses” initiative, which saw 3.2 million housing units built within the first four years. Mansury employed a multipronged strategy, which included facilitating easier access to housing and mortgage loans, working with developers on affordable housing projects, and using technology to streamline operations while expanding the bank’s service offerings to customers.
In November 2020, his final month as president director of BTN, Mansury reflected on his tenure there with McKinsey’s Jason Li and Joydeep Sengupta. They discuss the acceleration of the bank’s digitization efforts during the pandemic, how Indonesia’s housing market is evolving, and the role the country will play in the Asian economy.
The Quarterly: How has BTN been affected by the pandemic? What changes will endure?
Pahala Mansury: It’s really difficult to see how things are going to evolve because of COVID-19. The biggest thing we’re seeing is people limiting the amount of physical interaction they’re having with service providers, particularly banks. I don’t think it’ll ever go back to the same levels as before the pandemic. Digitization is a major part—in terms of digital channels for interaction between banks and customers, and also in terms of how we’re managing our workforce. We used to associate productivity with people being in the office, and we didn’t care that much about what they were doing as long as they were there. But now, when they’re forced to work from home, we have to monitor what they’re doing. And if we measure productivity in terms of customer engagement, it’s increasing. Our awareness of how to manage risks—whether it’s data, credit, or operational risks—is much better now than it was before.
The Quarterly: Can you say more about digitization for BTN—what’s next?
Pahala Mansury: A lot of things. We’ve been enabling our customers to get mortgages from home, and in December we launched btnproperti.co.id. We worked with more than 2,000 property projects to load [homes to] the site. People can see the houses and where they’re located on Google Maps. The digital experience emulates the physical experience of buying a house.
But there are many improvements to do. Even though there’s a lot available online, a lot of BTN’s business processes are still being done manually and processed from the branches. The next thing we’re going to do is not only automate some customer interaction but also digitize the back office, including the processing of mortgage applications. This would require different technologies, such as digital verification. We also need to do more with data analytics to improve cross-selling at BTN. Fintech companies are ahead of us in terms of mining and leveraging existing data. But even though BTN has approximately six million customers, we only sell 1.2 to 1.4 products per customer, which is relatively low.
We’re also looking at business processes. Our branches are still full-blown operating branches, but we need to make them more of sales-and-service outlets and leave the operating activities to the back office, with more centralization and automation.
The Quarterly: You mentioned btnproperti.co.id. Is BTN actively looking to expand the ways to meet your customers’ needs?
Pahala Mansury: We recognize that there are still a lot of opportunities in the property sector beyond mortgages, and we’re keeping an eye on how we can grow our revenue pool. There are many subsectors and players, including developers, consumers, property agents, and insurance companies. We may not actually become developers or property agents, but we can become part of how they operate and become more successful in terms of finding customers.
When we look at other markets, we see that the depth of Indonesia’s property market is still very shallow. The mortgage-to-GDP ratio is still at about 3 percent. Mortgage penetration and the contribution of the property sector are still very small. We are becoming an influential force that can increase the sector’s contribution to the nation’s GDP.
We really need to make housing more affordable and more accessible. . . . Other countries realize that housing is a form of wealth distribution, which will need to happen in Indonesia. When people can own a house, they are participants in a very important asset class.Pahala Mansury, Indonesia’s deputy minister for state-owned enterprises
We really need to make housing more affordable and more accessible, or to democratize the housing market for the general population. Other countries realize that housing is a form of wealth distribution, which will need to happen in Indonesia. When people can own a house, they are participants in a very important asset class. As a bank, a financial-services company, we want to play a role in growing the property sector and create a larger asset class.
The Quarterly: How is BTN acquiring new capabilities, whether it’s through M&A activities or other partnerships, to achieve its objectives?
Pahala Mansury: We’re the fifth-largest bank in Indonesia, and if you look at other major banks in Asia, almost all of them are becoming financial-service conglomerates. We need to become a lot of things if we want to participate in other property subsectors; our two priorities now are to get into life insurance and asset management.
Later on, we’ll try to see if there’s an opportunity to establish a tech company that could function as a property agent or facilitator of property sales by leveraging the existing data that we have. BTN holds about 40 percent of the mortgage market in Indonesia, so we are well positioned to do that. Right now, the opportunity is in partnerships with other fintech companies that have data analytics and consumer-scorecard capabilities. We’re working with a fintech company to leverage its technology to provide supply-chain financing solutions and penetrate new markets, such as nonfixed-income earners.
The Quarterly: Has the pandemic led BTN to rethink the role it plays in society?
Pahala Mansury: The COVID-19 situation has led the government to think about providing incentives for sectors in the economy that have not been growing as much as other sectors—housing is one of those sectors. We’ve been having conversations with a number of government ministries. Earlier in the year, when COVID-19 was just beginning, the Ministry of Finance asked, “Can we provide incentives to try to develop the housing sector in Indonesia?” We’re also talking with the Ministry of Housing and Public Works about addressing some of the regulations, and the Ministry of Land and Certification about expediting processes. If Indonesia wants to develop 500,000 units of housing per year to reduce our existing backlog, not only do we need to fix the financing part but we also have to address land certification because land is a key part of the whole housing-development ecosystem. If we don’t accelerate the reduction of costs and eliminate bureaucratic headaches, then it’ll be very difficult to achieve our goals.
We’re also stepping up partnerships with other state-owned companies in the building-materials sector on technologies for building subsidized houses. In Indonesia, it takes around two to three months to build a subsidized house, but other parts of the world have prefab technology that makes it possible to build a house in approximately five to ten days. So we’re trying to encourage building-materials companies and developers to use these products so we can accelerate housing development. We see this as part of our job as Indonesia’s mortgage and housing bank.
The Quarterly: As a state-owned bank, BTN is accustomed to balancing the interests of a broad range of stakeholders. How do you do that?
Pahala Mansury: We’re 60 percent owned by the Indonesian government. One of the differences between state-owned companies and nonstate-owned companies [is our emphasis on] the social-impact mission. At BTN, we are quite fortunate because we don’t need to actually find and try to imagine what our social contribution should be. Around 60 percent of our mortgage customers are from the low-income population, so we’re already delivering that social impact to the general population. Our purpose is to put a roof over the heads of the Indonesian population.
It’s a profitable business for us, but we cannot just rely on that, or any one particular business. We need to try to build on this business and find other businesses that ensure returns on equity and invested capital that are very acceptable to our general shareholders.
The Quarterly: Is this approach one that private companies can follow?
Pahala Mansury: There are a lot of partnership opportunities between private and governmental entities. We finance a lot of projects from both the government and the private sector. Previously, low-income housing projects were done by government-owned developers and companies, but right now we see more and more private entities penetrating this business. And we invite that. If we structure and manage it right, there are many opportunities for us to develop and build housing for not only affluent or mass-affluent segments but also low-income segments.
The Quarterly: Looking ahead a decade to 2030, paint a picture of Asia—and BTN.
Pahala Mansury: People are talking about the Asian century. In 2030, I think we’ll be talking about the Indonesian century. The country is going through a lot of changes recently, and we’re one of the largest democratic countries in the world right now. We’re also a relatively young country. These are features that will shape Indonesia’s economic development. The government is addressing some of the issues we mentioned—such as [those that sometimes occur with] labor and the ability to bring in foreign capital—that were preventing Indonesia’s transition from a middle-income to a wealthy country.
Housing as an asset class will become bigger than bonds and equity. Urbanization is going to increase. Now, about 55 percent of the population live in urban areas; that will likely rise to about 70 percent. And this is where BTN will really become part of the inflection point, where we’re on target to become one of the best and fastest-growing and most profitable mortgage banks in Southeast Asia. As the region’s largest country, this goal is actually within reach. There are obstacles, and we need to fix the branches, the distribution network, IT, HR, but it’s doable. We’re actually very, very optimistic about this vision.