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Stranded without coins: how collaboration helped Kiribati

“We needed the coin desperately and being where we are remote in the world, it’s very difficult to organise, let alone find vendors and stakeholders that are actually interested in helping us out.”

Jason Murray, Former Head of Commercial Banking Kiribati ANZ

The beautiful island country of Kiribati (pronounced Ki-ree-bas), on the edge of the Pacific Rim, is home to just over 120,000 people. Made up of 33 low-lying atolls in three groups with a total landmass of 811 square kilometres, it’s about one quarter the size of the Australian Capital Territory.


As the most remote location in ANZ’s network, getting anything in or out of the country can be extremely difficult. Add to this the disruption in supply chains due to COVID-19 and Kiribati found itself in a strange predicament: it ran out of coins. This left shopkeepers in the difficult position of handing out IOUs to customers instead of change, keeping records to track those small debts.


As the only bank in the country, ANZ was determined to find a solution to provide the desperately needed coins. With no direct service and a shortage of vendors and stakeholders willing to help, the residents and businesses of Kiribati were seemingly stranded.


Attempts to arrange the shipments began back in 2020, as supply of coins started to dwindle.


“We needed the coin desperately and being where we are, remote in the world, it's very difficult to organise, let alone find vendors and stakeholders that are actually interested in helping us out,” said Jason Murray, the former Head of Commercial Banking for Kiribati at ANZ.


In February 2022, ANZ engaged Swire Shipping, a logistics company based in the Asia-Pacific region. For Swire, it was also a departure from their normal business model where the emphasis is on high volume shipping capacity to improve the profitability of each journey.


“We knew that it was going to be a lot of effort to be able to execute this,” said Kevin Chan, Assistant Commercial Manager, Pacific Islands at Swire Shipping, adding the challenge was “more than just moving one container there to Kiribati.”


They found a solution. After 102 days at sea and a journey of more than 7,000 miles, 4.4 tonnes of coins landed in Kiribati in September 2022 and headed for ANZ’s vaults.


This coordinated approach across multiple countries has solved a very particular conundrum and made a massive difference to the lives of everyday people in Kiribati – they are now able to conduct basic retail transactions again without keeping lists of IOUs. And it reinforced ANZ’s purpose of helping people and communities thrive.


Greg Edwards is Country Head for Kiribati at ANZ.


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