Absa Kenya launches Asset Management

Absa Bank Kenya has rolled out an asset management subsidiary following approval from Kenyan regulators to expand its century-old business of offering financial services in the country. 

Following approval by both the Capital Markets Authority (CMA) and the Retirement Benefits Authority (RBA), Absa Asset Management will offer advice and products for customers to invest in listed shares, treasury bonds, corporate bonds, private equity, property, offshore and other investment classes.

Anthony Mwithiga, the CEO of the new Absa Asset Management unit, said they would offer fund and investment management for institutions, such as pension schemes, retail solutions for the mass market, and bespoke or personalized services for high-net-worth individuals.

The retail solution will offer investment opportunities through five different unit trusts being, a money market fund for Kenya shillings or US dollars, a bond one, a balanced fund, and an equities fund that people can subscribe to for as little as Kshs 1,000. All the classes will benefit from the data-driven insights, investment professional advice and risk management of Absa that is guided by three pillars of value growth, income generation and value preservation.

The CEO of the RBA Nzomo Mutuku said that that investment management, now with Kshs 1.4 trillion of assets under management, still has great potential to grow and that the performance of these investments is what drives pension benefits in Kenya, not pension contributions.

He said that being diverse had sustained growth even during Covid-19. While there has been a decline in interest for corporate bonds, private equity has gone up (from 0.07% to 0.12% as a share of portfolios) and good returns had also been got from ETF‘s that are about to get a boost from a new class for fixed income, and REIT‘s from new tax laws. He added that, when the shilling depreciates, offshore investments deliver good performance. Another new class is now infrastructure in which funds can invest 10% of assets and they are waiting to see which Public-private-partnership (PPP) projects come online.

KCB 1923 AGM: Optimism amid political disturbances

In May 1923, the East African Standard published a report from a bank AGM.

Mr. Robert Williamson, the deputy chairman of the National Bank of India addressing shareholders at the annual meeting yesterday, made a brief reference to the position in East Africa today and in the course of his remarks, suggested considerable improvement in the prospects for both trade and agriculture.

Mr. Williamson said the export trade of the country was more active and its products such as maize, coffee, and hides had found a ready market. The Uganda cotton crop, although it would not realize the original estimate of about 100,000 bales, would be fairly large and should assist in the off-take of imported goods through the buying power produced from its sale.

“The repeal of the Kenya income tax and revision of customs duty should also improve matters. There are,” he added, “certain political disturbances locally almost inseparable from the growth of a young country with a mixed population such as Kenya has, which we all trust are capable of adjustment. The outlook in this direction is promising as deputations from the districts are coming to London to interview the Secretary of State for the Colonies.”

A dividend for the six months ended December 31st, last at the rate of 20% per annum was agreed to.

More:

The National Bank of India was the top bank in colonial Kenya. It is the oldest bank in the country and is today known as KCB

Bank Clerk in the Kenya Colony

In April 1923, the East African Standard, ran an anonymous blog-like column by a bank clerk in the Kenya Colony. He narrates how he wakes up slowly, is brought tea by his servant Juma (which means Friday), then is brought his bath, of which there are two types, before he goes to work.

Excerpts:

“… and then on to the business of the day. Monotonous life? don’t you believe it! I doubt whether a bank clerk’s life is ever really monotonous as some make it.

In Kenya, it certainly is not as our customers are so varied. One minute, a newly-retired colonel of the Indian army, moustache and all. Next, a retired lieutenant commander from the Navy who perhaps goes one further and sports a beaver. Then one of the boys – Navy, Army or Air force for the duration, now farming. Then a lady farmer, charming, even wearing breeches. Government officials and visitors.

In they come, day after day. Monotonous? Never. All as different as chalk from cheese except in two respects; they are all jolly good sorts and they all want overdrafts.

It’s all very well to be light-hearted about it but I am afraid that we often miss the gleam of bitter sadness which lies behind it all. Kenya is a young colony and fortunes cannot be made in a day. There are as many who failed to grasp this. They come out here with family and little else. The wife is still here, the family perhaps has increased but an ominous overdraft and a mortgage form have taken the place of the little ones.”

The day ends with sundowner drinks and an early night, to be repeated all over again.

Sustainable Finance by Kenyan Bankers

The Kenya Bankers Association (KBA) launched a report on the progress towards the implementation of sustainable finance in decision-making at Kenyan banks.

The KBA houses a Sustainable Finance Working Group that complies mid-level managers at Kenya banks that champions and promotes sustainable finance principles and practices among Kenyan banks. The report shows that 85% of banks have aligned their credit policies to responsible and sustainable lending practices and 57% of banks have integrated sustainability reports into their financial reporting. The results are based on voluntary disclosures by banks.

KBA also launched a revamped Sustainable Finance Initiative e-learning website that is now Persons With Disability (PWD)-friendly.

Since it was originally launched in 2015, over 99% (33,000 employees) of banking industry staff have received training on how to make more inclusive financial decisions. The bankers are trained on different modules, including on green bonds and with case-studies from other markets. The top-performing banks in SFI e-learning have been NCBA, Bank of Africa, Diamond Trust, I&M, and Sidian banks. Also, bankers can now sign in with user names, as access is no longer based on their email addresses, which created hitches when people learning switched banks.

The new platform has got case foreign and local studies on blue and green finance. Some of the ones cited in the report include the Acorn Green Bond, arranged by Stanbic and guaranteed by GuarantCo, which raised Kshs 4.3 billion for environmentally- friendly student accommodation in Nairobi. Others are CBA’s $2 million lending to M-KOPA, a seller of solar-powered devices to low income, mostly unbanked households, on a pay-to-own instalment basis and Standard Chartered’s Kshs 10 million 3-year loan to assist Uhuru Flower Farms to acquire a solar system to reduce their energy costs and improve the reliability of the power supply.

Also this week, Family Bank joined the United Nations Global Compact network, and became the 4th bank in Kenya to commit to building a sustainable business that adheres to the ten principles of the network.

The KBA sustainability study was done with support from WWF-Kenya which is also supporting the green bonds program in Kenya.

Equity Bank’s War Chest

Equity Bank has been on a tear, signing deals with other banks for affordable lines of credit for on-lending. The latest ones are with the African Development Bank and FMO.

The recent financing agreements include:

In 2020:

  • September 2020: $50 million (Kshs 5.5 Billion) loan facility with the IFC.
  • October 2020: $100 Million from Proparco (Agence Française de Développement Group) to enable Kenya MSMEs, women entrepreneurs who had been particularly affected by the economic shock of the COVID-19 crisis to create jobs. It is expected to impact 240 MSMEs firms which will create over 5,000 direct and indirect jobs.

In 2021:

  • March 4: EUR 125 million (Kshs 16.5 Billion) loan facility signed with the European Investment Bank. The long-term loan will support Equity customer to sustain and scale their operations, with Kshs 6.5 billion to agriculture and Kshs 10 billion to MSMEs.
  • March 10: $100 Million (Kshs 11 Billion) facility with DEG of Germany, CDC Group of the United Kingdom, and FMO of the Netherlands to support MSMEs cope with COVID-19 over three years.
  • March 15: USD 75 Million (Kshs 8.25 Billion) loan facility with the African Guaranty Fund to lend to women-owned and managed micro, small and medium-sized enterprises in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and DRC.
  • March 23: $10 billion (Kshs 11 billion) from the African Development Bank to support its expansion into Central Africa. The  tier-two facility with a 7-year maturity is also to support lending to women and youth entrepreneurs access capital to recover and thrive in a post-COVID environment.
  • March 25: $50 million (KShs 5.5 billion) NASIRA loan portfolio guarantee from Netherlands FMO, covering loans provided to MSMEs affected by the COVID-19 crisis, including women and young entrepreneurs and companies in the agri-value chain.