How to Get and Understand your Credit Score

Have you ever seen your credit report? It is often a requirement for job applicants in Kenya to obtain a “clearance certificates” from a credit reference bureau (CRB) as one of the half-dozen source documents to be considered in their vetting.

Kenya has three licensed credit reference bureaus; Credit Reference Bureau Africa (trading as TransUnion), Creditinfo CRB, and Metropol CRB. The initial law on credit reference means that every Kenyan is entitled to get a free credit score every year, but that is not quite the case.

I tried to obtain a report from all of them and here is a review of the three services, in order of ease of access.

3. Metropol Credit Reference Bureau says that you can get your first free credit report by dialing *433# and by paying Kshs 100 via M-Pesa. Prompts indicated that a payment was required and I entered sent the amount via M-Pesa, but the payment transaction bounced back. Did this twice, and nothing ever came from Metropol and this needs a fix.

2. TransUnion: Credit Reference Bureau Africa was Kenya’s first credit reference bureau and now trades as TransUnion. Registration is Kshs 50/= for you to get your first free credit report. There are two ways of interacting with the service by SMS or by downloading an app.

The SMS route (number 21272) led to a prompt to pay Kshs 50 by M-Pesa. I did that and was led to a mini-menu to choose and receive more text messages. However, each SMS cost Kshs 15 – 19 each to proceed to the next screen and at some point, the TransUnion site gives advice that it is better to download the app and save on SMS transaction costs.

I did that and for the TransUnion Niapshe app from the Google store through which one can request a credit report and a clearance certificate. After payment, it now says you will be getting the free report annually. Also, that as a subscriber, you will get FREE SMS alerts in case of a new enquiry by a lender, new loan information submitted, when a loan goes 60 days into arrears, as well as when a loan is fully repaid.

Since I had already paid the 50, I asked for the report to be emailed. It came behind a password protect for me to enter my national ID (number) to unlock, but that did not work. I emailed a few times back to customer service and got an unlocked report in an email two days later.

TransUnion also sells “clearance certificates” at a cost of Kshs 2,200 (~$22)

1. Creditinfo CRB Kenya. On their site, you enter your name, ID, email, phone number and that leads to a sign-in prompt to pay Kshs 50. Did that, and within five minutes, got my credit report, a four-page PDF with a numeric score, risk classification and the number of credit queries in the past 12 months.

Findings from the Credit Reports

There are similarities in the two reports obtained from CreditInfo and TransUnion including:

  • They have some personal information, but the range and detail vary. TransUnion has more tries to add all your known locations and post office addresses. It reads information from your national ID including home location.
  • They have bank borrowing – loans, credit cards, and bank loan apps (in my case Timiza from Barclays and M-Shwari from CBA/Safaricom).
  • Both collect information on borrowers such as loans that are performing and non-performing loans, fraud, bounced cheques, credit applications, length of credit history, number of disputed record, court disputes etc. 
  • While CreditInfo gives a score (presumably between 0-1000), TransUnion also does but also gives a band to show what its 0-1000 scores mean. The top band being AA being (700 to 1000), followed by BB is (690-697), CC (675 – 689), and a few others up to the bottom (score of 1-489). There is also a star ranking of four kinds; with two dreaded categories of “***Adverse Action Reasons” and “**** Probability Of Default”.

Missing from the reports are:

  • Other loan apps – It appears that the many loan apps Kenya are not subscribers, nor are they sharing their information with the CRB’s.
  • They do not appear to have savings and credit society (SACCO) loan data – despite the numerous ads that various SACCO’s have shared about posting loan defaulters to CRB’s.

Lessons for borrowers

  • Watch the use of your borrowing; while you won’t have a credit report unless you borrow, borrowing too many times, even if it’s small loans that you repay quickly, may be a red flag. Those emergency loans you take on an app stay on your report for five years after repayment.
  • Information posted on different dates can overlap and give conflicting data. But is it in your interest to update the database? E.g. it may have your old employment history or lack your latest address.
  • There is an attempt to collect all phone numbers and relations associated with your ID.
  • Microfinance institutions and SACCO’s are not benefitting from the credit reference data.
  • TransUnion sent an email with some explanations of transaction items – a key to explain e.g. Performing Account with a default historya loan that you defaulted and later repaid/ you are still paying. Although updated as cleared or closed, the default information will remain in the credit bureau for 5 years from the date of final settlement. Also Non-Performing Accounta loan that you have defaulted (90 days) and is still outstanding. It impacts negatively on your credit score.

Summary

In 2014. banks requested a total of 1.6 million credit reports and that jumped to 6 million in 2015 and then declined to 4.9 million and 4.3 million in subsequent years. Meanwhile individuals requested 33,000 of their own reports in 2014, 75,000 in 2015, 84,000 in 2016 and 131,000 in 2017. The Central Bank of Kenya attributed this to people seeking credit bureau clearances to contest for Kenya elections in 2017, but it is worrying that banks are requesting fewer new reports as they work to build profiles of existing borrower.

Accurate credit scoring remains a holy grail in this economy where so many transactions are in the informal sector, and in cash. Credit reference is here to stay, even though many Kenyans don’t understand it or the consequences of not having good credits. Banks have now always been honest brokers, and they have been accused of not sharing information and offering good rates to good borrowers, but only posting defaulters into the credit reference bureau pool. My search proves that this is not the case, but the perception has led to a petition to Parliament to end credit reference bureau practices in Kenya over listing people for owing frivolous balances.

Still, there is no harming in getting your report and knowing what is out there about you.

Cytonn Investors Briefing

On Thursday, November 8, the board and management of Cytonn Investment had a session with investors at the end of a weeklong series of meetings. Present at the cocktail were managers and directors of different Cytonn companies, a few hundred of the 3,500 Cytonn investors and a team from principal partner Taaleri Africa. 

Prof. Daniel Mugendi, the Cytonn Chairman, spoke of East Africa’s attractiveness to investments as he thanked the management for the growing the relationship with Talleri, which had just resulted in them investing a further Kshs 2 billion in real estate projects with Cytonn as well an interest to buy 20% of Cytonn in an IPO, which the board supported.

Cytonn has several arms including real estate, education, hospitality, asset management (Seriani and Cytonn Asset Managers are being merged next week), high yield solutions, and a diaspora office run from Washington DC. Edwin Dance, the CEO of Cytonn said that funds raised from investors (minimum Kshs 1 million) are primarily (~70%) put into the different real estate projects such as the Alma, Taraji, The Ridge, Newtown (1,000 acres) and RiverRun which are run as independent special purpose vehicles (SPV)] with their own boards and reporting structures.

Dande said Talleri was the first institutional investor to commit to Cytonn as he also saluted some of the early investors and supporters of Cytonn, including the Chairman, who came on board even as its founders were embroiled in a bitter tangle with their former employers.

Kati Salo, a risk specialist with the Taaleri Africa team said they had exited the Amara project successfully and were now back to do more investments with Cytonn and had signed with The Ridge, taking their investment to Kshs 5 billion. She added that they were impressed with the team who had also given them access to management, clients and advisors and had decided to take a stake in Cytonn in the planned listing of the company. Earlier this year, shareholders of Cytonn had approved a listing of the company, and going by the amended resolution, this may not necessarily be on the Nairobi Securities Exchange,GEMS segment.

Media Moment: BBC expansion in Nairobi

BBC Hub: Monday, November 5 saw the BBC launch their largest news bureau in the world outside the United Kingdom with Nairobi now being the home of the 300 of the network’s 600 journalists working in Africa.

This is all part of the W2020 project that aims to increase the impact and reach of the BBC.  Rachel Akidi, Head of East Africa Languages, said that in the last year, staff numbers in Nairobi has grown rapidly and significantly from 80 to 300 as several journalists who were familiar faces on local channels are now on BBC. The World Service team now produces 800 hours of new content comprising news, investigations, health, women discussion, sports, business etc, broadcasting in 12 languages, 6 of which are African, with the content distributed via TV, digital and radio.

The day also saw the launch of a fourteenth local program called “Money Daily” and the BBC has also set out to tackle the problem of fake news with a dedicated new program about this that launches on November 19.

TV stats: Meanwhile, Kenya has also seen some new television channels launch recently including Fanaka TV, an all-business channel, and SwitchTV. Another of the new channels has released some interesting statistics on TV viewership on Kenya:

  • Friday to Sunday has the highest TV viewership, in terms of hours consumed daily. But within a month, the period between the dates of from the 12th to the 25th of the month see the highest number of hours consumed.
  • Live viewership of events (e.g. sports, award shows) result in a significant decline in watching traditional media e.g. news, feature shows. Reality TV is mainly watched live due to social media engagement.
  • Wireless streaming does not work on all fixed wireless ISP’s in Kenya. It works over 3G and 4G, which offer a more reliable, but pricier, delivery model.

Kwese Goes Digital: Kwese, the Pan-African digital channel, pulled the plug on its satellite broadcasting services as it announced a switch to focus on digital broadcasting its Kwesé Free Sports, Kwesé iflix and Kwesé Play.

Kwese’s free to air service was in 11 African countries, but going forward viewers can download the Kwese app to their phones and subscribe for content, with Kwese iflix being free for 12 months.

GAA: Several people including a current Member of Parliament (MP) and a former Permanent Secretary were charged with obtaining money by false pretences and fraud.

This relates to a Government Advertising Agency (GAA) that was created a few years ago to handle all media advertising for the government. But for several recent months, leading media houses have been complaining about unpaid bills, with the Nation Media Group attributing its latest half-year profit dip to the Kshs 856 million (~$8.5 million) owed to it by the agency.

After Office Hours with Kris Senanu at the Nairobi Garage

Last Friday, Nairobi Garage hosted an “After Office Hours ” chat session with Kris Senanu, the Managing Director- Enterprise at Telkom Kenya. He is also a successful venture capitalist with diverse investments and is also a judge on KCB Lion’s Den, a televised local version of the Shark Tank show, in which entrepreneurs pitch for investors to fund their companies.

Excerpts from the Q&A  

Balancing Work and Investments: He has a fun day job at Telkom, but he’s an insomniac and is able to do investing work from 6 PM to midnight. He started investing as a “terrible hobby” when he was 21 and he has a high appetite for risk.

He’s Not Just Invested in Tech: “Investments depends on what is the value to me, the community, country and profitability.” He started his first business Yaka Yeke which was about bringing West African fashion, which he liked, to East Africa. Later he got a partner and started Mama Ashanti restaurant because he wanted to eat West African food and saw there was a demand for that.

He doesn’t own any company. He created Blackrock, with his partners, which he doesn’t manage, to consolidate and oversee his investments. They take a maximum of 33% of equity and let the other shareholders deal with the heavy tasks of managing companies while they provide guidance.  He puts in money based on plans, and milestones and has people who check on those. While he may go serve drinks at one of their bars, he does not dwell on the daily numbers but will read reports late at night.

Funding Decisions: He said a key thing for any entrepreneurs seeking funds from investors was to know what type of money to seek. It was not about “do I need equity or debt?” and what amount to ask for, but also about what you need at any particular time – one is for operational expense, the other is for long-term expense. if you go for equity, there is some money that is good for you, and others to avoid – and some companies get money and right from month one of the new funding, the business or environment changes.

He invests $10,000 to $500,000, and takes on riskier investments – and if it is an area he can add value and scale, it will get investment. He also looks at how passionate an investor is  “are they willing to do this for 10 years or is it just a side-hustle?”. Spreadsheets are powerful tools that guide, but also confuse with numbers that can obscure real basic business. Investment decisions take up to six months as they use evaluate, build relationships with, and get to understand the entrepreneurs.

Scaling Companies:  His main challenge in the last few years has been scalability – as he says there are good businesses around, but they don’t have the ability to scale. While many do okay in a single market or single country, when numbers are good, investors want to see the businesses go multi-market or multi-country.

He said Nairobi has a lot of venture capital, angel funders, and private equity investors – all with money and who are willing to invest in businesses, but that the lot of money is chasing the few businesses that show scalability, and the ability to be sustainable and profitable in the long-term.

Foreigners Getting Start-Up Funding in Nairobi: On this, he said capital will flow to places and spaces where the capital feels comfortable, and entrepreneurs in Nairobi are going to have to make people more comfortable investing big money with us – and to change that narrative about “capital flowing to foreign faces in local spaces.” He said that it could be a case that some local businesses seeking investors were not fully baked and were perhaps at a stage where they were better off going of debt (convertibles/loans) rather than equity funding. He mentioned an episode of the Lion’s Den where someone mentioned Cellulant in a way that offended him. He said that many managers at Cellulant were former colleagues of his and he had watched the company grow for many years, overcoming many tough times as it ventured across Africa. He said entrepreneurs have to, know when to raise capital, know what to ask for, and that Cellulant was now attracting big funding rounds because of their strategic funding decisions and people have to get better at that in Nairobi.

His Work Philosophy: “if you work your whole life for money that is sad; you have to find purpose.” His is to invest in someone else’s visions and help them grow their companies – At Swift, he was employee number 7 and the company grew to 150 staff, while at Access Kenya, he was employee number three, after the founders. He endeavours to grow businesses, create employment, make profits, then exit and move on to the next one.

Night Club IPO? “I have a philosophy is to create one million jobs” but he Knows that is not going to happen through companies, but if he can enable, through his cash, other entrepreneurs to create 10 or 20 or 50 jobs, he will do it. From 2009 he was saving $200 per month, along with some friends who planned to attend the World Cup in South Africa. But he really had no interest in watching soccer and after his wife persuaded him to meet with a young entrepreneur, he ended up giving him the money he had set aside for the World Cup. “I liked the guy, his swag and ideas.” That young man was Amor Thige and the idea was to put money into a nightclub called Skylux Lounge. It later became the top club in Nairobi for several years and changed the nightlife scene.

The Skylux experience led him to invest in another group Tribeka which went on to open five nightclubs – Tribeka, Rafikiz,  Zodiak, Fahrenheit and Natives, and they later added Ebony and Marina Bay at English Point, Mombasa. At its height the group had a turnover of Kshs 87 million a month, rounding out to a billion shillings a year – but what mattered to him more was that the chain was employing 472 people, which was more than the 380 jobs at Access Kenya, a listed company. They also considered doing an IPO for the group, seeing as Kenyans who liked drinking would also like to own a piece of the company, and some of their clubs cost as much as Kshs  60 million to build out. 

Where to Find Investment Information and Data? He said there’s so much diversity in Nairobi and cited a few conversations in sports bars about agribusiness that are leading him into investing in macadamia nuts. He is now doing research, scouting for companies and the best places to grow macadamia over the next few years – “it all depends on who you hang with and the conversations you are having”. He said you can get data on private companies from the right people who have no reason to embellish data, and added that even public companies in Kenya and South Africa audited by top firms are later found to have cooked their books.

Why Telkom Kenya?: He said he entered the telecommunications business while there was a giant monopoly, the Kenya Posts & Telecommunications Corporation (KPTC) – that had low-quality, high prices and poor service – and which constricted the growth of communications at the time. So when Access Kenya was sold to Dimension Data he saw working to revamp Telkom Kenya as his next challenge – to grow a viable challenger that disrupts, gives choice and opportunity in the era of another dominant company (read Safaricom). He sees this as his national service to give back to the people of Kenya, through the government, and the ecosystem, and that while people in the room may not appreciate it now, they will in five years.

Decision-Making:
  • Most difficult decision; firing the smartest person at the company, but who had the worst attitude. it was tough but it was for the greater good of the business.
  • Best decision; sticking to technology. Tech brings change and motion process every day, He’s never bored, he wakes up to have fun. It started while he was selling clothes and Wangari Mathai’s niece asked him to join her at Swift Global and use his sales skills to also sell devices and he’s never looked back.
  • Kris Senanu on his worst decision/regret; not having children earlier.

BK Group – Bank Kigali Rights Issue and Nairobi Listing

BK Group, the holding company for Bank of Kigali, which is the leading financial institution in Rwanda, has launched a rights issue that will end with it cross-listing its shares on the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE).

BK Group is floating 222.22 million new shares at Rwf 270 with a target to raise Rwf 60 billion (~$70 million or Kshs 7 billion) through a rights issue in which current shareholders are eligible to buy one new share for every three they own. All the funds will go to shore up the capital of the BK Group bank and its subsidiaries. Also, 7.2 million new shares will be allocated to an employee share ownership plan (ESOP) for eligible director and employees.

Incorporated in 1966, the bank ended 2017 with assets of Rwf 727 billion (~$830 million or Kshs 84 billion) and pretax profit of Rwf 34 billion. Its subsidiaries include an internet company (TecHouse), registrar, nominee, securities, and general insurance company. It has 79 branches and 2 million customers. It has an estimated 32% share of the Rwanda bank market, ahead of BPR 13%, Cogebanque 10%, Equity 8%, KCB 7%, Ecobank 6%, and a 4% share of assets each for both GT Bank and Access. 

In 2011, the Government had offloaded 25% of its shareholding to the public as the bank listed on the Rwanda Stock Exchange. It is still the major shareholder through two organizations, the Rwanda Social Security Board (RSSB) and Agaciro Development Fund with 32.4% and 29.4% respectively. Others are the Rock Creek Group Dunross and Co Aktiebolag, Kamau Robert Wachira, RWC Frontier Markets Equity Master Fund, Frontaura Global Frontier Fund, and The Vanderbilt University – T133. After the rights issue, the top two shareholders will have 30% and 22.1% respectively with the ESOP having 0.8%. The government is not taking part but RSSB will partially participate to ensure their shareholding remains at 30% while other shareholders who don’t participate will be diluted by 25%.

The rights issue is from October 28 to November 9. It will be followed by a rump issue that will be from November 12 to 16 November in which shares not taken up in the rights issue will be offered to through a private placement to qualified institutional investors at Nairobi’s NSE.  Results will be announced a week after and the new shares admitted on the Rwanda Stock Exchange, with a cross-listing on the Nairobi Securities Exchange, on November 30. 

The target is 70% success with the 155.56 million being taken up worth Rwf 42 billion. In the event of an over-subscription, the rights issue has no green-shoe option and refunds will be done. In a statement released today, Kenya’s Capital markets Authority confirmed approval of the listing at Nairobi with an estimate that 40% of the funds will be raised through the rump issue. 

BK Group advisors are Renaissance Capital (Rwanda) as the lead transaction advisor, BK Capital – sponsoring broker and registrars, Trust Law Chambers as legal advisors, PricewaterhouseCoopers as reporting accountants, Bank of Kigali is the receiving bank and Hope Holdings are the PR & Marketing Advisors. The rights issue will cost Rwf 1.72 billion comprising Rwf 526 million transaction advisor fees and Rwf 900 million as placement commission (1.5% payment to authorized agents who are BK Capital, CDH Capital, SBG Securities, Faida Securities,  Baraka Capital, Core Securities, African Alliance Rwanda and MBEA Brokerage). Other fees are Rwf 90 million to the RSE, 39 million legal advisory and Rwf 22 million each for reporting accountants, receiving bank, sponsoring stockbroker and also for media and advertising.

$1 = Rwf  873, 1 Kshs = Rwf  8.58