As the wave of quarterly financial results by Kenyan banks stream in this month, the banking industry appears to have recovered from the early effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Absa Bank, Kenya’s fifth-largest bank with assets of Kshs 398 billion ($3.6 billion), released its results, showing a 5x growth in pre-tax profits in the half-year, from 1.6 billion last June to 8.0 billion in June 2021. In the half-year period, it made provisions of Kshs 1.9 billion compared to Kshs 5.3 billion last June. Overall, loans have grown from Kshs 202 to 219 billion (8%) while deposits have grown from Kshs 249 to 264 billion, representing a loan-to-deposit ratio of 83%.
The banking industry made many responses to Covid-19, including reducing digital bank charges and restructuring customer loans. Absa restructured 59,000 loans worth Kshs 62 billion, representing 30% of its balance sheet. Absa Kenya’s Managing Director, Jeremy Awori, said it had been a good initiative to work with customers as, by June 2021, 94% of the loans have resumed repayments and the bank’s non-performing asset levels were down to below the industry average of 14%.
In the last seven years, the bank had doubled the size of its balance sheet, navigated the re-branding from Barclays to Absa, and brought down its cost to income ratio from 53% to 45%.
Absa will optimize costs through technology to improve banking services. In 2021, it will invest Kshs 1.6 billion in technology initiatives; they have already launched WhatsApp banking and will upgrade the Timiza digital banking platform, expand agency banking, automate securities trading and increase cash deposit ATMs and rollout of contactless cards.
Going forward, Absa Kenya management expects that, with the built-up strong capital and liquidity, the bank will be in a good position to pay a dividend to the shareholders at the end of the year which they missed last year.