Category Archives: Bank of Africa

Banks Close Branches as they go Digital

Branches are the customer face of most commercial banks, But yesterday Bank of Africa Kenya announced the closure of its 12 branches. This is almost 1/3 of its total branches in Kenya, with those targeted located in Nairobi (Githurai, Gikomba, Monrovia, Gateway, South B, Outer Ring Road, Likoni Road, Thika Road), Nanyuki, Embu, Kitale and (Mombasa (Digo Road branch)

This comes after Ecobank Kenya also announced earlier the closure on nine branches in Nairobi (Chambers, Ongata Rongai, Gikomba, Embakasi, Thika Road), Meru, Kitale, Busia, and Malindi.

Both banks attributed the closing of branches moves to reducing costs as they invest and offer more digital services to customers.  This may bring back bad memories of the 1990’s and early 2000 when large banks closed small or unprofitable branches, many of which were in rural Kenya. But unlike that time, banks are not completely abandoning their customers but leaving customers with a taste of their services through digital platforms, mainly by mobile phones as well as electronic and agency ones.

This comes at a time when banks like Equity have frozen new branches and other like Coop Bank celebrate that only 25% transactions are done at branches, as customers have the choice to use other channels like mobile phones. 

Still, it leaves many traditional customers wondering how they can connect with their bank without nearby branches. Many banks also have agents in rural and densely populated urban areas to handle cash deposits and withdrawals, but will their customers lose touch without physical branches that they can visit?

Banks that Serve Blackberry Apps

I am a Blackberry (BB) user. It’s been a struggle to keep up with the world as not many new apps are being created or updated for Blackberry.  While the number of BB users has flat-lined, many remain loyal, and tied to their devices.

They also appreciate the platform and new apps that improve the phone experience. The app world today is considered to be either Android (Google) or iPhone (apple)  – and  developers and institutions are primarily making apps in this two formats only. So it’s nice to see a few banks still coming up working apps for with Blackberry, and the BB10 (platform). Here are a few:

IMG_20160506_203327Chase Bank (Mfukoni): Chase customers always rave about Mfukoni online. But starting the BB10 app starts with a somewhat sinister request for loads of data, even to open and run the app. This includes a request to connect with, and invite other BBM users, location data, shared files, calendar contacts, camera, SMS , email & PIN messages etc. If you decline, you can’t do things like search for branches or ATM’s without enabling location settings.  Once connected, It seems you can open accounts,  view products (youth current, women accounts, etc), request insurance, and ATM cards.  But it has a few dead menus too.

Co-Op (MCo-Op  Cash): From the start you can log in or do self registration. You really can’t browse the products, or see how rich the app experience is for customers until you first register. But this is an easy process, that does not require much information – just your name, telephone number,  national ID number, birth date, and your existing account number (if you’re already a Co-op customer).

Family Bank (Pesapap): The app also starts with a request for lots of information like the Mfukoni one. So, once agin, it wants to access your camera, device information, location data, microphone, text. email & PIN messages, calendar, and contacts. Later, you can log-in, request for cards, get locations of branches & ATM’s, but while it only took a few MB to install, it sometimes kicks you out, with a warning that your phone needs more memory.

Sidian (Vibe): It’s nimble, light, and not intrusive, with good navigation and responses. It has a  menu that you can jump back to, sending you back to the main menu if you cancel (e.g if you’re checking out a service that requires you be registered / or you don’t have an account).

Self-registration, and signing in is simple, and you only have to enter you user name (usually your mobile phone number) and a PIN. Even from the outside, you get to see a lot of what account holders can do – merchants, ticket sasa, you can search for branches and ATM’s , and they show up on a map, after which you can enter a starting point (in lieu of it pulling your phone location data) and it will give you driving directions, and even traffic information enroute, (Google has activated for Nairobi). It has the crucial m-pesa link (bank account to m-pesa, and m-pesa to bank account) and if you click to contact the bank. one click call the bank, or creates an email message to the bank.

Bank of Africa (BMobile): Also asks for the voluminous info as some of the other apps, but you can bypass that request. Once you get to the products, the navigation is not very good as the menus are limited, but if you get stuck there’s a home button which takes you right back to the start. It also has a few dead menus like the debit and credit card types.

From Huawei to Makmende

Last Tuesday was a roundabout day that began with the Equity Bank half year results announcement at and ended with Safaricom launch of a U8220 Android phone made by Huawei.

In between I shook hands with James Mwangi, Churchill dodged my paparazzi snap attempt, a friend of mine missed out on a free giveaway of the Huawei phone, and I missed out on buying some shares in Equity Bank as my stockbroker (temporarily) misplaced my funds.

At the Huawei launch, I had interesting chats with one pal on Kenol and another who found out an interesting tale about mobile spectrums – basically Kenyans should ignore mobile phone company promises and forget about 4G as its’ reserved for the Kenya military until further notice.

Huawei and Safaricom were jointly launching an android phone to the Kenyan market and since the Safaricom COO was late in traffic as per his boss, Michael Joseph the CEO stepped up and launched the phone on his behalf. The CEO seemed underwhelmed by the occasion, maybe because his retirement was about to be officially announced or maybe because it was because the Smartphone being unveiled would cost about Kshs 30,000 and was nowhere near the $100 (~Kshs 8,000) price for a smart phone which he has commented as being a key target for future data growth.

This ambivalence perhaps cascaded down because when Safaricom ran adverts for the new phone in the next day’s paper , they were advertising a VF845 costing Kshs 16,500 ($206) and not the U8220, which had just been launched. The ‘correct’ ad for the U8220 then ran the following day pricing the phone at 27,200 (~$340)

Two days later, Bank of Africa formally opened their Ngong Road branch at Bishop Magua Center. This is their second branch opening this month after Nakuru and they have set out to go after the not for profit customers. They have launched a Goodwill Current Account with goodies for NGO’s including waiver of monthly ledger fees, cheque book costs, (Kshs) withdrawal/deposits, internal transfers, incoming wires, banker’s cheques, interim statements and a minimum operating balance.

And finally on Friday, in the same building, the iHUb hosted a launch by Kuweni Serious (Get Serious) of a of a series of clips aimed at getting young Kenyans to participate in the constitutional referendum and in public life and starred Makmende.
Here’s one clip

Bank Review ’07 Part II

Small banks, range from $40 to $100 million

Showed an inability to grow as faster as the bigger bank, with few exceptions. Yet they are still profitable and reluctant to merge

The banks got a temporary reprieve when parliament shot down the government’s proposal that banks should have a minimum capital of 1 billion ($15 million) 3 years from the current 250 million shilling minimum’ but that proposal is likely to be revisited by future finance ministers.

35. (38) Fidelity Bank: Estimated assets 3.2 billion ($45.7M), profit of 45 million ($0.7 million) shillings for this quiet bank with little marketing activity but which was able to grow 40% during 2007.

34. (36) Credit Bank: Estimated assets of 3,300 million and profit of 120 million, for another quiet bank which grew about 15% in 2007.

33. (33) Middle East: Estimated 3.2 billion assets and profit of 80 million in 2007. However deposits and loans are down 6% from a year ago.

32. (35) Habib Bank: Estimated 3.5 billion assets and profit of 90 million, with growth of 12% from a year ago. Participated in the first Diamond trust rights first issue as a possible merger step.

31. (29) Victoria: Estimated 4.2 billion assets 140m in profit. Flat growth expect in loans and deposits (1%), but great in profitability which is improved by over 40% in 2007.

30. (32) Consolidated Bank: Estimated 4.5 billion assets, 20 million profit with the 30% growth from a year ago. There was public fallout between the MD and the board resulting in the board being fired by the Finance Minister. The Deposit protection fund (DPF) of the Central Bank plans to sell its 51% stake to private sector, and is likely to be found next year by private sale. A loss in 2005 makes the bank ineligible for an NSE listing and the owners the collapsed banks that form Consolidated Bank are likely to figure in as potential buyers.

30. (31) Equatorial: 4.7 billion assets and 90m in profit. The Sameer group bank Out-performed corporate big sister CBA growing by about 15% in 2007.

29. (34) Development Bank of Kenya: Estimated 4.8 billion and 200m in profit. Remarkable growth fro a development finance institution to record 45% growth in loans & deposits. Part of ICDC’s (Government) 90% stake in the bank is up for sale in 2008.

28. (28) Southern Credit: Estimated 4.9 billion assets, 80m in profit. 10% growth in loans and deposits, with about 40% growth in profits in 2007. Bank with a lady MD focus on cards

27. (30) Chase Bank: Estimated assets of 5.0 billion, and profit of 130 million. The winner of small bank awards, will open new branches next year and has set about achieveing a recapitalization target of 1 billion, through retained earnings.

26. (26) Giro: Estimated 5.3 billion assets, 70m in profit. With 7% growth in the year, It was supposed to be sold to state bank of India, but the deal is yet to be approved by regulators.

25. (27) Guardian: Estimated 5.8 billion assets, 45 million profit. Growth of about 15%

24. (23) ABC: Estimated 5.8 billion assets, 170 million in profits. With 12% growth from a year ago, ABC was one of the few ‘small’ banks that had a marketing push to target new customers in 2007 in addition to a recapitalization drive. Launched ‘kisima’ a flat fee account and has new branches.

23. (24) Habib AG Zurich: Estimated 6.1 billion assets, 200 million profit for another quiet bank which grew about 15% in 2007.

22. (25) K-Rep: Estimated 7.2 billion assets, 200 million profit . With international shareholding and micro-finance expertise is an natural candidate for a merger Was 29th two years ago and recorded about 60% growth in 2007.

21. (21) Bank of Africa 7.2 billion ($103 million) assets 160 million shillings ($2.3 million) profit in 2007. What is hopefully the first of many West African banks spreading eastwards has opened new branches and targeted growth of new business like asset finance.
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