Category Archives: bank service

Credit Cards Moment: AmEx and MasterCard take on Visa in Kenya

Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) statistics from the first quarter of 2018 show that there are 120,000 locally issued credit cards and 18 million debit cards/ ATM cards. With interesting patterns of credit cards usage over the last few years, for various reasons, there are some new entrants out to take on ubiquitous Visa-branded cards in Kenya.

MasterCard: GT Bank Kenya is rolling out a series of World MasterCard credit cards. The Gold and Platinum cards come with perks of travel and rewards including international airport lounge access, complimentary nights at 175 Starwood Hotels, luxury apartment discounts and Hertz Gold Plus car rentals along with enhanced insurance benefits that are easy to claim and a 24/7 concierge who offers personalized travel services. There are also tailored dining offers for Diani, Kisumu, Malindi, Mombasa, Nairobi. Ukunda and Watamu as well as towns in Nigeria.

Previously, one of the most-popular MasterCards on the market was the prepaid global card by Nakumatt that was supplied by KCB and Diamond Trust banks. They have been inactive since early this year following Nakumatt’s difficulties that started before the supermarket chain went under voluntary administration.

American Express: Also, Equity Bank and American Express have just extended their 2013 partnership. The bank which issues the American Express Green Card and Gold Card is the sole issuers of the globally accepted American Express cards in East Africa. With the signing of a now exclusive merchant acquisition agreement, Equity will be the sole merchant acquirer of American Express card transactions and will manage all aspects of merchant relationships including acquisition, statements, and marketing. Equity Bank earned Kshs 278 million in AmEx commissions last year, a 54% increase from 2016. The Bank also issues Union Pay, Diners, and JCB cards in addition to Visa and MasterCard.

Interest rates debate as caps repeal is proposed

Kenya’s Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich has signaled an end to interest rates capping, saying the interest rate controls have contributed to a slowdown in credit growth to the private sector and denied small businesses’ access to credit.

In his FY 2018/2019 $30.4 billion budget speech to the National Assembly on June 14, Rotich said the interest capping law had not had the intended effect but instead resulted in banks shying away from lending to riskier borrowers such as ordinary businesses and individuals who used to borrow at rates above the 14% that was set through an amendment of the banking law that was passed a year and a half ago.

Rotich observed that he would ask parliament to repeal section 33 (b) of the Act to enable banks to provide more credit to riskier borrowers. He added that the government was also proposing a credit guarantee scheme for micro, small, and medium enterprises, and new credit institutions through the creation of the Kenya Development Bank and Biashara Kenya Fund and other new laws to help protect consumers of financial products.

The interest rates debate continues next week with a session on Monday, June 18 at the Strathmore Business School that will facilitate debate on the impact of the interest rates ceiling and floor.

Organized by the Kenya Bankers Association (KBA), the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) and Fanaka Digital, among other partners, the televised session will feature perspectives from the Treasury Cabinet Secretary, MP’s Jude Njomo – who sponsored the 2016 banking amendment that capped interest rates, and Moses Kuria, who is a member of the Budget and Appropriations Committee.

Naming banks is a sideshow to NYS

This week saw the naming of Kenyan banks alleged to have received funds from the National Youth Service in an unfortunate sleigh of hand as suspects were also charged in courts over fraud and abuse of office at the NYS.

The list of banks includes virtually all the top banks in Kenya – KCB, Equity, Cooperative, Barclays, CFC-Stanbic, Diamond Trust, National and smaller ones such as Consolidated and SACCO’s such as Unaitas. These are all institutions that offer supplier financing/ LPO financing – a popular product sought by young entrepreneurs and companies that allows them to obtain financing to procure and supply goods, under contract, that are then paid for by reputable companies and government agencies, such as the NYS, directly to the banks to recover the amounts advanced.

At this stage it is not clear the depth of the suppliers’ relationship with the institutions, as the banks have all cited customer confidentiality and compliance with the law, but it is doubtful if any will have the peculiar banking arrangements seem in the earlier NYS scandal which resulted in fines and sanctions by the Central Bank and charges filed against senior staff of Family Bank.

The article states that banks had filed statutory reports with the Financial Reporting Centre (FRC) a government institution created with the principal objective being to assist in the identification of the proceeds of crime and the combating of money laundering. The problems are clearly NYS ones, not ones and if any contracts were fraudulent, the fraud is with NYS, not the banks.

Digital App Loans: Understanding Borrower Behavior

An Interesting conversation was started by a tweet by Francis Waithaka on the true borrowing of costs of app loans that hundreds of Kenyans take every day by making a few clicks on their phones.

It elicited a lot of comments on the cost of finance offers to Kenyans, since an interest capping law passed in 2016 that restrict banks to lend at a maximum of 14%, the lack of regulation of app loans who may be taking advance of Kenyans by charging usurious rates etc. It also led to a mention of a research report from Micro Save about the digital credit landscape in Kenya that was shared by one of the authors.

The Microsave Report (PDF) titled “Where Credit Is Due: Customer Experience of Digital Credit In Kenya”  had lots of insights. It was drawn from feedback from 1,009 farmers located in 50 villages, equally split between Central Kenya and Western Kenya, and also with an equal number of men and women in the study.

At the end of it, the report makes some recommendations to the Communications Authority of Kenya and the Central Bank of Kenya – such as to control the type of messaging sent by text to consumers, and to require app loan companies to share information and to list all defaulters, respectively.

Habits of Borrowers 

  • There is a preference for Chama’ s, SACCO’s and M-Shwari as a source of funding. App loan amounts are too small for significant investments.
  • Majority of the customers took up loans to smooth consumption, emergencies or to boost business.
  • They don’t understand terms and conditions of app loans and they don’t understand credit reference.
  • There are three types of borrowers: repayers (who pay loans on time), defaulters  (who don’t understand the consequences of being listed), and jugglers who take both traditional and app loans – but if they are financially stretched, they are more likely to repay the traditional loans.
  • Customers have learned to game the system through timely repayment of loans and juggling multiple borrowers.
  • There is no extra “PIN” required to request and withdraw an app loan and some family members have done this in secret leading the phone owner to default on a loan.
  • Digital credit usage doubled in Kenya between 2015 and 2016, with awareness and usage of digital credit by far lower in rural Kenya.
  • Digital credit, which offers privacy, is replacing shop credit and family/ friends as financiers.
  • The simplicity of the loan application procedures matters;  too much information requested or if there are too many variables that make it confusing, makes potential borrowers drop off.

Phone Types 

Download a loan app or use USSd

  • App usage is rather low – and this probably related to lower usage of smartphones as their batteries rarely last a full day as compared to cheaper feature phones that retain battery charge for several days of use.
  • Phones are mainly used for money transfer,  deposits, and withdrawals. There is little usage to get information or to browse the internet
  • 64% of respondents in the survey had a basic phone (57% in 2015). Smartphones were 14%, growing slightly and off-setting feature phones which declined slightly to 26%.
  • Loss of a phone may result in a  borrower defaulting on repayment.

Credit Reference Bureaus

  • Formal lenders require clearance from a credit reference bureau (CRB) which costs $22 (i.e Kshs 2,200) and that may exclude borrowers from formal finance. App loans don’t require this, e except that borrowers have not been black-listed.
  • One concern is there is little understanding of credit reference bureaus, and of channels for redress of any disputes.
  • Not all fintech’s report loans to credit reference bureaus.

App loan costs

  • High loan/interest charges are not a concern as they are comparable to other informal money lenders

At the time of the survey, M-Shwari issued 62 million loans (worth Kshs 1.3 trillion), while Equitel and KCB about 4 million each. In comments to accompany the release of their 2017 bank results last month, KCB had 13 million mobile customers, Equity Bank has 12.1 million, while a  CBA statement noted that the bank also serves 33 million mobile savings & loans customers, in East Africa, in partnership with mobile money operators.

Kenya law review to boost microfinance banks

The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) has published a consultative paper on a review of the country’s microfinance bank laws. It notes that since the first microfinance bank (MFB) was licensed in May 2009 (which as Faulu), the number of licensed MFB’s in the microfinance industry space has increased to thirteen – including Faulu Kenya MFB, Kenya Women MFB, SMEP MFB, REMU MFB, Rafiki MFB, Century MFB, SUMAC MFB, Caritas MFB, Maisha MFB, Uwezo MFB and U&I MFB, with two more – Daraja MFB and Choice MFB – being community-based MFBs.

The thirteen  MFB’s had a total of 114 branches as at December 2017 but there was a drop in performance as their assets declined by 4.6% to Kshs 69 billion at the end of 2017,  with their loans and deposits also taking a dip between 2016 and 2017. The last three years have also seen a decline in their profitability (overall profit of Kshs 549 million in 2015, followed by a loss of KShs 377 million in 2016 and a steeper one of Kshs 731 million in 2017) with the 2017 loss attributed to a reduction in financial income.

CBK found that microfinance banks face various challenges including; they need better governance & structures, have inadequate capital & liquidity, faced increased credit risk & non-performing loans, are reliant on deposits & expensive borrowings, and face more impact  from fintech company innovations, and Kenya’s interest rate caps law (2016) as well as IFRS9.

CBK has made proposals for microfinance banks including improving their corporate governance (through vetting, setting duties & tenure of board of directors and having more independent directors), having a single license for MFB’s (no more national or community distinctions), increasing the minimum capital for existing and new MFB’s, and vetting of MFB shareholders. Others proposals are around risk classification which will shift from the current assumption that loans are repaid weekly, to the reality that they are repaid monthly, and that microfinance loans now have a longer term outlook

Members of the public are invited to give views by March 15 (email: fin@centralbank.go.ke) and these will be incorporated into a microfinance amendment bill (2018) that will later go to Kenya’s Parliament around June this year.

$1 = Kshs 101