Category Archives: bank service

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: 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

Fintech Companies to Watch and Influencers in 2018

Companies: Last November, KPMG and H2 Ventures released a report listing their fourth annual fintech innovators (‘Fintech100’)  comprising 50 established companies and 50 emerging companies to watch in Fintech.  The companies are innovation across sector like banking, payments, remittances, spending, artificial intelligence, data management, and insurance.
They noted that China continues to dominate the fintech landscape, with 5 of the top 10 companies on the list. Digital or new banks in the list include Solaris Bank, Nu Bank, and Atom Bank.
Some notable companies on the list;
  • ZhongAn (online property insurance)
  • Stripe (frictionless financial transactions)
  • OurCrowd provides an equity crowdfunding platform for accredited investors to access and invest in Israeli companies)
  • Circle (free international remittance via email)
  • Xapo allows users to utilize their bitcoins while Xapo safely stores them)
  • Future Finance (gives students loans of 2,000 to 40,000 pound,  within 24 hours that can be paid over 5 years)
  • Coinbase (enables digital currency transactions)
  • AfterPay Touch (from Australia gives online shopping users an option to spread purchases across four equal installments)
  • Robinhood (free stock trading of US stock and ETF’s)
  • Alan (Europe’s  first digital health insurance company)
  • Bud (enables users to combine bank accounts and get personalised insights from a single source)
  • Capital Float (from India provides collateral-free working capital loans to small businesses within 3 days)
  • Cuvva (provides short-term,  flexible car insurance to consumer groups, including taxi- drivers that range from 1 hour to 28 days)
  • Flutterwave (from Nigeria, is in over 36 African countries, enables individuals and businesses to accept online and offline payments)
  • GrassRoots Bima (from Kenya matches customers with micro-insurance products – known as WazInsure)
  • KredX (from India matches SMEs seeking working capital with investors looking for above-average yield on short-term investments)
  • Leveris (banking platform for digital retail banks)
  • Riby (Nigeria cooperatives enabler)
  • Sensibill (allows bank customers to get their receipts in a few different ways)
  • SoCash (addresses cash logistics issues for banks)
  • Token (an API banking platform)
  • Valiant Finance (an online broking platform for SME’s) 
Influencers: Also, Jay Palter has a list of 195 fintech influencers for the year 2018; have only heard of a few – Brett King (who visited and spoke in Nairobi in January 2017), Yann Ranchere, Elon Musk and Vinod Khosla, but will check out the rest.
Also,  the new CB Insights report on fintech observations and trends to watch in 2018 cites:
  • No billion-dollar fintech M&A in 2017
  • Chinese firms drove fintech IPOs in 2017
  • Europe saw record for fintech investing in 2017, as Asia and the US saw fintech funding recede
  • Amazon gets more aggressive in fintech — outside of the US, but Amazon’s US efforts are a far cry from Tencent and Ant Financial’s global fintech forays in China
  • The largest deals in 2017 went to companies providing insurance…
  • Startups are allowing Chinese investors to access overseas securities and In 2017, Ant Financial’s Yu’e Bao became the largest money market fund in the world
  • Banks forgo partnering in favor of fighting fintech with fintech 

Barclays Africa Macro Economic Report

Africa is poised for third wave of growth that could return it to the Africa rising heights that preceded the global financial crisis. These are some of the highlights from a report released by Barclays Africa in Nairobi on their macro economic outlook for 2017-2018.

Barclays Africa Chief Economist Jeff Gable said that global growth was 3.7% and is at its strongest in 5 years with the growth synchronised in all regions – US, Europe (strongest in a decade), Asia (recovering from 2017), and Latin America (coming out of recession). Global concerns include the politics of rage and nationalism waves, US political uncertainty (with President Trump),  China’s economic adjustments and fluctuations in commodity demand.

Africa has shown itself to be resilient and is receiving foreign direct investments (FDI) flows at levels not seen in a decade. South Africa gets the top share of FDI (followed by Morocco, Egypt,  Nigeria, Kenya), with most deals coming from the USA – 91 investments (followed by France, China, UK, Dubai) but with the largest source of funding, by far, from China ($36 billion).

Gable sees African countries as better able to address macro economic conditions this time around, such as through making infrastructure pay off by focusing on smaller affordable achievable projects (such as Uganda oil and Tanzania gas), diversifying commodity-driven economies, and managing foreign exchange and debt with the lessons learnt from the earlier dip. He expects that a majority of African countries will continue to grow at a faster pace than in recent years and that average growth will be 4% across the continent.

Some risk concerns are that not many African countries can afford to pay for what they are spending and they are exposed to continued outside borrowing at a time that Sub-Saharan Africa credit ratings are declining and there are discussions about uncertain macro economic policies from Angola, Mozambique, Nigeria, Tanzania South Africa, and Zambia as well as other discussions on political strains in Ethiopia, Kenya Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.  Another concern is that climate change will disproportionately affect Africa. 

Earlier in the day, Barclays Bank of Kenya Managing Director, Jeremy Awori cautioned on the year-old interest rate cap law in Kenya that had constrained private sector growth, and bank earnings He said banking industry earnings had shrunk 8% as at the third quartet of 2017,  compared to average growth of 15% in previous years and that private sector credit may have shrunk during the year.

Barclays Africa Macro Economic Report launch.

Other highlights of the Macro Economic Report:

  • Kenya’s credit rating has been stable since 2010, but Moody’s are now reviewing it for downgrade (due to to large deficits, high borrowing costs, and policy uncertainty). What concerns Moody’s is not Kenya’s debt size, but its replacement of long-term concessionary debt with short-term commercial debt.
  • Barclays Africa forward exchange rate forecast for the Kenya shilling to the US dollar is 106 at the end of 2018, 108.5 in 2019, and 110.8 in 2020.
  • Interest rate caps have been tried in many countries besides Kenya. The intent is the same, but Kenya’s Central Bank won’t be able to do anything about interest rate caps until next year.
  • For Kenya, tourism and agriculture (after the drought) are moving up, but manufacturing is lagging, and the Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) showed dramatic improvement in December 2017 after plunging to lows in October 2017 during the election season.

The annual Macro economic report was produced by the Barclays Africa research desk. It will be followed by another release by Barclays – of their Africa Financial Markets Index which is a survey of 17 African stock markets.

Bank fraud attempts during the holidays?

2017 has been a long year for Kenyans and while December brings several official national holiday rest days –  December 12 (“Jamhuri” or Independence) December 25 (Christmas), December 26 (Boxing) and the January 1 (New Years Day), December is usually considered a  slow month for business activities. This is because many employees take their annual leave days and combine them with the official rests for extended breaks during which they make annual trips with their families to villages, wildlife parks or to the Kenya Coast and other choice destination. This is one of the high seasons for tourism in Kenya, and while hotel rates and airline fares are two or three times what they are at other times of the year, these services are still completely sold out.

The long holiday season has also come to be associated with something else – bank fraud attempts. This was first seen with an odd discovery at KCB that customers could only withdraw amounts over Kshs 100,000 (~$965) from their home branch. i.e the branch in the town where the customers first opened an account, got a chequebook, deposited identification documents. This is a relic of banking, that goes back to the days before there was internet and before banks had network systems that connected branches and enabled customers to transact at any branch, in any town or at an ATM, internet, agent, or devices such as an app or mobile phone – unlike at home branches where managers and staff personally knew their customers and extended services to them. The sudden and odd rule was greatly inconveniencing, as it was introduced just ahead of the travel period when people would be traveling far away from their home branches – to other towns and even countries.

Bank staff later said the Kshs 100,000 limit was a temporary rule that had already been rescinded. It had been introduced with no warning at all, but it was apparently aimed at minimizing fraud attempts.

There were customer alerts at other banks too: Barclays  Bank sent a notice for customers not to share their PIN’s with anyone  – “DO NOT share your banking PIN or password with anyone via phone, email, SMS or even in person” – as their staff would never ask for anyone to share their PIN, while Bank of Africa (BoA) informed customers that banking services would be unavailable on the internet and through ATM’s that were not those of BoA.

Also Pesalink which had an advantage of higher transfer amounts than mobile money service providers, sent a notice to customers at  many of the two dozen banks that have the service about a reduction in limits that could be transferred, by almost 2/3 – at one bank, FCB, this went down from Kshs 1 million (~$9,650) per day to Kshs 350,000 (~$3,340), a temporary measure they said that would be restored after December 26, 2017.

Even the revolutionary M-shwari, a partnership between CBA and Safaricom, which just celebrated its fifth anniversary and which was about to roll out segmented pricing as well as fee rebates to customers who repay their loans promptly, had a 48-hour outage and other disruption over Christmas that left a fraction of its customers (17,700 of the 21.1 million customers) temporarily locked out of the savings and loan system.

And it was exactly five years ago that some Standard Chartered customers faced cases of mysterious account debits that the bank had to resolve after that Christmas break.

Will this fraud be an annual holiday practice? To expect reduced services every December to guard against fraud?  To be continued..

Citi’s outlook on Kenya Banking

Citi Bank has been producing some insightful research reports on companies they watch like KCB, Equity and Safaricom for their investment clients.  The latest one (Will it stay or will it go? — Awaiting clarity on the Banking Act) is an outlook on Kenya banking, based on the financial results that all banks released for the third quarter of 2017 which is exactly a year after Kenya’s Parliament passed a law, which the President then signed, that capped all Kenya banking loan rates at a maximum of 14% per year.

Citi’s findings:

  • Despite the Banking Act of 2016, Kenya’s leading banks maintain among the highest margins (8~9% NIMs) and returns (ROTE 20~23%) of any frontier market, coupled with strong capitalization, a stable currency and an improving political environment.
  • While there is little clarity on the future of the Banking Act, we acknowledge that many investors are interested in that “what if?” case if the legislation was to be amended, and hence provide a sensitivity analysis to gauge the upside from changes to the regulatory regime.
  • The Kenya banking sector is fairly concentrated with the top 5 banks controlling just under half of the assets (48%), KCB is the largest bank with a 14% market share, followed by Equity Bank and Cooperative bank with 10% each. A similar story for deposits, with the top 5 banks accounting for 50% of the market, KCB is the largest player with a 15% share, followed by Equity Bank at 11% and Cooperative bank at 10%.

The Citi report notes that KCB who grew loans by 9% in the third quarter despite the interest rate cap has a diverse client base that makes it easier for the bank to navigate the challenging environment. KCB has expressed interested in acquiring smaller banks like National Bank, as it also it pulled back from volatile South Sudan in May 2017, where it only retains a license.

Equity has put brakes on lending, with flat loans growth in the third quarter. The bank’s Equitel is now Kenya’s second largest mobile money platform after Safaricom’s M-Pesa, with 4% of customers and 23% value of transactions. Equitel appeals to customers as it has no internal charges. Meanwhile, mobile loan growth fell in the half year at Equity as the bank tightened lending standards, while KCB’s grew. Still, Equity disbursed 1.6 million mobile loans through Equitel in the first half of 2017.

The Citi report also notes that KCB lags Equity in the digital push, with mobile phones accounting for 70% of transactions at Equity and  57% at KCB. Elsewhere, 86% of all customer transactions at Co-op Bank are done on alternative delivery channels mainly mobile banking, ATMs, internet and agency outlets. Another finding was that the large banks have benefitted from the flight to safety by depositors following the collapse of three smaller banks in 2015-16.

The Citi Report looked at the Kenya banking interest rate caps under three scenarios with the first  being that the caps are extended even further to bank charges. The report mentions that the Kenya banking regulator, the Central Bank (CBK), had rejected 13 out of 16 commercial bank applications to increase charges, all pointing to tough times for banks in a slow loan growth environment. The second scenario was that the interest rate cap remains as is, and the third scenarios was that the caps are loosened by excluding some loan segments which will allow banks to lend at higher rates to riskier segments like SME’s, retail and micro-finance clients. However, Citi finds that the interest rate caps are not going away soon, and they are here to stay, probably for a few years. 

Finally, the Citi report (published on 19 November), rates KCB as a ‘buy’ with a target share price of Kshs 47 (current price on December 8 is Kshs 43), while they are neutral about Equity Bank which they value at Kshs 38.5 per share (current price is Kshs 41) as they think it is fairly valued.