Category Archives: bank service

5 Kenyan banking stories of 2022 and 2023

2022 in Review 

1. Credit reference shake-up: A failure of banks to carry out proper credit education and to convey the benefits of good repayment to customers, through lower interest rates, caught up with them. This was combined with a tendency to blacklist defaulters at the earliest instance to punish them – and became an issue at political campaigns ahead of the August 2022 election.

The new government set in motion a plan to clear over 4 million borrowers from credit reference bureau blacklists This was in part a 50% waiver on their debt and a window of six months for borrowers to pay the balance of the amount. At the Absa Q3 results briefing, management of the bank explained that there would be no immediate impact as these were loans of people who got stuck in 2020 (during the Covid-19 disruption) that had already been fully provided for

2. CEO suite changes: At Absa Bank Kenya, MD Jeremy Awori left after nine years. He later joined Ecobank Transnational Incorporated, the parent of the Ecobank Group, as the Group CEO replacing Ade Ayeyemi, who retired after attaining the age of 60. Absa Kenya then picked its Chief Financial Officer Yusuf Omari to take over as interim CEO  as  Moses Muthui was made the interim CFO. 

At KCB Joshua Oigara left after nine years and later in the year joined the Standard Bank group as the CEO of Stanbic Kenya and South Sudan, after Charles Mudiwa retired after two decades. KCB appointed Paul Russo, who was MD of their National Bank subsidiary as the new KCB Group Chief Executive Officer. Following that, KCB now has Anastacia Kimtai as the acting KCB Kenya MD and Peter Kioko as the acting MD of National Bank of Kenya

At the I&M Group, the CEO of I&M Bank Kenya Kihara Maina moved on to be the group’s regional CEO, taking over from Chris Low, and the new Kenya MD is Gul Khan who joined from Airtel Money Africa. 

Cooperative and Diamond Trust and Equity banks still retain their long-serving leadership though, at Equity, Polycarp Igathe stepped down as Chief Commercial Officer to contest for the Nairobi Governor seat in the August 2022 elections. edit And from Mwango Capital, we learn of more leadership changes at banks with Sam Muturi joining as Consolidated Bank’s new CEO and Anuj Mediratta as CEO of Gulf African Bank with Helen Chepkwony as the acting CEO of the Kenya Deposit Insurance Corporation (KDIC). Also, Shelter Afrique had another executive change with Thierno-Habib Hann stepping in as the new MD/CEO, replacing Kingsley Muwowo, the CFO, who had been the interim boss. Another change saw Rose Kagucia become the Acting CEO/Managing Director at Dubai Islamic Bank, replacing Peter Makau.

3. Capital raising and arranged marriages: Banks set out to raise new capital in different ways. Larger banks with foreign links like Absa can attract Tier II funding at low rates (of about 3%) which is lower than the cost of deposits or the bond markets (about 9%). Smaller banks arranged sales like Spire to Equity and Sidian to Access while deposit-taking microfinance banks found fintech partners. Key Microfinance is now LOLC Kenya, UMBA, a Delaware fintech bought 66% of Daraja Microfinance Bank, Century Microfinance became Branch Microfinance Bank and Uwezo Microfinance is now Salaam Microfinance Bank. 

4. Green finance is in: Banks report on it and the Kenya Bankers Association published sustainable finance guidelines and principles for banks to align their processes and products (including loans) and the Central Bank has guidelines on climate risk management. Banks are now attracting “green finance” and touting their green credentials joining new green alliances and measuring their activities such as tree planting and reducing their carbon footprints. 

5. Resurgence of the bank branch” Co-Op, Diamond Trust, Family, and NCBA bucked the branch closure trend to show that digital growth needs a physical presence to support it. 

Outlook for 2023

1. Go Big in Ethiopia: Following Safaricom’s big entry into Ethiopia, will banks now follow into the next big African market African after DRC that has delivered big for Equity? Kenyan bank support new partners of the telco that can lead to other businesses in the country that need to unlock financing – and take on the local giant Commercial Bank of Ethiopia (27th largest in Africa), which is not growing its assets now with currency restrictions and a prolonged war. The entry path for foreign banks is now set and KCB, Equity and Stanbic are among the dozen foreign bank that have had representative offices in the country for a few years.

2. Will digital bank customers stick around? January 1 sees a return of several bank charges that were waived in March 2020 at the start of the Covid-19 wave to enable bank customers to make digital and contactless payments. Many tried out digital services offered by their banks for the first time as they were now free of charge. Non-funded income is key for bank profits, but it will be seen how the return of bank and mobile payments/transfer charges will be received by customers are different banks. In this economy, customers are more cost-conscious than ever, especially with the government tax on every bank transaction going up to 20% in 2023.  

3. New savings and investment products that target diaspora, retail and unbanked customers. While lending to the “hustler” economy is well-documented, digital wealth creation and preservation products are still lagging.

Ahead of the much-anticipated IPO’s to come to the Nairobi Securities Exchange, EFG Hermes has invested in a platform for retail investors and this week Acorn got approval for Vuka, a platform for retail investors to into REIT’s.

4. African banks get serious about Nairobi: Access (17th largest in Africa) Ecobank (18) and UBA (25) have all had relatively small footprints in Kenya but now have a chance to grow. Across Africa, there are changes in the banking hierarchy with the largest bank group by asset size for decades, Standard Bank of South Africa with a sluggish home economy about to be passed by the National Bank of Egypt 166 billion, as Egypt Bank Misr has also passed SA’s Absa group to be number six on the continent. You can also expect a resurgence in West Africa, into East, perhaps by buying more banks, as Access is with its second bank deal (for Sidian) to leap up the Kenya asset ranks which are led by Equity (37th in Africa) and KCB (40). edit. However, in January 2023, Centum Investments cancelled the agreement to sell its 83.4% stake in Sidian Bank to Access Bank.

5. The year is expected to usher in a new regime at the Central Bank of Kenya with a new Governor, Deputy (2 positions) and Chairman by June 2023. The current cabinet Secretary of the National Treasury (i.e. the Finance Minister) is himself a former CBK governor. 

KBA documenting the History of Kenyan Banking

This month, the Kenya Banker’s Association (KBA), the umbrella and advocacy group for the banking industry is celebrating its 59th anniversary. One of its recent projects has been to document the history of banking in the country. This stretches back to 1896 when the National Bank of India, which later evolved into KCB, opened a branch at Mombasa.

The KBA’s Banking History website and documentary project has a timeline of different banking eras. Key moments over the last 125 years include the banking growth that followed the Uganda railway, developing local regulation after Kenya’s independence, the Africanisation and the indigenous banks push in the 1970s. Others are surviving bank collapses in the ’80s and ’90s, interest rate controls and recent banking responses to Covid-19.

Key throughout has been the embrace of technology from the late 1960s, on through computerization and on to the mobile phone era of the 2010s. Along with tracing banking trends like increasing financial inclusion and developing products for informal and small businesses, the KBA timeline also highlights how banks are anticipating, building skills and preparing for the next age of banking. This is expected to revolve around competition with global fintechs, digitization of all customer processes, and embracing financial sustainability principles.

Absa Kenya launches Asset Management

Absa Bank Kenya has rolled out an asset management subsidiary following approval from Kenyan regulators to expand its century-old business of offering financial services in the country. 

Following approval by both the Capital Markets Authority (CMA) and the Retirement Benefits Authority (RBA), Absa Asset Management will offer advice and products for customers to invest in listed shares, treasury bonds, corporate bonds, private equity, property, offshore and other investment classes.

Anthony Mwithiga, the CEO of the new Absa Asset Management unit, said they would offer fund and investment management for institutions, such as pension schemes, retail solutions for the mass market, and bespoke or personalized services for high-net-worth individuals.

The retail solution will offer investment opportunities through five different unit trusts being, a money market fund for Kenya shillings or US dollars, a bond one, a balanced fund, and an equities fund that people can subscribe to for as little as Kshs 1,000. All the classes will benefit from the data-driven insights, investment professional advice and risk management of Absa that is guided by three pillars of value growth, income generation and value preservation.

The CEO of the RBA Nzomo Mutuku said that that investment management, now with Kshs 1.4 trillion of assets under management, still has great potential to grow and that the performance of these investments is what drives pension benefits in Kenya, not pension contributions.

He said that being diverse had sustained growth even during Covid-19. While there has been a decline in interest for corporate bonds, private equity has gone up (from 0.07% to 0.12% as a share of portfolios) and good returns had also been got from ETF‘s that are about to get a boost from a new class for fixed income, and REIT‘s from new tax laws. He added that, when the shilling depreciates, offshore investments deliver good performance. Another new class is now infrastructure in which funds can invest 10% of assets and they are waiting to see which Public-private-partnership (PPP) projects come online.

Bank Clerk in the Kenya Colony

In April 1923, the East African Standard, ran an anonymous blog-like column by a bank clerk in the Kenya Colony. He narrates how he wakes up slowly, is brought tea by his servant Juma (which means Friday), then is brought his bath, of which there are two types, before he goes to work.

Excerpts:

“… and then on to the business of the day. Monotonous life? don’t you believe it! I doubt whether a bank clerk’s life is ever really monotonous as some make it.

In Kenya, it certainly is not as our customers are so varied. One minute, a newly-retired colonel of the Indian army, moustache and all. Next, a retired lieutenant commander from the Navy who perhaps goes one further and sports a beaver. Then one of the boys – Navy, Army or Air force for the duration, now farming. Then a lady farmer, charming, even wearing breeches. Government officials and visitors.

In they come, day after day. Monotonous? Never. All as different as chalk from cheese except in two respects; they are all jolly good sorts and they all want overdrafts.

It’s all very well to be light-hearted about it but I am afraid that we often miss the gleam of bitter sadness which lies behind it all. Kenya is a young colony and fortunes cannot be made in a day. There are as many who failed to grasp this. They come out here with family and little else. The wife is still here, the family perhaps has increased but an ominous overdraft and a mortgage form have taken the place of the little ones.”

The day ends with sundowner drinks and an early night, to be repeated all over again.

Which way the bank branch?

This month saw Family Bank open a branch in Eastleigh, its 92nd in the country. Family is one of the pioneers of paperless branches and had opened another branch in December near the large Wangige market to serve traders. Eastleigh is an important cog of Kenyan supply chains and is estimated to have the second-highest density of traders, second only to the Nairobi CBD. Despite advances in mobile transfers, small traders are still heavy users of cash for transactions.

Then today Diamond Trust announced the consolidation of six branches that are adjacent to each other: Oval and 9 West (both to Westgate), Eastleigh to Madina Mall, Garden City to TRM mall, Jamhuri Street (to Malindi) and Kago Street (to Eldoret). The bank asked customers to continue using alternative channels while staff will be redeployed to other branches and business units.

We can probably expect to see more branch consolidations or closures as two groups KCB-NBK and NCBA (CBA & NIC) continue to refine their new operating structures. CBA and NIC did some closures last year.

When KCB announced their third-quarter 2020 results, they shared some interesting details about branches and the march to digital. KCB branches did 2% of transactions in Q3 2020 compared to 5% the previous year. Also, there was a 16% decline in transactions done per day by branch tellers from 60 to 50, while customers did 43% fewer transactions (5.8 million compared to 10.2 million) than in the previous year. KCB customers did 77% of their financial transactions on mobile phones, 17% at agents / internet / point of sale (cards), and 4% at ATM’s. More ATM’s now accept cheque deposits, not just cash, and also act as 24-hour M-Pesa agents.

The Central Bank of Kenya’s Supervision Report for 2019 shows KCB with 203 branches, followed by Equity with 171 (and 12 sub-branches), Co-op Bank 152, Absa 107, Family had 92 in 2019, NBK 78, and Diamond Trust 70. Between 2018 and 2019 there was a drop of 16 branches from 1,505 to 1,490 with 7 of them in Nairobi that ended 2019 with 593.  NCBA has 37 branches but serves the largest number of bank customers in Kenya by far, 31 million thanks to M-Shwari, its partnership with Safaricom.

Outside the country, there is growth as Kenyan banks operate 316 branches in the region, up from 207. They are led by Equity that has 44 in DRC and 39 in Uganda,  Equity has a total of 116, followed by Diamond Trust with 68 (36 in Uganda, 28 in Tanzania, 4 in Burundi)  and KCB with 60.

During Covid-19, foot traffic has reduced at malls, offices shopping centres and bank branches. This has also been due to the growth of online shopping that has taken off exponentially, and many facilities now have dedicated desk and parking spaces for motorcycle delivery riders.

No sign yet of banks moving to share branch spaces with each other but there is less need for banks to be on the ground floor of buildings, which is usually more costly. Also, shopping malls tend to have a banking floor (top of Garden City mall) or ATM corner where several bank services are grouped.