Category Archives: Co-op

Agency Banking in Kenya in 2017

Agency banking which has been around for seven years, is going to see a transformation of branch banking as banks roll out more products to alternative delivery channels.

Agency banking outlets extend banking services in Kenya.

According to Central Bank of Kenya statistics on the distribution of agents, 87% are with 3 banks – Equity Bank with 25,428 agents, Kenya Commercial Bank  with 12,883 and Cooperative Bank with 8,856 agents. Bank customers in Kenya transacted Kshs 734 billion in 2016, up from 442 billion in 2015).
Agents are big and deliver dozens of services that including SACCO transactions, payment of school fees, NHIF, KRA and utility bills – which bank customers can now do from their neighborhoods and which are accessible for longer hours than bank branches. While cash deposits and cash withdrawal are the bulk of the transactions, agents also processed Kshs 14 billion for payments of retirement and social benefits, and another Kshs 6 billion to utilities
Crucially, agents are the link between cash and the mobile banking/online banking worlds.

Last year Co-op reported that their branches did 15% of bank transactions with the rest being done on alternative channels, and yesterday Equity Bank disclosed that, this year, non-branch transactions are  91% of all monetary transactions – which are now happening on self-service and third-party platforms at variable costs – compared to the fixed costs of branches.

Equity is rolling out agency banking in Uganda, and the Central Bank of Kenya has had knowledge exchange partnerships with teams from Tanzania and Malayisa who were studying agency banking in Kenya. Equity CEO James Mwangi also said that Equity Bank agents share between Kshs 3-5 million in commissions every day as he pondered that the bank did not need new staff and could give probably back 70% of the physical space they currently have.  Their next step will be to digitize corporate banking to enable services to be done on alternative channels, the way retail banking has been done.

Interest Cap Impact and Bank Resilience

The end of August marks the deadline for Kenyan banks to publish their unaudited half-year results (January to June 2017). Those of most banks are done and there are some trends, some concerns and some resilience areas seen in what’s been a challenging year for the sector that has for a long time been seen as one that earns super-profits for its shareholders.
The interest rate capping bill was signed last August, and while its initial impact was not fully seen in the 2016 results, one year later these can now be interpreted. The law has had far-reaching impacts on different banks, their performance, operations and strategic directions. Overall, there has been a decline in bank results due to a mix of interest rate caps and digitization, as phones have taken over from branches as the main point for the bulk of customer transactions.
Some observations: 
  • Less traditional banking: there has been a decline in assets as more banks have turned to digitization to cut costs, and increase efficiency. At Equity, deposits were flat between March and June, which also marked the third straight quarter of overall loan declines
  • Lower interest income: e.g. 45% down at Family Bank, plunging it to a half-year loss
  • A buildup of government debt: Equity now has Kshs 105 billion, KCB 100 billion, and Diamond Trust 83 billion.
  • More closure of branches e.g. Barclays, Standard Chartered, Bank of Africa and Ecobank. But it’s not all gloom as some banks like Cooperative and Diamond Trust have announced plans to open new branches.
  • Job cuts have been announced at KCB, Standard Chartered, Barclays, Family Bank, National Bank of Kenya, NIC Bank, Ecobank, Bank of Africa, First Community Bank and Sidian Bank.
  • With nowhere to go, banks are giving money back to shareholders. Some banks have reduced capital, while KCB with profit flat at the half-year will pay a rare interim dividend confirming analysts’ view that some banks will return more capital to shareholders at a time when they have curtailed lending to riskier customers. 
  • Big banks are okay, small ones, not so much:

  • Losses, not profits. E.g. Family and Sidian, went into the red at the half year, despite layoffs and closures, while Ecobank managed to stay above water. These have mainly been attributed to reduced interest income.
  • Declines in loans and deposits at tier ii banks, and T1 equity
  • Mortgage declines: Buy Rent Kenya said that there has been a major drop in the number of mortgage applications over the past year and that those that the cap was meant for are currently the biggest losers as banks are skeptical to give credit to most individuals as they now have numerous terms and conditions that are not easy to meet.
  • Local banks converting debt to equity at Kenya Airways: This has been a reluctant move, with three banks delaying the Ksh 23 billion conversion that will see a consortium of Kenyan banks become the second largest shareholder at the airline.
  • Equity announced they will no longer lend unsecured loans to salaried Kenyans, cutting off a product feature that has brought them great popularity.
  • New business lines:  Banks have looked to other sources of income this year. Co-operative Bank which has net interest income and pre-tax profit that was down 10% in the half-year, received regulatory approval from the Central Bank of Kenya to enter into a joint venture with Super Group, a leading South African leasing company and together they will target major infrastructure projects, government vehicle leasing, oil & gas exploration, and other leasing opportunities. Elsewhere, National Bank entered a partnership with World Remit to allow remittances to be paid directly into bank accounts at NBK, Barclays is funding solar mini-grids in Turkana while Standard Chartered bucked the trend on Equity and will step up unsecured lending. 
  • Non performing loans (NPA’s) are up: At NBK, they are up to 29 billion, half the 57 billion loan book. NBK is awaiting a Kshs 2.9 billion NSSF (shareholder) loan to shore up capital.
  • NPA’s have also gone along with increased provisions e.g. 1.8 billion at Stanbic at the half-year.

Coop Bank 2017 AGM

Cooperative Bank (Coop Bank) shareholders had their 2017 AGM in Nairobi where the directors proposed a Kshs 0.8 per share dividend as well as a bonus share for every five held.

At the AGM, their CEO, G. Muriuki, spoke of continuing the turnaround at the bank which had a Kshs 2.3 billion loss in 2001 when they had 100,000 customers – and on through 2016 when they had Kshs 353 billion of assets, Kshs 18 billion profits, 149 branches, and  6.2 million customers. The cooperative sector remains the heart and identity of the bank, and they will continue to provide services to the sector.  The cooperative movement also forms the anchor shareholding of Coop Bank with a 65% stake.

Most amazing, he said, was the digital transformation at the bank. Some years back, McKinsey had identified 60 services done at their branch that could be decentralized – and now, only 15% of transactions are done at the branch – with customers doing the bulk of transactions on mobile phones, at ATM’s, agents, and on the internet – and this had seen the Bank’s cost/income ratio reduce from 60% to 50%

At the AGM, there was also discussion on some challenges such as court cases & loan provisions, funds at held Chase Bank and hyperinflation in South Sudan which has resulted in losses. Some shareholders also asked if they could have the annual report mailed to them via post offices and also had other queries on issues like diaspora banking services, staff fraud, PesaLink, interim dividends, the bank’s share price, transport fare to attend the AGM, cyber crimes, and interest rate caps. In answering one question, the CEO said Cooperative Bank was not one of the bidders for Chase Bank as they had a presence similar to Chase and would focus on growing organically.

The  CEO also said this year marked the third bonus share issue since the bank had listed in 2008, and this was good for shareholders as the bank had grown its capital without asking shareholders to put in more money.  Coop Bank had a livestream of the AGM for any shareholders who were unable to attend the AGM, and more companies should do this for investors awareness

Caritas MFI Bank Launched

Thursday saw the official launch of the Caritas Microfinance (MFI) Bank in Nairobi. Caritas MFB,  which is owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Nairobi, was licensed by the Central Bank of Kenya in June 2015. It has since mobilized almost Kshs 400 million in deposits and advanced Kshs 250 million of loans.

Caritas plans to go from having two branches, now serving 10,000 customers, to five by year-end and increase its authorized agent network from 16 to 50. Already 70% transactions are done using mobile banking and through a partnership with Cooperative Bank, Caritas customers can use Coop Bank ATM’s and visa cards for purchases and this will enable another potential 100,000 “unbanked and under-banked” members of 200 self-help groups in Nairobi and Kiambu counties to access formal banking services.

MFI’s were excluded from the interest cap law of 2016. Other deposit-taking microfinance bank institutions include Choice, Daraja, Ideal (formerly REMU), Maisha, SMEP, Sumac, U&I, and Uwezo. Larger ones include KWFT and Faulu  as well as the Chase Bank-owned Rafiki MFI that was quite large and growing fast. It is independent of Chase Bank but a lot of its future growth is dependent on the outcome of the Chase receivership.

Fintech Moment in East Africa: AmEx FT Pesalink Bitcoin

Recent events in the fintech (financial technology) payment space in East Africa.

Banks

  • The Kenya Bankers Association (KBA) unveiled Pesalink, a digital payments platform that is expected to cut the cost of transactions and transform the way consumers interact with their banks. Pesalink is a fully owned subsidiary of KBA and it will enable customers to make payments between banks in real-time, around the clock, without having to go through intermediaries. It has been approved at Standard Chartered, Co-Operative, Barclays, Commercial Bank of Africa, I&M, Diamond Trust, Gulf African, Guardian, Victoria, Credit, Prime and Middle East banks…“RT @alykhansatchu: .@HabilOlaka says @KenyaBankers will be targeting payments that exceed M-Pesa’s maximum transaction of ($675)”
  • Cooperative Bank: Is a demonstration that the how banks ar moving in the technology space. Kenya’s 3rd bank has adapted to their customers embrace and they enable more customers to use alternative channels for transactions.  They had a valentines’ week promotion to highlight and encourage customers to use alternative channels such as MCo-op Cash (get a loan straight from ones’ phone  at 1.16%  per month and send money to other MCo-op users for free) or at a Co-op Kwa Jirani agent (deposit cash into someone’s Co-op Account for FREE at a Co-op Kwa Jirani agent) or Co-Op cards.
  • KCB will unveil it’s fintech future – a strategy based on a digital finance  in Q2 of 2017
  • Another is EcoBank which launched a new mobile app which integrates Masterpass QR, a mobile payment solution from MasterCard.  It enables customers to send and receive money instantly across 32 other African countries.

Government

  • National Bank has launched cashlite payment solutions suite for county governments, Ministries, Government Agencies, and Departments. The bank has provided a variety of options for payments including mobile money, smart cards, and e-wallet and cash options, aligned with the continuing growth of mobile technology as well as consumers’ expectations for convenient mobile and online payments.
  • Strathmore University has supplied Busia county government with a revenue collection systems called CountyPro® with which the government hopes to grow revenue by 300%. It caters for all the unstructured county revenue sources including parking, market cess and trailer parking.
  • Mastercard is the technology partner for the Huduma Card in Kenya enabling payments for government services.  It is being issued by Commercial Bank of Africa, Diamond Trust, Equity, and Kenya Commercial banks. Kenyans will be able to pay for an array of enrolled Government services such as the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF), National Social Security Fund (NSSF) amongst others. 

Cards

  • mVisa will soon be in 10 countries as Visa expands its QR payment service for safe and easy mobile payments in emerging markets. It is already live in India, Kenya (started with Family Bank) and Rwanda, and will soon be available to merchants and consumers in Egypt, Ghana, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Vietnam.. (mVisa) allows consumers to use their mobile phones to make cashless purchases at merchant outlets, pay bills remotely and even send money to friends and family members by securely linking their Visa debit, credit or prepaid account to the mVisa application. Also any bank’s mVisa customer – regardless of where they bank – can transact on any mVisa merchant and merchants do not need to invest in POS infrastructure. Visa has partnered with Co-Operative, Family, KCB, and NIC banks.
  • Mastercard commitED to financially include 100,000 Kenyan micro merchants with Masterpass QR, a simple and secure digital payment solution. It will be introduced through various financial institutions. With it, consumers will be able to pay for in-store purchases by scanning the QR (Quick Response) code displayed at the checkout on their smartphones, or by entering a merchant identifier into their feature phones. Masterpass QR is currently being rolled out in Nigeria, Ghana, Rwanda, Uganda, and Tanzania.
  • Safaricom has issued 16,000 Lipa na M-Pesa cards in the pilot phase of a project that will launch later in the year. The Lipa na M-Pesa card uses pin and chip technology…It is also equipped with Near Field Communication (NFC) (which will) increases the speed at which customers make payments.
  • Verve: A dozen Kenya banks have partnered with Verve International, Africa’s leading low-cost payment network provider, in their push towards interconnectivity, cardless transact ability, and digital payments. Verve, best known as a card issuer has more than 32 million Verve cards and virtual/digital tokens issued across Africa and Verve is used in 19 African countries.
  • Pesapal adds American Express ​Pesapal integrated American Express into its payment platform on February 27, and  AmEx card holders can now use their cards to​ ​transact on any online payment portal that uses Pesapal. This is especially useful for hotels and other companies in the East African tourism space.  Pesapal which is in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia and Malawi and plans to expand to Nigeria in 2018 also offers an online booking engine for Hotels called ReservePort that’s used by Serena and Heritage brands.

Remittances

  • Facebook:  Facebook added international money transfers to its chat app. The service comes via London-based startup TransferWise in the form of a Facebook Messenger chatbot and enables transfers to and from the US, Britain, Canada, Australia, and Europe.
  • Bitpesa:  The company introduced an Africa to China corridor enabling users to send payments from Africa, directly to a Chinese bank account using bitcoin.
  • European choice: How much does it cost to send money from Germany to Kenya?@WehliyeMohamed posted that the global average cost for sending $200 in Q3 2016 was 7.42%, and that It cost him 6.7% to send money to Kenya. Then @MkenyaU answered that it costs 1.5% when he sends €200 from Germany and this reduces to 0.6% when he sends €500. He cautioned that some companies charge zero fees but their exchange rates are horrible as he shared a comparison of a dozen services available to send money from Germany to Kenya.

 

Mobile

  • Safaricom Mpesa: 10-year-old M-Pesa had 6 billion transactions in 2016 and is now in 10 countries – Albania, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ghana, India, Kenya, Lesotho, Mozambique, Romania, and Tanzania. A new feature in M-Pesa will enable users to see the cost of transactions. In the initial phase, customers will be notified of the costs after, and in the second phase customers will receive a pop up message informing them of any charges prior to the transactions, while the third phase will see the service being made available to value-added M-PESA financial products including M-Shwari, KCB M-PESA, Okoa Stima and M-Tiba. The second and third phases of the update will be rolled out in coming months.
  • There have been some calls and reports recommending that M-Pesa be split from Safaricom. This could have happened years ago, but it is more difficult now that M-Pesa is an entrenched and central part of Safaricom today.
  • Tala raised over $30 million in Series B financing, led by IVP and joined by Ribbit Capital.   Tala uses smartphone data to build financial identity ..  mobile app for Android aggregates more than 10,000 different data points on a customer’s device, including financial transactions, savings, network diversity, and geographic patterns, and builds a customized credit score, or financial identity. Tala operates in East Africa and Southeast Asia with its main top markets being Kenya and the Philippines. Tala has delivered more than one million loans totaling over $50 million, and more than one million individuals have accessed the product in East Africa alone. See how Tala compares to other (fintech) / phone-lending apps in Kenya.  Forbes termed this the largest Series B raised by a woman founder in recent memory.
  •  Zeep is a smart and simple mobile platform that helps young people (teens) nurture good  financial habits. They ‘learn by doing’ within the framework of a secure financial environment with guidance from their parents.

Companies to watch

Irish Tech News released a list of 38 Kenya fintech companies to watch in 2017; these include Abacus, BitPesa, Branch, Cellulant, Chura, FarmDrive, Kopo Kopo, M-Changa, Pesapal, Tala and Umati.

Summit

The FT Africa Payments Innovation Summit will take place on 29 March 2017..it will bring together 250 business leaders from various mobile and financial interest groups and explore challenges and opportunities inherent in these developments: from providing greater financial access to un-banked people across the continent to providing new services and opportunities for an emerging middle class.