Category Archives: Equity Bank

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.

PayPal in Kenya: Part II M-Pesa Links Up

PayPal’s reach in Kenya has now been extended to M-Pesa wallets, allowing users of the service to get payments directly to their mobile phones, thanks to a partnership between Safaricom, PayPal and TransferTo.

Under the new service, qualified M-Pesa customers can link their PayPal accounts to M-Pesa wallets, using an “M-PESA PayPal portal”  that will enable them to buy goods and services using M-Pesa to top up their PayPal accounts and this is expected to benefit international ecommerce and remittances. They can also withdraw cash at 148,000 M-Pesa agents around Kenya. M-Pesa has 27.8 million active customers while Nasdaq-listed PayPal has 227 million and is available in 200 markets, allowing merchants to receive funds in more than 100 currencies and withdraw funds in 56 currencies. TransferTo is a Singapore-based cross-border mobile payments enabler. 

PayPal has officially been in Kenya for almost five years exclusively with Equity Bank, dating back to 2013 when Equity and FNB were the only authorized Paypal partners in Africa. Equity is still the only bank in Kenya that PayPal users can withdraw with and during 2017, Equity reduced the PayPal withdrawal time from 8 days to 3 days. Last week Equity reviewed the cost of getting paid using PayPal to as little as 1% for withdrawal amounts that are over $5,000 (~Kshs 500,000), versus 1.5% for payments below $500 (~Kshs 50,000).

At the Equity Bank 2017 results announcement last month, CEO James Mwangi confirmed that usage of PayPal by Equity Bank customers had overtaken traditional remittance channels of Western Union and MoneyGram. PayPal was used for payments worth Kshs 6.2 billion in 2017 by Equity customers, up from Kshs 3.6 billion the year before, and accounted for 21% of the Kshs 30.2 billion worth of payments with another new service provider, Wave accounting for 52% of the value of transfers.

Bank Rankings 2018 Part 1: Kenya’s Top 10 Banks

2017 was a more challenging year for Kenyan banks, and borrowers due to interest rating capping, elections affecting Kenya’s economy, the crunch in South Sudan, while 2018 will be more interesting with IFRS9. Here is a ranking of Kenya’s top banks, and the rankings are by bank assets as at December 2017 – and compared with the previous years’ rankings (in brackets):

1 (1) KCB: Assets of Kshs 555 billion and a pre-tax profit of Kshs 27. 5 billion. Have 13 million mobile customers, and 57% transactions were done on mobile devices, 15% by bank agents and 10% at bank ATM’s. However, KCB did not roll out a new digital strategy direction in 2017 as earlier announced. Combined group assets were Kshs 646 billion (US$6.4 billion).

2 (2) Equity Bank:  Focused on fee income, transaction processing and treasury business over interest income, and their CEO said micro-lending will only resume after interest rate caps are lifted.

3 (3) Cooperative Bank.

4 (5) Standard Chartered Kenya.

5 (4) Barclays launched Timiza app in 2018 which should enable a big retail banking leap. It will also begin a process of rebranding to Absa.

6 (6) Diamond Trust: Bought Habib bank.

7 (8) Stanbic Bank (formerly CFC Stanbic)

8 (7) Commercial Bank of Africa: Now in five countries after using M-shwari to expand to Ivory Coast and Rwanda – where they recently acquired Crane Bank Rwanda.

9 (10) NIC Bank.

10 (9) Investment & Mortgages (I&M):  Assets of Kshs 184 billion, and pre-tax profits of Kshs 7.5 billion. They have fully absorbed Giro Bank and are now in Kenya Tanzania, Rwanda, and Mauritius. Group assets of Kshs 202 billion (US$ 2 billion)

11 (11) National Bank.

More rankings to follow. 

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.

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.