Category Archives: Family Finance

Banks that Serve Blackberry Apps

I am a Blackberry (BB) user. It’s been a struggle to keep up with the world as not many new apps are being created or updated for Blackberry.  While the number of BB users has flat-lined, many remain loyal and tied to their devices.

They also appreciate the platform and new apps that improve the phone experience. The app world today is considered to be either Android (Google) or iPhone (apple)  – and developers and institutions are primarily making apps in these two formats only. So it’s nice to see a few banks still coming up working apps for with Blackberry, and the BB10 (platform). Here are a few:

IMG_20160506_203327Chase Bank (Mfukoni): Chase customers always rave about Mfukoni online. But starting the BB10 app starts with a somewhat sinister request for loads of data, even to open and run the app. This includes a request to connect with, and invite other BBM users, location data, shared files, calendar contacts, camera, SMS, email & PIN messages etc. If you decline, you can’t do things like search for branches or ATM’s without enabling location settings.  Once connected, It seems you can open accounts,  view products (youth current, women accounts, etc), request insurance, and ATM cards.  But it has a few dead menus too.

Co-Op (MCo-Op  Cash): From the start, you can log in or do self-registration. You really can’t browse the products, or see how rich the app experience is for customers until you first register. But this is an easy process, that does not require much information – just your name, telephone number,  national ID number, birth date, and your existing account number (if you’re already a Co-op customer).

Family Bank (Pesapap): The app also starts with a request for lots of information like the Mfukoni one. So, once again, it wants to access your camera, device information, location data, microphone, text. email & PIN messages, calendar, and contacts. Later, you can log-in, request for cards, get locations of branches & ATM’s, but while it only took a few MB to install, it sometimes kicks you out, with a warning that your phone needs more memory.

Sidian (Vibe): It’s nimble, light, and not intrusive, with good navigation and responses. It has a  menu that you can jump back to, sending you back to the main menu if you cancel (e.g if you’re checking out a service that requires you be registered / or you don’t have an account).

Self-registration, and signing in is simple, and you only have to enter you user name (usually your mobile phone number) and a PIN. Even from the outside, you get to see a lot of what account holders can do – merchants, ticket sasa, you can search for branches and ATM’s , and they show up on a map, after which you can enter a starting point (in lieu of it pulling your phone location data) and it will give you driving directions, and even traffic information enroute, (Google has activated for Nairobi). It has the crucial m-pesa link (bank account to m-pesa, and m-pesa to bank account) and if you click to contact the bank, one click starts a call to the bank, or creates an email message to the bank.

Bank of Africa (BMobile): Also asks for the voluminous info as some of the other apps, but you can bypass that request. Once you get to the products, the navigation is not very good as the menus are limited, but if you get stuck there’s a home button which takes you right back to the start. It also has a few dead menus like the debit and credit card types.

Funding Youth & Women Enterprises In Kenya

Today, it became news that the government would no longer extends funds to youth and women programs. So far, the government has distributed more than Kshs 10 billion (~$10 million) to youths and Kshs 7 billion (~$70 million) to women.

Chase Bank Youth & Women FundsThe ending was not really new as a previous report released by the Central Bank of Kenya in 2015 noted that “the intention was not for the Government to lend, but to create an incentive for banks to engage with SMEs”.  Chase Bank Youth and Women Funds

Looking at financial results of two banks that had bond issues in 2015, and for which they released detailed information memorandums (IM’s), these show the flat or declining status of the youth and women fund programs. Both Chase, and Family, banks were intermediaries in the incentives by the Youth Enterprise Fund and the Women Enterprise Fund to advance funds to the respective target groups.

Family Bank Youth & Women Funds

That does not mean that the Kenya government has stopped supporting entrepreneurs in the sectors, as there’s now the Access to Government Procurement Opportunities (AGPO) initiative under which the government aims to allow 30% procurement contracts to be given to the youth, women and persons with disability without competition from established firms.

High School Scholarships from Kenyan Banks

The leading indigenous Kenyan banks now have scholarship programs that target bright children who are going into high school.

  • The pioneer of this is Equity Bank, who’s foundation program dubbed Wings To Fly will this year hand out 2,000 scholarships to school children entering high school. They target students with financial needs who scored more than  350 marks in primary school exams whose results were announced last week. The program has helped over 10,000 since inception and students or their families can collect applications from their local bank branches. The support includes fees, pocket money, a pair of shoes each year and participation in a mentorship and leadership program. Also, in 2015, 65 students received overseas university scholarships from the Foundations’ Equity Leaders Program.
  • KCB, through its Foundation, has a scholarship program that will support 240 children from all counties through their secondary schools, and this will include tuition, uniform, books, and mentorship. KCB also has partnerships that support scholarships through the Palmhouse Foundation, Starehe Girls, & Starehe Boys schools, and others that donate books, renovate classes and provide water tanks to schools. The total figure is about Ksh 100 million ($1 million) for 2016. Their research shows that Kenya has one of the most expensive secondary education systems in Africa. Presently, fees for national and county schools range from KSh45,000 to KSh136,000 (~$1,360) year, which is not affordable for many parents.
  • Cooperative Bank is going to award scholarships to 655 children through their Foundation Scholarship Scheme for 2016. 420 will be selected by the bank and 235 will be awarded by county governments in each of the 47 counties in Kenya (at 5 per county).  The bank will also pay for the university education of 130 of the top students in the secondary school examinations.
  • Family Bank has an education program that includes secondary school scholarships and a talent program that gives employment opportunities to top kids after high school.

Mwalimu SACCO acquires 51% of Equatorial Bank

EDIT: Jan 27:  The Government has ordered an inquiry into Mwalimu National Sacco’s bid to acquire Equatorial Commercial Bank. The Commissioner of Co-operatives has appointed an inquiry team report to him following a protest by the Co-operative Alliance of Kenya (CAK) 

Last week, Mwalimu SACCO became  the majority shareholder of Equatorial Commercial Bank (ECB), acquiring  51% of the bank for Kshs 1.6 billion (~$18 million). The acquisition was cleared after no objections were received from the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK), Competition Authority of Kenya (CAK) and Sacco Societies Regulatory Authority (SASRA). There was another objection, but not from any of the regulators, who were aware of the issues raised.

Mwalimu with Kshs 24.5 billion of assets (2013), acquired the stake in ECB,  the country’s 27th  largest bank (Kshs 15 billion) which has been boosted by an earlier merger with Southern Credit Bank.Mwalimu will have three (3) seats on the board of ECB, but the Society is not converting into a bank nor merging with ECB. Due diligence of the financial and legal processes was done by Ernst and Young and Mose & Mose Advocates.

This comes two years after the LAPTrust, a pension scheme and the Kenya Tea Development Agency acquired a combined 22% stake in Family Bank – and LAPTrust estimated their stake was worth 1.6 billion in 2013, just two years after paying a 1/4 of that amount.

Top Kenyan banking stories of 2011

Agency Banking took banking to your neighbourhood as kiosks became a bank – pioneered by Equity Bank, and followed by KCB (Mtaani) and Co-Op (Jirani) – mainly enabling cash deposits and withdrawals. Read more.

Cheque Truncation promised so much in new, more secure cheques, that would take a 1-2 days to clear compared to the current one week (four working days). However the launch was put off by a delay in printing of new cheques at several banks, and when the program rolled out a few months later, cheques resembled the old ones, and still cleared at the same old pace.

Fraud: There was increasing fraud reported as a result of faster, easier, banking through real time gross settlements and mobile banking, and there were more tales of thieves being arrested with dozen’s of skimmed ATM cards –
– so watch your statements every month

Mobile Partnerships: Banks surrendered on making customers use their own platforms for mobile banking, and instead opted to partner with Safaricom’s M-pesa. In 2011, there were 8 banks that account holders could move money from their bank accounts to M-pesa and back – and these included large banks like Barclays, Co-Op, Equity and KCB. Also electronic banking is now dead as a premium products, and many of the same banks now have these as a free addition to their customers, saving them from the expense of having to print and mail statements to customers.

Super Profits: Did banks profit from the Central Bank’s mismanagement of rates leading to weaker exchange rates? The Central Bank Governor said five banks did, but then refused to say who they were. Parliament continued to push and came up with a list, but could not prove the claims that the banks made super profits at the expense of the shilling.

Executive Suites: Management changes at KCB resulted in top managers leaving the bank – and moving to rivals like Family Bank and Jamii Bora where they cut equity based compensation deals based on performance (modeled after the Co-Op one of a few years ago).

Interest Rate Hike: Late in the year, there was an about turn in the monetary policy – to rescue the Kenya shilling that, and this came in the form of cut back in liquidity. From that, banks drastically raised their loan rates e.g. Mortgages at Equity bank went from 14% to 25% and many banks offered new loans at +30%. To stave off defaults, some banks held their existing loan rates steady, but with extensions of loan maturity periods. The Kenya Banker’s Association then proposed other measures (PDF) such as limiting repayment rate hikes, not penalizing early payers and (unlikely) asking banks to absorb costs!