Category Archives: KCB

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.

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. 

Barclays Timiza launched

On Friday, Barclays unveiled Timiza, its virtual banking strategy to extend its growth and services to the mobile space.

It comes after two other banks CBA (through M-Shwari) and KCB have also extended virtual services over Safaricom and M-Pesa to reach millions more digital customers and borrowers.

Timiza is immediately available to all M-Pesa customers (they are 27.8 million) who are either Barclays customers and non-customers. Timiza has a simple registration by dialing *848# or downloading the app from the google store and entering a national ID and phone number and within minutes of creating a new password, one can see their credit limit and start borrowing. The minimum loan amount is Kshs 50, and maximum Kshs 1 million, though it’s really up to 150,000 (~$1,500) depending on one’s credit rating and funds are immediately sent to one’s Timiza wallet (not M-pesa). For demonstration, a loan of Kshs 1,000 (~$10) for 30 days attracts a fee of 1.17% plus a facility fee of 5%, for a repayment of Kshs 1061.67

Besides being an easy and low-interest loan avenue, Timiza also offers a simple current account, savings account, fixed deposit account (term deposits of 1, 3, 6, 12 months – minimum Kshs 1,000. no top-up), group savings accounts, and channels for utility payments. One can also purchase insurance (a whole life cover policy) in the app.

A few months ago when M-Shwari was marking five years since its launch, CBA announced they would have variable pricing for good-repayers and a rebate on fees for people who paid loans within 10 days. These have not been done, but there are hints of such revisions in Timiza

Other Timiza Notes

The Timiza T&C‘s mostly relate to the use of personal information and clauses on resolving disputed. But they also have some interesting things:

  • There are no fees for transfers between Timiza and M-pesa
  • Barclays may suspend a Timiza account and credit if they discover it is being used for fraud or illegal activities, and they may also suspend them if they become aware that a customer is defaulting on other loans.
  • Unique from M-Shwari in that the loans can be rolled-over, and there will be a “roll-over” fee levied. However, the staff at Barclays branches have no authority to alter Timiza agreements. 
  • Timiza users will be eligible  for store finance at Barclays-selected merchants
  • One can select the period for repayment of a loan when applying for a loan  – maximum of 30 days

Barclays has 88 branches which are located in 38 of Kenya’s 47 counties and says they are responding to their customers preference for more mobile and internet banking channels. Barclays targets to get 5 million new customers in the next five years.

$1=Kshs 101

Economic Forecasts from Citi, Barclays, World Bank, Brookings, Oxford

A roundup of recently published economic forecasts, reports, and surveys.   

AfDBThe African Development Bank’s interactive platform, #MapAfrica, maps the locations of the bank’s investments in every country across Africa.   

Also the AfDB launched their 2018 African Economic Outlook report. 

Barclays: In Nairobi this week, Barclays Africa launches the 2017/18 macro-economic report as well as the Africa Financial Markets Index,  which is a survey of 17 African stock markets.

Citi: Citi Research has just published two reports on frontier markets and one on food inflation in AfricaCiti found that frontier markets did better than developed markets and that Kenya did well (36% return on equities) despite the banking interest cap law and the prolonged election season which has now ended.

Citi’s forecasts of top picks for frontier markets in 2018 are Sri Lanka, Romania, and Kenya and they see weaknesses for Argentina, Morocco, and Egypt. The Citi rankings consider six factors: macro growth, macro imbalances, monetary factors, valuations, earnings momentum and price momentum for their forecasts. Citi also ranked five top stock for frontier markets BGEO Group (Georgia), Humansoft (Kuwait), IDH (Egypt), KCB (Kenya) and MHP (Ukraine). For KCB they like the growth profile of corporate and salaried customers from which the bank will grow market its share even if the banking law remains the same.

The Citi forecasts also looked at the Kenyan currency (shilling) which has remained stable relative to other African currencies and how it will continue to do so even with the country’s balance of payments deficits and heightened politics. But they found that one problem with making Kenya predictions is that a significant portion of inflows that offset the current account deficit is classified as other flows, and their timing is not predictable. They assume that the inflows are from the East and Central Africa region that sees Kenya as a safe haven, despite the politics of the second half of 2017. Another finding was that devaluation of currencies have a bigger impact on food inflation in sub-Saharan Africa but Kenya which had drought and food security issues in 2017 is able to draw on food production from its neighbors (Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda) that keeps food inflation in check even though the food trade data is not captured in official statistics.

World Bank: Meanwhile the World Bank is taking heat after one of their economists admitted that the WB “Doing Business” rankings for Chile had been manipulated for political reasons. The Doing Business reports are cited by leaders of several countries such as Kenya, Rwanda, India as indicators of their good performance in office, But this one admission of political interference could trigger fall out as to the credibility of other reports, country economic forecasts, growth statistics, inflation measures and discussions with governments that the World Bank does.

The Oxford Business Group: The Oxford forecasts reviewed the year Kenya in 2017 in which growth was expected to be about 5% (down from an initial forecast of 5.8% for 2017), but still above the sub-Saharan Africa average of 2.7%. It noted the mixed agriculture performance was due to the drought that affected maize, sugar, tea. Also that Kenya’s Supreme Court decision to nullify the presidential election set a good path for the country in 2018 despite the added cost of staging two elections in 2017 affecting the government’s ability to meet budgetary targets and which later resulted in Moody’s considering a downgrade of Kenya’s debt rating.

Brookings: The Brookings forecasts are contained in Foresight Africa, an Africa-focused report  that celebrates Africa’s growth and highlights priorities for the continent. For Kenya, it contains a sum up of the ability of the country to leverage technology and innovation for things like revenue collection and uptake of products and mobile bonds (M-Akiba), M-Tiba, and IFMIS. It mentions that Kenya can balance the impact of special economic zones and infrastructure from China against politics and that the successful launch of the SGR in May 2017 could one day serve Uganda Rwanda, Burundi and even Tanzania South Sudan and Ethiopia. It has special sections on the 2017 Kenya election and the M-Akiba bond (“The KSh 150.04 million (approximately $1.5 million) uptake of the M-Akiba bond was mainly dominated by small investors who invested less than KSh 10,000 (approximately $100)”)

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.