Category Archives: microfinance

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

Kenya law review to boost microfinance banks

The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) has published a consultative paper on a review of the country’s microfinance bank laws. It notes that since the first microfinance bank (MFB) was licensed in May 2009 (which was Faulu), the number of licensed MFB’s in the microfinance industry space has increased to thirteen – including Faulu Kenya MFB, Kenya Women MFB, SMEP MFB, REMU MFB, Rafiki MFB, Century MFB, SUMAC MFB, Caritas MFB, Maisha MFB, Uwezo MFB and U&I MFB, with two more – Daraja MFB and Choice MFB – being community-based MFBs.

The thirteen  MFB’s had a total of 114 branches as at December 2017 but there was a drop in performance as their assets declined by 4.6% to Kshs 69 billion at the end of 2017,  with their loans and deposits also taking a dip between 2016 and 2017. The last three years have also seen a decline in their profitability (overall profit of Kshs 549 million in 2015, followed by a loss of KShs 377 million in 2016 and a steeper one of Kshs 731 million in 2017) with the 2017 loss attributed to a reduction in financial income.

CBK found that microfinance banks face various challenges including; they need better governance & structures, have inadequate capital & liquidity, face increased credit risk & non-performing loans, are reliant on deposits & expensive borrowings, and face more impact  from fintech company innovations, and Kenya’s interest rate caps law (2016) as well as IFRS9.

CBK has made proposals for microfinance banks including improving their corporate governance (through vetting, setting duties & tenure of the board of directors and having more independent directors), having a single license for MFB’s (no more national or community distinctions), increasing the minimum capital for existing and new MFB’s, and vetting of MFB shareholders. Other proposals are around risk classification which will shift from the current assumption that loans are repaid weekly, to the reality that they are repaid monthly, and that microfinance loans now have a longer-term outlook

Members of the public are invited to give views by March 15 (email: and these will be incorporated into a microfinance amendment bill (2018) that will later go to Kenya’s Parliament around June this year.

$1 = Kshs 101

Safaricom & CBA Launch M-Shwari

This week saw the launch of what is likely to be a revolutionary mobile phone product called M-Shwari. It comes from two long-term partners; Kenyan mobile company Safaricom, well known for its world-famous  mobile money product – M-Pesa, and a local bank, the Commercial Bank of Africa (CBA) who have been custodians of M-Pesa funds for years.

In its current evolution, with a maximum loan limit of Kshs 20,000 (~$235), this is not a banking product that will threaten the banking fraternity – for now.  What it will impact are the savings and credit societies (SACCO’s) and shylocks who people turn to for payday (month-end in Kenya) and emergency loans. With M-Shwari, they can apply for loans on their phones, repay by phone, get a statement by phone and won’t have to get 2 or 3 guarantors (SACCO) or exchange an electronic item or vital document like a logbook (Shylock) to get it. But like with SACCO emergency loans, the terms are strict and not cheap. You can only take one M-Shwari loan at a time, and one has to be paid before another one can be taken up.

In the five years since M-Pesa was introduced in Kenya, banks have gone from fighting mobile phones intruding on their financial turf to fully embracing the convenience. About a dozen banks, now integrate their bank platforms with M-Pesa, a partnership between Equity Bank and Safaricom got over 700,000 accounts in its first year, and two months ago, Nation Hela was launched by the Nation Media Group and Diamond Trust Bank to bridge remittances in the Diaspora to debit cards and mobile phones.

But, when (then) Safaricom CEO, Michael Joseph spoke at a  Fireside Chat at the iHub in 2010, he had a warning to banks, saying that retail banking will disappear in 10 years time. Customers will not go there (to brick & mortar branches) except for loans, as ordinary banking will be on (the) mobile phone whose convenience is unprecedented.

Other M-Shwari Notes
  • The 7.5% charge per loan looks simple but can be astronomical for a repeat M-Shwari borrower. However, such a person is probably already serial borrower elsewhere without accumulating any savings.
  • In terms of default protection, the loans are self-securing in that for each loan, an equivalent amount of a person’s savings in the phone are frozen until the loan is repaid. Also, with five years of M-Pesa data, it’s unlikely that people will default on an easy product.
  • The M-Shwari brochure states that borrowing will be based on these savings and past usage. The M-Shwari T&C go quite a way to exclude CBA from dealing with the customers whose savings and loans they are handling by stating that no M-Shwari services will be performed at any CBA branches.
  • A side story to this is the amazing ability of the two institutions and the several government regulators to keep a secret going for several years.

Kenya Bank Rankings 2010: Final Word

From the earlier estimates now there’s a complete list of the published accounts for all commercial banks as at December 31 2010.

1 (1) KCB: Assets of Kshs 223024 ($2.69 billion) [pre-tax profit of Kshs. 11.53 billion ($139 million)]
2 (2) Barclays
3 (4) Cooperative
4 (3) Standard Chartered
5 (6) Equity
6 (5) CFC Stanbic
7 (7) Commercial Bank of Africa needs to raise capital?
8 (14) Investment & Mortgages overhauls Citibank, National Bank, Diamond Trust and NIC
9 (9) Citibank
10 (8) National Bank of Kenya
11 (10) Diamond Trust
12 (11) NIC
13 (13) Prime Bank
14 (14) Baroda
15 (15) Housing Finance
16 (19) Ecobank
17 (16) Bank of Africa
18 (21) Chase
19 (20) Family Bank
20 (17) India
21 (18) Imperial
22 (–) Kenya Women Finance Trust (DTM) new deposit taking micro-financed [assets of Kshs 18.9 billion and pre tax profit of Kshs 464 million ]
23 (22) Fina Bank
24(24) Development Bank of Kenya
25 (29) Consolidated
26 (34) Equatorial (acquired Southern Credit)
27 (23) ABC
28 (28) Giro
29 (25) Gulf African (Kenya’s first Sharia bank breaks even in third year)
30 (31) Fidelity
31 (26) Habib AG Zurich
32 (30) Guardian
33 (27) K-Rep
34 (34) First Community Bank
35 (32) Victoria
36 (33) Habib Bank
37 (38) Transnational
38 (41) Oriental (boosted by other income)
39 (37) Credit
40 (40) Paramount
41 (36) Faulu Kenya: (new deposit taking micro-finance institution) [assets of 4.3.9 billion and pre tax loss of Kshs 164 million ]
42 (39) Middle East
43(43) UBA: slow start in Kenya, but finally started lending
44 (42) Dubai Bank
45 (44) Jamii Bora: formerly city finance bank, and was acquired by microfinance company Jamii)

Kenya’s Top Banks

as at June 2010

Bank Assets Pre-Tax-Profit
1. Barclays Kshs 173 billion ($2.16 billion), profit of Kshs 4.75 billion ($59.3 million)
2. KCB assets of Kshs 207 billion ($2.59 billion), profits of Kshs 4.34 billion ($54 million)
3. Equity 117,578 4,282
4. Standard Chartered 131,348 4,037
5. Cooperative 133,322 2,848
6. Diamond Trust 54,109 1,508
7. Citibank Kenya 63,812 1,499
8. Commercial Bank of Africa 60,229 1,465
9 Investment & Mortgages 56,630 1,239
10. National Bank of Kenya assets of 59,390 million ($742 million) and profits of Kshs 1,200 ($15 million) – then CFCStanbic (falling out of the top 10), NIC, Baroda, Imperial, and Bank of India.

Notes– KCB is the largest bank (and group) but is less profitable than Barclays which is the most profitable bank
– Equity may be the most profitable bank by next year: Five years ago (2006) they had 1/6 (Kshs 500m) of Barclays profits (Kshs 3 billion), now mid-way into 2010, they are the country’s 5th largest in assets, and 3rd in profits – and are about 7X large by both measures compared to five years ago, while KCB is 1.5X larger and Barclays is 0.5X larger than it was in 2006.
– Equity is perceived better in market terms than KCB though its half its size and has the same profits this year.

Changes since last year
– Credit sharing between banks is now being enforced
– Anti-money laundering law now in effect
– The Government of Kenya has set out to raise Kshs 31 billion ($388 million for infrastructure projects; Kenyan banks currently have almost half as much money invested in government securities as they do with loans to customers
– The new constitution passed this month means we will have currency without the face of a president (virtually all existing currency bear the portraits of Kenya’s past presidents)

– Equity and several other Kenyan banks have decided to embrace and work with M-Pesa and other mobile money channels instead of fighting them
– Micro-finance institutions (MFI’s) are stepping up into the commercial banking sphere

Incoming banks (all of which have micro-finance origins)
– Faulu Kenya
– Jamii Bora (formerly City Finance)

Gone banks
– Southern Credit (bought by Equatorial)
– S&L (absorbed into KCB)