By investing in technology, the largest Kenyan banking group, Kenya Commercial Bank, has managed to hold its rank. Its operational director discuss the main steps that led to this amazing transformation.
2017 was a tough year for Kenyan banks. Since September 2016, a new law has been capping credit rates around 14% (six points below previous averages). Pressure on the margins accentuated by a severe drought and endless general elections. “The eleven banks listed in Kenya recorded an average decline in basic earnings per share of 0.8%, up from 4.4% in 2016,” according to analysts at Cytonn Investments in Nairobi.
In this difficult climate, Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB Group), the country’s largest bank and the East African Community (CEA) with 16 million customers and a balance sheet of 646.7 billion shillings (5.2 billions of euros), has managed to maintain its rank. Its revenues, such as outstanding loans, grew by about 10 percent to 71.4 billion and 422.7 billion shillings, respectively. The group maintained its profit around 19.7 billion shillings.
Pioneer of online banking
At the root of this resilience: the digital gamble decisively taken by this bank in the middle of the decade, by joining forces with Safaricom, the country’s leading telecoms group and the African leader in mobile money. The increase in turnover is due to a remarkable growth (+ 16%) in fees and commissions, which is driven by an exceptional increase in non-banking activity.
KCB now carries out nine transactions out of ten on mobile and the Internet, through the 5,000 merchants who accept its payment solutions and via its 15,000 agents, who carry out transactions for the bank’s customers in parallel with their other activities.
KCB is not alone in adopting the digital banking model. Other pioneers like Equity Bank, the second largest bank in the country, also weathered the shocks of 2017. Foreign banks like Barclays or pan-African Ecobank also launched their mobile solutions in Kenya.
But for KCB, whose origins date back to the nineteenth century, adaptation to the digital model was not obvious. Interviewed by Jeune Afrique at the end of March in Abidjan during the Africa CEO Forum, Samuel Makome, operational director of Kenya Commercial Bank, returned to the stages of this transformation, the strategic choices of the institution and its ambitions for the rest of the continent.
Kenyans using these mobile solutions, can pay a bill, make purchases and get loans using smartphones and regular phones. Today, mobile technology enables financial inclusion. KCB use their digital tools to identify their customers, assess risks and monitor transactions against money laundering and fraud.
An internet banking solution is dedicated to businesses, which allows them to interconnect their payment systems and their solutions with KCB, in order to direct payments to mobile accounts of individuals.