Writer: Emily Jarvis
Project Manager: Nick Norris
KCB Group Limited is moving away from the traditional banking formula in a bid to engage with the region’s youthful population and bring simple mobile banking and financial inclusion services to the customer’s fingertips.
Driven by the accelerating popularity of mobile money – and subsequent financial inclusion services to simplify both short-term borrowing and long-term savings – KCB has been at the epicentre of entrepreneurship and economic expansion in Kenya and the surrounding regions for the past 120 years; with units across Tanzania, South Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Ethiopia. With an industry-leading asset base of US$5.6 billion across the KCB Group, the Company continues to align its digital strategy with global best practices across all its subsidiaries and associate companies; including KCB Insurance Agency, KCB Capital, KCB Foundation.
“According to 2015 statistics, more than 50 percent of Kenya’s population are under 25,” writes Joshua Oigara, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of KCB Group. “With this in mind, we have focused on the youth and tailored our services to remain relevant in an environment where customers want more control over their finances and more accessibility; all achieved through the use of technology.”
Enabling customers to access their account and transact on-the-go, the KCB App is now among the best performing apps in the country today, having been downloaded 100,000 times since 2014.
Digital future – together
Fashioning its products and services around the latest technology as part of a wider digital strategy, KCB has built the largest network in East Africa; comprised of more than 260 branches, 962 ATMs and 12,000 customer service agents all culminating together to form a 24-seven connected banking service.
“The Bank believes that the future of financial services lies in digital and investment in this area has been continual to complement the traditional brick and mortar model that was, in yesteryears, the hallmark of banking,” Oigara adds.
In line with this belief, KCB has invested in upgrades to its IT platform to bolster its core banking system and enhance service delivery to customers. “We have placed a concerted focus on improving operational efficiencies within the shared services while exploiting our branch network to enhance service excellence,” says Oigara. “Demand for financial services has been rising over time, so the technology upgrades are helping us to increase our reliability and reduce downtime.”
KCB is not going into this digital future alone. It is leveraging a wide network of correspondent relationships with more than 200 banks across the world to support its value-creation business model, which requires input from a whole host of financial expertise.
“We believe that partnerships are the next frontier for business growth as we seek to develop and provide solutions bent on transforming the lives of all the people we come into contact with across all markets. KCB Group is a regional lender that thinks globally, but acts locally. In Kenya for example, we have partnered with the Government of Kenya to aid in the construction of roads, Safaricom the leading telecom Company in the region for mobile banking services, and USAID and GE to provide health financing across the country,” the CEO further explains.
Building a strong heritage by deepening financial inclusion for the people and businesses in East Africa, KCB has no doubt been a vital catalyst and advocate for the region’s digital transformation. Central to this achievement is its dedicated workforce, cited as “the most important arsenal for growth in the increasingly competitive business environment,” by Oigara. He says: “In 2015, the results of the training needs assessment survey conducted across the Group resulted in the creation of a five-pillar staff development strategy that focuses on multilevel leadership development; a branch managers’ development programme; staff career development programme; role competency framework library and staff on-boarding programme.
“By continually updating our existing business processes and analysing our training needs on an annual basis, we are able to embed sustainability in everything that we do.”
This philosophy of sustainability is further compounded by the KCB Foundation’s social and economic development activities. “This is how we demonstrate KCB’s understanding of the challenging environment that its stakeholders operate in and the Company’s strategic capacity to address these issues,” Oigara highlights. “It also highlights an increasing recognition by the Bank that societal challenges also create business opportunities. One of our major projects in this regard has been the ‘Mifugo ni Mali’ which was launched in 2014. This is a value chain development programme that seeks to improve the incomes and livelihoods of small-hold livestock farmers, namely through market organisation via cooperatives/collectives; support for farm-owned enterprises to address productivity; nutrition and husbandry challenges; and the provision of appropriate financial services and facilitation of access to markets. So far, we’ve managed to reach 30,000 farmers and grow membership participating cooperatives with an average increase of 40 percent.”
Adding to this is the US$500 million ‘2jiajiri’ programme which was launched in 2015 to equip Kenya’s youth with entrepreneurial training and essential business skills. Since it began, more than 1,600 youths have successfully graduated with capabilities that will see them venture into entrepreneurship and, as the CEO puts it, “curbing the monster of unemployment” that affects a high percentage of the population.
As the biggest lender in terms of both asset and profitability in Kenya, KCB remains committed to guaranteeing stability and renewing confidence in the financial sector. “Guided by our vision and mission, we hope to be present in 10 markets by 2020, while continuing to strengthen our existing businesses and keeping abreast of global industry trends,” says Oigara. “Banks play a vital role in any economy. In Kenya, there are several positive developments in banking that have been celebrated and will remain talking points in the industry for years to come; including progress towards the Vision 2030 financial inclusion goal, introduction of enhanced pricing transparency, promotion of SME finance and enabling access to credit at micro level.”
He concludes: “As a Banking Group, we support the consolidation efforts in the banking sector which we believe will enable Kenya to have strong, well-capitalised financial institutions which are not only able to participate in financing the large projects envisaged in the vision, but that can withstand financial shocks and crises. Going forward, we will continue to support enhanced supervision in the banking sector as well as enriched governance frameworks in the industry to bolster confidence.”