Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Banking Stories of 2004

1. MOVE: Started in late 2003, this was the smash story of 2004 and winner of numerous banking and marketing awards. MOVE combined flat fee banking with extended hours, and Kenyans tired of frivolous and excessive bank charges (such as 800/page for bank statements) flocked to move. By the end of the year other banks, including giant Standard Chartered, had also embraced the flat fee concept.

2. Interest Rates, which had been low for 2003, and most of 2004, started to creep up late in the year.

3. Personal loans: When interest rates were low, all the major banks with cash rolled out unsecured personal loans to an eager public to finance cars, education, medical, holiday purchases (that typically charged over 20% interest)

4. Housing: Barclays and Standard Chartered and a few others entered the mortgage sector and met with stiff opposition from traditional players, and surprisingly the government itself.

5.Government bonds: As the government started trying to raise interest rates, it found that no Banks wanted to buy their bonds as they awaited higher rates to come.

6.Goldenberg: The boring parts (non-Pattni for the Public) were interesting to Banker’s, and these included testimony on vouchers, forex-c, money transfers, pre-shipment, CD3’s etc. Bankers were pressurized to do the wrong things or look away as Pattni followed his money through the system. This was laid bare by forensic accountant Melville Smith (whom lawyer Pattni later said was not so clean himself) and Prof. Ryan who showed that Goldenberg has little do with gold.

7. Strike averted: An industry-wide strike was averted following yearlong negotiations. Banks had said that they could not afford to pay the 15% raise awarded to employees.

8. Bills, Bills, Bills: Banking, Micro finance, Privatization, Anti-Corruption Bill etc. Some were passed, while some are still pending in a parliament split by party warfare. Banks have stopped waiting, since their effects won’t be felt for a few more years.

9. Equity: This building society has quietly mobilized customers chased away from banks, built up a deposit base of Kshs. 5 billion and has grown to become a major player. Next year, they will convert to a full commercial bank, with plans to expand throughout Kenya, as well as Central Africa, and will be listed on the Nairobi Stock Exchange.

10. Governor becomes a story: While Kenyans enjoyed the low interest rates, Dr. Mullei made a series of questionable decisions (his intention to raise interest rates, his actions that cooled off the Nairobi bond market, and engaging a consulting firm associated with his family to a lucrative contract that duplicated work already done by CBK staff), that forced the previously reclusive Governor to come out before the press and defend his actions.

3 comments:

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BullRider said...
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