Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Top Kenyan banking stories of 2011

Agency Banking took banking to your neighbourhood as kiosks became a bank - pioneered by Equity Bank, and followed by KCB (Mtaani) and Co-Op (Jirani) - mainly enabling cash deposits and withdrawals. Read more.

Cheque Truncation promised so much in new, more secure cheques, that would take a 1-2 days to clear compared to the current one week (four working days). However the launch was put off by a delay in printing of new cheques at several banks, and when the program rolled out a few months later, cheques resembled the old ones, and still cleared at the same old pace.

Fraud: There was increasing fraud reported as a result of faster, easier, banking through real time gross settlements and mobile banking, and there were more tales of thieves being arrested with dozen’s of skimmed ATM cards -
- so watch your statements every month

Mobile Partnerships: Banks surrendered on making customers use their own platforms for mobile banking, and instead opted to partner with Safaricom's M-pesa. In 2011, there were 8 banks that account holders could move money from their bank accounts to M-pesa and back - and these included large banks like Barclays, Co-Op, Equity and KCB. Also electronic banking is now dead as a premium products, and many of the same banks now have these as a free addition to their customers, saving them from the expense of having to print and mail statements to customers.

Super Profits: Did banks profit from the Central Bank's mismanagement of rates leading to weaker exchange rates? The Central Bank Governor said five banks did, but then refused to say who they were. Parliament continued to push and came up with a list, but could not prove the claims that the banks made super profits at the expense of the shilling.

Executive Suites: Management changes at KCB resulted in top managers leaving the bank - and moving to rivals like Family Bank and Jamii Bora where they cut equity based compensation deals based on performance (modeled after the Co-Op one of a few years ago).

Interest Rate Hike: Late in the year, there was an about turn in the monetary policy - to rescue the Kenya shilling that, and this came in the form of cut back in liquidity. From that, banks drastically raised their loan rates e.g. Mortgages at Equity bank went from 14% to 25% and many banks offered new loans at +30%. To stave off defaults, some banks held their existing loan rates steady, but with extensions of loan maturity periods. The Kenya Banker's Association then proposed other measures (PDF) such as limiting repayment rate hikes, not penalizing early payers and (unlikely) asking banks to absorb costs!

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