Kenyan banks are reaping big from innovative mobile products and strategic partnerships that are fueling acquisition of new customers and revenue streams even as technology renders some jobs redundant.
Information shared by two of Kenya's largest banks, KCB Group and Equity Group, reveal a rapidly changing landscape in the financial services sector where technology is transforming how customers are accessing and interacting with financial products.
For instance, Equity Group Chief Executive, Dr. James Mwangi, says mobile banking transactions have increased by about 1000 percent to 151 million transactions in 2015 while agency banking went up by 35 percent to 51.3 million transactions.
Meanwhile, ATM Transactions reduced by 6 percent during the period to 30.4 million transactions.
The bank revealed deployment of new technology has seen the bank's staff costs decline by 4 percent as management projects a 5 percent shrinkage in 2016 as service delivery moves away from branches.
"Anybody leaving the bank will not be replaced. We are now retraining existing staff to do SME banking, corporate banking and insurance but we are not retrenching anybody," said Dr. Mwangi, adding this was expected as the bank embarked on an ambitious IT investment that will make more use of mobile platforms.
The firm invested Sh8 billion in Information Technology in the last two years that has seen volumes of transactions on digital channels increase significantly.
At KCB, Chief Executive Joshua Oigara said that mobile and agency banking is driving most of the transaction volumes with about 70 percent of transactions driven by different mobile channels.
"So if you talk about ten transactions what we have in there is mobile and agency banking taking most of the transactions like about 7 of the transactions," Oigara said while announcing the 2015 KCB financial results.
KCB MPESA issues loans worth sh7bn in 10 months
KCB Group and Safaricom's mobile banking product (KCB MPESA) launched in March 2015 has so far exclusively through the mobile platform.
Oigara says 98 percent of the loans are repaid, with 50 percent of the borrowers coming back to borrow more.
"The trend we have seen is that most customers borrow in the morning and return the money in the evening same day despite the loans being offered with a repayment period ranging from one month to six months," Oigara said, citing that a majority of the lending is for loans below Sh5,000.
The loans are at an interest rate of 2 percent per month with credit facilities ranging from Sh50 to Sh1 million sent instantly to their mobile phones.
Equity Group Volume of total loans disbursed on mobile phones reached Sh8.5 billion on account of 1.9 million loans with the total number of mobile loans accounting for 78 percent of all the loans disbursed during the year.
"On a daily basis, we are receiving 50,000 loan applications from Equitel. For those borrowing for a month, we are seeing an average loan of Sh7, 000; those borrowing for three months, we are seeing an average loan of 40,000 and those borrowing up to a year we are seeing an average borrowing of up to Sh120,000 with most of the loans being applied at 5am," Mwangi stated.
Equity Group staff shrinks as 2015 net profit hovers at Sh17bn
Barclays Bank of Kenya is now considering agency banking to mobilize deposits that were flat at 0.2 percent in 2015.
According to Cytonn Investments, with the flat earnings growth BBK has no option but to innovate to the local banking dynamics that includes agency banking and mobile banking.
"We think the unique local banking dynamics, such as agency banking, flexibility, customized solutions and mobile banking will leave BBK with very little room for growth," Cytonn Investments said.
K- Rep Bank Chief Executive Titus Karanja says the bank's focus will be the revitalization of the channel offering through mobile, Internet and agency banking.
The firm is seeking to recruit over 3,000 agents.
However, According to ABC Capital Research Analyst Joshua Otiende, mobile banking does not necessarily pose a serious threat to banking halls because clients still need that personal service from the customer care desks.
"The fact that these platforms are in partnership with the banks is a win, they get to reduce queues at the banking halls (as far as deposits and withdrawals) while improving service delivery to clients," Otiende told Capital FM Business.
A head of agency banking in one of the local financial institutions says they have seen a 65 percent rise in the number of transactions done through their agencies. The bank has also acquired new customers who now have easy access to financial services through the agents.
Kenyans sent over Sh2.146 trillion shillings using mobile money system in 2014, surpassing the Sh1.8 trillion 2014/2015 national budget. According to statistics provided by the Central Bank of Kenya, there were 825 million mobile transactions up to November 2014, compared to 732 million transactions in 2013.
An average of 75 million mobile money transactions were completed 2014, with October having the highest number of transactions at 82 million.