11 July 2018

Kenya: Barclays Sees New Opportunities After UK Parent Divorce

Barclays Bank of Kenya (BBK) sees separation with its London parent as an opportunity to embrace new business lines that it previously avoided due to regulatory restrictions of the multinational group.

Barclays Kenya CEO Jeremy Awori said the decision by Barclays PLC to cut its stake in Barclays Africa, which rebranded to Absa Group on Wednesday, gives BBK more flexibility to try out new products that resonate with the local market.

"We are excited because it is a new beginning and we are no longer restrained by the things Barclays PLC had designed at global level. It is allowing us to take control of our own destiny," said Mr Awori.

"Part of the challenge under the multinational was that people in London could not understand customer prepositions like mobile money. It took us a while to convince them because it does not exist in developed markets."

In mid-March, BBK launched Timiza app, a digital banking platform, long after tier I peers such as KCB and Equity had made inroads in this area.

Donning a red T-shirt, the brand colour of Absa Group, with the label 'Brave, Passionate, Ready,' Mr Awori at a press briefing said that the absence of a "UK leg" to report to will now improve the speed of decision-making and service delivery in existing and new products.

"We want to grow and capture more market share. We want to introduce new products to the market as we eye five million new customers by 2020," he said.

He said that before Barclays PLC sold down its stake to 14.9 per cent, it was not easy to play into areas such as small and mid-sized enterprises (SME), real estate and agribusiness lending as well as asset financing.

The bank says that it has now localised many of its credit decisions that traditionally used to trickle down from London, slowing down decision making and locking it out of emerging areas such as digital lending.

Mr Awori ruled out name change to Absa Kenya this year, saying that the lender wants to ensure customers are well prepared and that it covers enough legroom in regulatory requirements before rebranding alongside other Absa Group units.

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