Starting life in 1896 as a branch of the National Bank of India, the Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) is using over a century of experience as the leading bank in East Africa to make a positive and long-lasting contribution to the region. Maintaining a strong presence across the markets it serves, KCB is undergoing a wide-ranging technological transformation which is bringing about in-house efficiencies and delivering appreciable value for its customers. The changes it is currently undergoing are also enabling the Bank to expedite its efforts to include thousands of unbanked citizens across East Africa, as African Business Review explores.
KCB offers a variety of banking and financial services, supporting the various needs of the steadily-growing economic region. Alongside its more traditional loans, mortgages, current accounts, and cards, KCB offers specialised Diaspora, money market, and foreign exchange capabilities. Listed on the Nairobi Stock Exchange (NSE) KCB’s ownership is made up mainly of locals, the Kenyan government (which holds a 17 percent stake), and a small selection of institutional investors from the US and Europe.
Eager to capitalise on the increasingly widespread use of mobile telephones on the continent, the Bank has formed a variety of partnerships with major telcos and service providers in order to leave its mark on the growing FinTech and mobile banking markets. Its M-Benki account is particularly notable for offering customers the ability to conduct all of their banking online via a mobile device.
KCB represents the largest banking network in Kenya; last year it recorded 250 ATMs in the country, supporting __ branches and ___ customers. Its seven million account holders are spread across branches in Burundi, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda via nationally-focused companies making up the KCB Group.
KCB’s Group CIO Avi Mitra explains that the company operates a pragmatic growth strategy: “We are always looking at opportunities to grow, either through partnerships or organically. We are open to partnering with larger organisations who have a similar growth strategy.”
Recognising that its capabilities and operational reach are vast, KCB has used its scope in order to include an unprecedented amount of East Africans into its financial services portfolio using microfinance.
“With our microloans, we added about five million customers in nine months – most of these are people that have never had a bank account. One of the major steps we are taking is to partner with the MasterCard Foundation to increase this financial inclusion. In this period we loaned out about $90 million, for loans that ranged from about half a dollar all the way up to $10,000,” says Mitra.
KCB is confident that technological innovation will be mutually beneficial for both the business and its customers, and is backing this up with serious monetary investment – it has spent $25 million over the past two years on modernising legacy systems. Keen to quickly modernise, the Bank went to the cloud: “We got rid of almost 95 percent of our client-server environment and moved to the cloud. This has brought better efficiency, uptime, as well as agility towards time to market – it has impacted in a very positive way,” Mitra says.
As a CIO, Mitra explains, it is impossible to ignore the Internet of Things – a trend which he firmly believes will be the next key disruptor in the digital world. As an organisation, KCB is keen to learn what the current market has to offer and how, in the not so distant future, money transfer is going to transform and disrupt the banking industry.
Aware of the ever-shifting nature of the FinTech space, Mitra explains that KCB’s products are designed with adaptability in mind: “We add many features which were not in the plan, so we are constantly maturing that product. We'll be adding more features to that product in terms of savings, insurance and payments. Then it will become a value-add for customers and the incentive to stay with KCB will improve.”
He concludes: “My strategy is to move more into digital world of FinTech. I'm trying to move the bank towards this and at the same time become much more agile in serving the customers. I want to un-shell the legacy behaviour and the previous company DNA. We are going to be a more agile and forward-thinking, digitally-driven bank.”