Responding effectively to the needs of its customers, bank remains faithful to its mandate despite facing stiff competition in the market
By George Gichuki
Founded over a century ago (to be precise in 1910) Postbank is a household brand in Kenya. It has a very rich heritage. The giant bank has weathered great storms over the years in the course of executing its mandate – mobilizing savings for Kenya’s socio-economic development. The objective of this noble (albeit challenging) mandate is to inculcate a savings culture among Kenyans from all walks of life. To that end, Postbank has developed an array of innovative products. This mandate is also in line with Vision 2030 – Kenya’s economic development blueprint. One of its aims is to have: ‘A vibrant and globally competitive financial sector driving high levels of savings to finance Kenya’s investment needs.’
Mobilizing savings both at the micro and macro levels is fundamental for any country that is keen on attaining its socio-economic development goals. “Most of the developed countries use their domestic savings to finance their budgets – for instance social infrastructure developments like schools, hospitals and low cost housing,” says Mr. Raphael Lekolool, Managing Director, Postbank. “This is far much better than external borrowing which leads to heavy losses due to currency fluctuations,” he adds.
Mr. Lekolool further observes that households are cushioned against emergencies by savings. Additionally, individuals can engage on entrepreneurship by investing their savings as opposed to relying on credit. Successful entrepreneurs contribute immensely in creating wealth for their respective countries which in turn leads to socio-economic development.
Postbank is wholly owned by the Kenyan government. It is the only bank in the country that offers savings products and services as spelt out in its mandate. To that end, it pools personal savings for national development, besides providing affordable savings facilities and instruments to its customers.
While executing its mandate, Postbank has tirelessly focused on identifying methods to promote financial education countrywide. “Our core tenet is inculcating a savings culture among Kenyans so that they can attain their financial goals,” says Mr. Lekolool.
Additionally, Postbank is faithful to its vision – to be the premier bank- and it therefore offers affordable banking services to all citizens. “We value the economic wellbeing of our customers and hence no monthly fees are charged on all our savings products, “Mr. Lekolool avers. In that regard, those who are able to save more with the bank earn more in form of interest.
Postbank has developed a wide range of products that suits different market segments. They include: savings, transactional, investment services, money transfer, agency banking and commission services. Most importantly, these products have been developed based on the ever changing needs of the customers. For instance, bearing in mind the unique challenges facing the youth and children, hence requiring considerable advance planning for effective mitigation, the bank has developed special products for them.
In addition, the bank operates countrywide – both in urban and rural areas – through an extensive network consisting of its own branches and agents. Currently, it has ninety seven branches. In the same vein, it has retail traders operating as agents dubbed as Postbank Mashinani. There are currently over seven hundred agents countrywide and over five thousand automated teller machines (ATMs). Some of them are owned by the bank, while others are partnerships. This has enabled customers – particularly in the rural areas – to access a wide range of banking services offered by Postbank.
As an incentive to its customers, the interest generated by all the savings products offered by the bank is tax free. No other player in the Kenyan market offers that benefit.
2022 World Savings Day celebrations
The World Savings Day is an annual event instituted to increase the public’s awareness on the importance of savings for both modern economies and individuals globally. It is observed on October 31st in order to promote the importance of savings and restore people’s confidence in banking. Traditionally, Postbank takes an active part in the celebrating this historic day. To that end, it carries out several activities and campaigns that are aimed at promoting financial education.
In October this year, some of these activities included: offering relevant financial and savings educational support to both the young and the old, organizing financial and savings sensitization workshops, designing relevant financial and savings programmes to suit its different market segments. In the same breath, the staff members also actively engaged customers (both current and potential) in order to understand their needs. This feedback will come in handy while developing products and services that meet these needs. While interacting with the customers, the staff members gave them important financial tips.
In an effort to give the World Savings Day more publicity, the bank was hosted in one of the leading television stations in Kenya where there was a panel discussion on the importance of savings. Additionally, it ran a social media campaign on Twitter, Linkedin and Facebook using the hashtag #WorldSavingsDay2022.This offered a platform for customers to share their strategies, dreams and goals for saving.
The climax of the day were the colourful celebrations across the bank’s branches whereby customers freely interacted with members of staff. Various customers shared their testimonials regarding how the bank has supported them to grow their savings.
The day’s theme was: ‘Savings prepare you for a better future.’ It emphasized on the importance of mobilising savings as a means of accomplishing challenging goals in life and preventing financial crises. Additionally, it stressed the need for individuals to live within their means so that they are well equipped for the future.
To encourage savings, Postbank has introduced a diverse range of products that respond to the savings needs of households. These products are characterized by easy accessibility and low charges. The bank also operates ‘zero-balance’ accounts which allow people to open accounts without any balances thereby increasing the customer base. The bank also has easy savings plans to help Kenyans achieve their day to day aspirations. For example, its Save as You Earn (SAYE) product offers a simple savings plan that gives one an opportunity to save money for a future need or aspiration. The bank also offers competitive interest rates (currently up to 10.0% per annum) depending on the savings duration and amounts.
Additionally, the bank caters for children and youth from ages 0-18 years. The minimum deposit amount for these accounts is Kshs. 50. This encourages them to begin saving at an early age. By the same token, in order to effectively cater for the women market segment, the bank offers a savings product christened Waridi. This is a personal transaction account that has no monthly maintenance fee and access limitation. It also offers self-service channels through mobile and internet banking as well as ATM services. Postbank has discounted the requirements to open and operate the Waridi account in order to bring on board more women customers.
The bank has also rolled out a savings product for groups (popularly known as chamas in Kiswahili) that is dubbed M-Chama. The development of M-Chama was informed by the need to ensure that small groups contribute positively towards their economic advancement and defy the risks associated with physically handling cash.
In view of the disruption that has been experienced across various industries due to digitization, Postbank is in the process of enhancing its digital channels. The bank is making a shift from brick and mortar to channels that are driven by technology. Adoption of digital technology will enhance efficiencies and customer experience. Against this background, the bank is training its staff so that they are well versed in digital banking. It is also digitizing all its processes. So far, it has digitized customer onboarding: the account opening process, local and international remittances (account based money transfer with Western Union). Finally, it is in the process of putting in place a robust core banking system
According to Mr. Lekolool, in order to accelerate economic development, it is important to encourage savings and to ensure that the same is directed to productive investment. “Postbank, through its innovations has proved to be an efficient institution, as it has the capacity to pool savings which can be mobilized for development,” he ends.