Technological advances are quickly shifting the face of the Kenyan banking industry. Mobile and internet banking are growing quickly and represent a sizable portion of banks’ revenue streams as all banks as well as mobile network operators are jumping on the ‘branchless banking’ bandwagon.
Given the need to revolutionize customer experience, Postbank has continuously developed new and innovative channels. It is interesting to note that Postbank has been a first in many innovations including paperless banking which has provided customers with convenience and reliable banking services.
Postbank realized the need to provide customers with convenience and choice in the bank’s endeavour to inculcate a savings culture in the country and consequently enhanced the M-Sawa savings account which rides on mobile telephony, making it accessible and affordable to many customers.
Needless to say, mobile banking has revolutionized the banking industry in Kenya and the way its players relate with their customers. In addition, customers are now better informed on value adding options on offer in the market.
M-Sawa Account targets the unbanked, semi banked and banked customers. It is integrated with the Postbank’s financial literacy programme which lays emphasis on savings as a tool of wealth creation.
M-Sawa has provided customers with completely uninterrupted access to banking services despite the current global coronavirus pandemic that has limited the choices of customers at the marketplace. The uncertainty caused by the pandemic has resulted in customers being unable to pay bills, access their wages or even view their bank balances. This threat is becoming grave because the world is uncertain of its severity and the duration it is likely to persist.
M-Sawa leverages on Safaricom’s M-Pesa platform ( soon, other mobile money companies’ platforms will be brought on board) using paybill option number 200999 and short code *498#. One can easily open an M-Sawa account using his or her mobile phone, besides moving funds from the said account to M-Pesa and vice versa. M-Sawa is also affordable as one requires a minimum of Kshs. 50 to open. Other functions include : depositing money through M-Pesa as well as the bank branches and agents; transferring funds from one Postbank account to another, making balance enquiries, requesting for mini statements, changing the personal identification number ( PIN), debit and credit transaction alerts and airtime purchasing.
“Transaction alerts are important because they enable the customer to approve all transactions,” says Ms. Anne Karanja, Managing Director, Postbank adding that this helps in eliminating unauthorized transactions. Of critical importance, M-Sawa can be linked with a customer’s banking card which is beneficial to those who want to make big deposits. Moreover, since there is a limit to which one can withdraw money using the mobile phone platform, those in need of huge amounts of money can simply walk into any of Postbank’s branch or agent and use their debit cards to transact.
The bank is making a significant investment in technology because it has been identified as a key player towards the realization of Vision 2030 by the Government of Kenya in respect to savings mobilization. “We want to make sure that Kenya is able to grow her savings ( against the Gross Domestic Product) in line with Kenya’s vision 2030,” notes Ms. Karanja.
In 2008, Postbank invested in an electronic switch that facilitated full automation of its branches through point of sale terminals, thereby pioneering paperless banking in Kenya. “The adoption of this technology has decongested our banking halls and reduced incidences of long queues thereby enhancing service quality,” observes Ms. Karanja. “This has also led to massive re-engineering in transaction processing for instance in account opening, deposits, withdrawals and back office activities which has enhanced staff productivity among other efficiencies,” she adds. Moreover, Postbank’s staff are now utilizing the time saved through the automated services to understand the customer preferences better by visiting them in their work stations. “ As a matter of fact, Postbank was the first bank in the country where a customer could open an account and go home with a debit card immediately, courtesy of our robust electronic switch,” the Managing Director happily says.
Postbank embraced mobile banking in 2010 through the Patacash service that is integrated to the M-Pesa platform. This enables the bank’s customers to deposit and withdraw cash and make enquiries using their mobile phones.
In addition, Postbank pioneered the branchless banking concept in the country. In that regard, it has linked other banks with its switch ( currently there are nine banks using the service ) and their customers can therefore transact in any Postbank branches countrywide. The most recent partnership is with First Community Bank.
Moreover in 2009, the bank was the first in the country to embrace agency banking, a year before regulations for the latter were developed by the Central Bank of Bank ( CBK). Dubbed ‘Postbank Mashinani’, CBK enlisted Postbank’s experience to develop agency banking guidelines that were released in May 2010. More and more customers see the value of accessing their money 24/7 instead of being constrained by branch banking hours and locations. Currently, there are over one thousand Postbank Mashinani agents spread throughout the country and they are all automated.
Postbank has created an ecosystem that captures the customer’s entire financial universe. This has been achieved by providing an integrated multichannel offering and intelligently building alliances.
Staying ahead of the competition
“The Kenyan banking industry is very dynamic, competitive and customers’ preferences are ever changing,” says Ms. Karanja. “We are therefore continuously researching so as to develop products which are customer driven,” she adds.
Some of the bank’s major attributes include its rich brand heritage, stability which is guaranteed by government ownership, goodwill from the many customers it has served over the years, affordable products and services, and quality customer care.
The bank offers a variety of products and services including savings, international money transfer, M-Pesa, Visa credit card ( local and international) as well as payment and cash collection services.
“As an incentive to save, the interest earned by all the accounts above is tax free,” notes Ms. Karanja.
Postbank has entered into several strategic partnerships with leading private and public enterprises in order to strengthen its business. To start with, it has partnered with Kenya Power and many water companies through which customers of these utility companies are able to conveniently pay their bills by visiting branches or agents. In addition, it has developed strategic alliances with several banks and microfinance institutions for money transfer, cash collection and disbursement services.
In 1995, it became the first bank in Kenya to partner with Western Union Financial Services International – an international money transfer service provider . The bank has since partnered with many other international money transfer services the most recent being Xpress Money Services International. These partnerships have to a very large extent boosted diaspora remittances into the country.
The road ahead
Based on customer satisfaction surveys frequently conducted by the bank, lack of credit facilities has emerged as the major complaint. “ To that end, we have embarked on preparations to restructure the bank under the guidance of the National Treasury , so that we can start offering credit to our customers in the near future,” Ms. Karanja observes.
Postbank continues to strengthen her partnership with key local and international bodies and like the World Savings Bank Institute (WSBI), Child and Youth Finance International( CYFI) and the Association of Savings Banks of East Africa ( ASBEA) among others.
“All in all, we want to enhance our customer experience by improving our delivery channels and offering customer driven products,” she ends.