The Business Daily reported recently: “Kenyans reluctant to go for Shs 8.73 billion unclaimed assets, says Unclaimed Financial Assets Authority.’’ To show how dire the situation was, UFAA chief Kellen Kariuki explained: “We have written to many people to come forward and claim their hard-earned money but surprisingly, most are not doing so.”
Now, I’d like to believe those letters are hitting home, and I’m yet to find someone refusing to get money that is rightfully theirs.
So, maybe UFAA’s challenge isn’t proof (that unclaimed assets exist) or marketing, but its processes and distribution - at least for small amounts. UFAA’s ‘purchasing’ process (claiming) could inadvertently be impeding the sale (releasing the assets).
If, like me, you are following up unclaimed shares for a deceased relative, for instance, you’ll deal with the stockbroker (for the transfer to the beneficiary), and, for unpaid dividends, the respective registrar and the Central Depository & Settlement Corporation ( CDSC).
All of them are in Nairobi. And in all, you will be taken through the lengthy and irritating exercise of submitting the same documents, some which may mean ferrying your elderly (beneficiary) mother more than once to sign in the presence of an authorised officer. And then, you get sent to UFAA for any other unclaimed dividends. And, guess what? You require the same (original) lawyer certified documents, and then some more. “And, no, Treasury cannot pay to M-Pesa, only to a bank account. So the beneficiary must open one!”
By now you have spent (wasted?) months, money and manpower. So you start asking yourself, “Are all these hoops I’m being taken through worth the (sentimental) few hundreds, or thousands I’m pursuing?” Will you write back to the UFAA explaining the miasma of frustration that you are wallowing in? I doubt.
But you will tell someone else. Now 500,000 people throwing up their hands at the nuisance of pursuing, say, Sh6,000, amounts to Sh3 billion.
I do not mean to make light of the importance of knowing your customer. That is, dealing with the right legal beneficiary. But, this is pioneer digital finance services Kenya. Even banks (the bastion of rigmaroles) have eliminated most of the hoops they used to make us jump for everything except depositing money.
So what do I propose? In the long term, fully digitise the process which I assume is the plan. In the immediate, accept M-Pesa payments as an option. Just as the government does when one is paying for, say, a driving license.
But before that, make it a one-stop shop. Further, borrowing from banks, increase your distribution points, to cater for the mzee from, say Kisumu, who arrives on a Friday at 3.06 p.m at a registrar in Nairobi only to be told, “Tushafunga (We have closed). We close at 3. Come on Monday at 9 a.m”
Many sales are lost because the seller sabotages themselves with their painful protracted processes. Could UFAA’s claims rigmarole be such? What do you think?