Ideas & Debate

12 years a slave: Why I have not moved to another bank

loan

My bank and I have a fairly tempestuous relationship. We get along very well, until we don’t. Then we fight, kiss and make up.

This two-step polka dance started 12 years ago when I took on a facility that requires an annual review. Before that, I had transacted with this bank for seven years, which would bring the sum total of our relationship to 19 years.

A few weeks ago, my truly long-suffering but super-efficient relationship manager sent me a note asking me to re-apply for the facility. It must be age making me cantankerous because this year I chose to throw my toys out of the cot and just say enough is enough.

The form is the same form that I have filled for the last 12 years. Asking me the exact same questions. Sadly, the only thing that has consistently changed over that time is that my waistline has got larger and my dwindling hair has got shorter in length, none of which should bother the credit risk team assessing my creditworthiness.

And the last time I checked, when I visited my bank every single person save for the polite guard at the door was seated in front of a computer. A device that allows its user to input and, guess what, store data!

So over the past 12 years, someone has spent their valuable minutes typing in all my handwritten (and exactly the same) data into a computer so that it can spit out the information needed to determine whether my facility can be rolled over. Again. For another year. Twelve times.

Now here is the clincher: this facility is secured by cash collateral, worth 200 percent of the facility. As in, the bank is doubly secured. But we undertake this dog and pony show every year for the last 12 years and remember, we have a 19-year relationship already.

Many working adults of my age tend to have more than one banking relationship. So before you ask why I don’t just vote with my feet, here is the answer: it’s just too much admin.

There are so many automated transactions linked to that account that moving to a more tech-savvy bank would mean that I have to fill out thousands more forms to take me to the level I am currently at with this bank in question. It’s simply easier to just shut down this 12-years-a-slave facility and tune in to Ji-Sort FM. I might just have to do that.

In other completely unrelated news, on May 16, 2022, this newspaper published a piece titled ‘Nyeri iconic White Rhino Hotel goes under the hammer’. The White Rhino Hotel is an integral cog in Nyeri’s hospitality history and its demise followed the closure of The Outspan and Treetops, two other iconic hotels in Nyeri County.

Nyeri, in the late 20th century, was a bustling agricultural and tourist town and a pit stop for those wanting to climb the challenging Mount Kenya. In the 21st Century the more vibrant Meru and Nanyuki towns have established themselves as economic hubs in the mountain region, attracting hospitality and agricultural investment from local Kenyans.

I spoke to an established real estate agent familiar with the mountain region and he faulted Nyeri town’s economic unattractiveness to the way that prime commercial property was held in the hands of a chosen few “old-moneyed” individuals.

“You can’t believe it,” he told me, “but I spent two years looking for space for one of the biggest supermarket chains and not a single property owner was interested in leasing out land to us to put up a building.”

I was taken aback. I hadn’t realised that up until very recently, none of the national supermarket chains was located in the county capital. The same real estate agent then drew my attention to the disorganised mish mash that is the burgeoning commercial centre of Kenol town, off the Nairobi-Nyeri highway.

In his educated view, the fact that land ownership in that area was fragmented rather than concentrated in the hands of a few had led to the uncontrolled growth of the town that is attractively located at the elbow of two major mountain region arteries.

What is crystal clear is this: the next Nyeri governor has their work cut out for them. While he or she can’t do anything about the land ownership conundrum, a brand new dual carriageway is about to be completed.

This will feed an inbound potential domestic tourist market and provide an outbound feed for a fast and efficient access to agricultural produce markets. It’s an opportunity to restore some shine to the slow burn that’s consuming Nyeri’s economic progress.

[email protected] Twitter: @carolmusyoka