Why you should choose Choice Bank for your banking solutions

Choice Bank CEO, Mr Bonface Ombui.

Photo credit: Choice Bank

When local dollar demand surged and surpassed supply last year, traders found it challenging to secure enough volumes of this highly-sought currency. Naturally, those traders who discovered they could get the dollar amounts they needed from Choice Microfinance Bank were delighted.

The bank’s chief executive officer (CEO), Mr Bonface Ombui, reveals that providing a solution that delights many customers, satisfies.

He, however, points out that the forex solution is among the many ways a transformed Choice Bank is effectively serving an expanding client base.

Mr Ombui cites several reasons institutions and the general public should seek digital banking solutions from Choice Bank.

Choice Bank, he points out, is now a participant in the National Payment System (NPS).  

The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) describes the NPS as “the conduits through which buyers and sellers of financial products and services make transactions… It enables payments to be effected between a payer and a beneficiary.”

Game Changer

Mr Ombui describes the approval by CBK as a game changer, because of the benefits that participating in the NPS brings to the bank and its customers.

One of the benefits is the efficiency associated with faster turnaround times in the clearing of funds. “In Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS), deposited funds reflect in less than 20 minutes,” says Mr Ombui.

He adds that participating in the NPS gives Choice Bank control over the cost of services. “It lowers our cost of transactions by up to 40 percent,” he explains.

Mr Ombui further notes that Choice Bank will be in charge of its liquidity at the CBK. The bank no longer has to maintain accounts in commercial banks.

Additionally, Choice Bank can directly start offering overnight lending services, the CEO points out.

“We are at the integration and testing stage, in the next few weeks, Choice Bank will be doing its own clearance for local RTGS (electronic funds transfer), PesaLink and international transfers,” announces Mr Ombui.

Banking as a Service (Baas)

Choice Bank has rolled out a new product dubbed Banking as a service (BaaS). The flagship initiative, ‘Banking as a Service’ (BaaS), exemplifies how Choice Bank is integrating its digital banking services directly into the offerings of its non-bank partners. The bank is thus able to reach a broader customer base, including the underbanked and unbanked populations.

Simply put, Choice Bank will offer banking services to the underbanked and the unbanked without having to establish a physical branch.

The bank manages all aspects of know your customer (KYC) data collection and verification, ensuring compliance with regulatory standards for account opening. Accounts at Choice Bank earn interest and are insured by the Kenya Deposit Insurance Corporation (KDIC).

Kenya Bankers Association membership

In May 2022, Choice Bank joined the Kenya Bankers Association (KBA). It became the seventh microfinance bank to join the banking industry’s umbrella association. KBA represents 47 licensed and regulated financial institutions by the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK). The KBA’s mission is to promote a reliable and professional banking sector that provides the best financial services to Kenyans who entrust their hard-earned resources with the member banks.

The forex story

In 2023, Choice Bank created a forex function under its treasury department. The forex team was headhunted, it comprises experienced forex traders from banks and financial technology firms.

During the dollar crisis in 2023, the team on-boarded huge USD sellers including tea exporters, flower farms, Avocado exporters, Remittance firms, payment service providers (PSPs) and foreign-funded startups. The bank achieved this by offering competitive rates and fast turnaround times. On the other hand, the bank was able to supply the same USD to buyers by guaranteeing higher volumes of tickets at competitive rates.

 “We depend solely on Choice Bank for all our dollar needs whenever there is a shortage of USD in the market,” said a Finance Manager at a steel manufacturer in the Industrial Area.

Added the customer: “For us, it is as though we have outsourced our treasury function to Choice Bank at no cost. We are always assured of enough volumes at good rates. Before our engagement with Choice Bank, we had to hire an internal dedicated team to make numerous calls and source for USD from over 20 suppliers each day.”

The range of services Choice Bank provides is expanding, thanks to capital injection by a new investor a few years ago.

New investor

In 2021, Choice Microfinance Bank got a new United Kingdom (UK) investor: Wakanda Network Limited.

This followed CBK’s approval on September 21, 2021, under Section 19 (4) of the Microfinance Act and approval by the Cabinet Secretary for the National Treasury and Planning on October 5, 2021, pursuant to Section 19(3)(b) of the Microfinance Act.

The new investor’s aim is to build and develop the banking infrastructure to enable the bank to offer quick, reliable and affordable digital financial services to consumers. Wakanda injected capital to help the bank expand its business and meet regulatory requirements.

After this momentous development Choice Bank rebranded, changed its business model (from brick-and-mortar to digital), and introduced a robust treasury department.

At the same time, Choice Bank brought in a new CEO, Mr Ombui, in September 2022 alongside a team of young energetic professionals.

Coming full circle

Choice Bank started as an investment channel for Kenyans in the diaspora who had been frustrated by relatives and other people they had entrusted with the responsibility of investing locally on their behalf.

The founders sought to create an investment vehicle and an easier international remittance channel for Kenyans in the diaspora to send funds back home. On May 13, 2015, Choice Bank was granted an operating licence by the CBK.

Mr Ombui reveals that the transformed Choice Bank now eyes a bigger share of the remittances market.

He reveals that the bank is in the process of integrating to key remittance companies to facilitate both inbound and outbound remittances.

Says Mr Ombui: “This product will be live by June and it will ensure collection of remittance from broader networks (many countries) and also delivery into other countries at an affordable price and with instant settlements.”

The Choice Bank CEO says the transformation kick-started by the Wakanda investment in the institution is ongoing. Over the last year, Mr Ombui has overseen the bank’s digital shift.

He was hired due to his skills in strategic leadership for setting vision and priorities, his technology and innovation acumen to drive digital transformation, and his expertise in regulatory compliance and risk management to navigate the ever-changing banking landscape.

Mr Ombui declares: “My plan as the CEO is to create a long-term and sustainable competitive advantage for Choice Bank by continuously improving the bank’s digital infrastructure, creating customer-centric products and strengthening both capital and liquidity buffers.”

He asserts that the ingredients for the bank’s continued success are in place: A strong tech team, robust technical solutions, an international investor (Wakanda), and healthy partnerships with various clients.

Mr Ombui says he is committed to redefining digital banking, aiming to deliver unmatched value to stakeholders while focusing on customer satisfaction and operational efficiency.

"Our goal is to redefine digital banking, delivering unparalleled value to our diverse stakeholders,” Mr Ombui says.

You can learn more about Choice Bank’s products and services through:

- Evans Ongwae - [email protected]

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