Banks increased their staff numbers by three percent to 31,889, marking the first time in five years for the sector to collectively hire additional employees despite increased automation and interest rate cap jitters.
The rise, from 30,903 employees in 2017, is however far from the peak of 2014 as the sector seeks increased efficiency to boost their returns.
New Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) data shows the lenders’ staff size grew modestly compared to the increased number of bank accounts.
One employee was on average serving 1,733 customers in contrast with 2017 where an employee was serving 1,544 customers.
“This shows increased efficiency in customer service as a result of banks embracing technology,” the CBK notes in a period an additional 7.56 million accounts were opened taking the number to 55.279 million.
All staff levels increased except clerical and secretarial staff, which decreased by 409. The CBK said the decrease in clerical and secretarial staff could be as a result of continued automation of banking procedures and processes.
“The increase in management, supervisory and support staff is an indicator of the banks business growth,” it added.
Salaries and wages, however, increased modestly by 0.9 percent from Sh90.3 billion in December 2017 to Sh91.1 billion in December 2018.
Salaries and wages as a ratio of income decreased to 15.5 percent from 18.6 percent the previous year, reflecting a lower increase in staffing costs compared to the increase in income.
The surprise rise in headcount was despite several top banks having trimmed workforce.
Banks dominated the list of job cuts through early retirement schemes and natural attrition.
Annual reports had shown that six listed banks let go nearly 1,600 staff last year. Barclays Bank of Kenya #ticker:BBK, National Bank of Kenya #ticker:NBK, Standard Chartered Bank of Kenya #ticker:SCBK, KCB Group #ticker:KCB and Housing Finance #ticker:HFCK — all spent money on layoffs last year.
The banking sector’s staff efficiency score which is measured by the number of deposit account holders against the staff size, has been growing over the years. This means bank staff are now handling more customers than before.
According to CBK data, in 1996 when the country had only one million deposit account holders, the sector had only 16,673 workers. This means one worker is now serving 29 times higher the account holders they were serving 23 years ago.