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CBK tips Absa ahead of its name change at stock exchange

Absa Bank Kenya
Absa Bank Kenya PLC managing director Jeremy Awori at the Sarit Centre branch on 10 February 2020. PHOTO | POOL 

The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) has challenged Absa Bank Kenya PLC to be customer-centric to breathe new life into its transformation.

Governor Patrick Njoroge spoke on the eve of the name change from BBK to Absa at the Nairobi Securities Exchange Wednesday.

The bank officially changed its name on February 10 and Wednesday, it is scheduled to change its ticker name at a ceremony to be held at the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE).

Among those expected at the event are Absa Group CEO Daniel Mninele and Jeremy Awori, CEO of Absa Bank Kenya.

On Tuesday, the regulator challenged the bank to use fair and responsible pricing of loans to connect customers to the new brand as it drops the 104-year old Barclays Kenya brand.

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Absa dropped its old name after receiving approval from the CBK and the Registrar of Companies.

Dropping the ‘Barclays’ brand was triggered by a decision by London-based Barclays PLC to significantly cut its stake in Barclays Africa and consequently in Barclays Kenya.

Barclays Plc gave a condition to Barclays Africa and its subsidiaries to drop the name by mid-2020. Barclays PLC now owns 14.9 percent stake in Absa Kenya, down from controlling stake of 68.5 percent.

Absa Kenya’s parent company, Absa Group, was the first to drop the name ‘Barclays’ in July 2018 and subsidiaries have been working to follow suit. Barclays Uganda made the switch in November 2019.

On Tuesday, Dr Njoroge said many banks were seen as insensitive to the needs of Kenyans through high cost of credit, opaqueness and poor customer service.

“The true affirmation of Absa Kenya’s transformation can only come from the changed lives of its customers through shared growth and prosperity of a broader segment of Kenya’s populace,” Dr Njoroge said.

MPs dropped the interest rate cap in November last year and the President signed the Bill into law, paving the way for increased lending to individuals and small businesses. The move also gave banks a free hand in the pricing loans.

On Tuesday, Dr Njoroge warned the banking sector from sliding back into the punitive interest rates that at one time hit a high of 25 percent.

He issued Banking Sector Charter in 2019 to move banks towards customer-centricity, risk-based credit pricing and transparency.

CBK said Kenya was at a critical juncture with emerging opportunities.

“There are, however, long-standing challenges bedevilling the banking sector that could threaten this favourable outlook,” said Dr Njoroge.

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