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Technology

Banks lobby has big chance to take lead in innovation

Ms Jennifer Theuri, the IPSL chief executive, with Kenya Bankers Association’s Habil Olaka (right) and vice-chairman of the lobby John Gachora during the launch of PesaLink. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Ms Jennifer Theuri, the IPSL chief executive, with Kenya Bankers Association’s Habil Olaka (right) and vice-chairman of the lobby John Gachora during the launch of PesaLink. FILE PHOTO | NMG  

There are few organisations whose place and position I envy especially when opportunity aligns with tectonic shifts in an industry, opening up the doors of experimentation and innovation with the potential of fundamentally changing the direction and ways of work of an entire vertical.

The Kenya Bankers Association ranks in my top ten and the reason is obvious; fintech is booming and they have a front row seat to the action.

The Kenya Bankers Association has a current membership of 47 financial institutions licensed and regulated by the Central Bank of Kenya.

Their mandate covers research-based advocacy and lobbying, industry efficiency and innovation, banking practice and sustainability and consumer education and public affairs.

A stellar job has been done on a number of fronts especially in consumer awareness with tools and interventions such as the Total Cost of Credit, the Consumer Guide to Banking, the Kaa Chonjo awareness campaigns and the Inuka SME programme.

Where I feel that they could, should and can do more, is through their subsidiary, Integrated Payments Service Limited that was established under the National Payment System Act.

The beating that the banking sector received in the years gone by, from assuming the potential and disruptive power of mobile money as peddled by the telcos should have been enough to hone IPSL into a crack squad operation, a research and development powerhouse that would be better and greater than the sum of its constituent bank partner parts.

Their flagship product, interbank money transfer platform PesaLink came live to much fanfare and the promise of great things.

Their first misstep however was to go live with a poor user experience on a peer to peer service, a space that had already been owned while all indicators were that the business segment across the SME and enterprise was ripe for new product innovation.

The second was to agree to be assimilated into the service experiences of individual banking partners making the value proposition all but disappear in the clutter of one-stop shop apps. Third was to keep silo’d in an API driven ecosystem.

The value proposition on speed, value, channels and cost still holds strong.

Now a simple rework on the user experience and a few experiments in escrow, smart contracts, lending infrastructure among others could open up a whole new world of value and profit for them, the constituent banks and numerous other players who will plug in to add value beyond humble transaction facilitation.

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