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JP Morgan renews Kenya entry plan

The headquarters of JP Morgan Chase on Park Avenue in New York. AFP PHOTO | STAN HONDA
The headquarters of JP Morgan Chase on Park Avenue in New York. AFP PHOTO | STAN HONDA 

America’s largest bank JPMorgan Chase & Co says it is mulling over expanding operations into Kenya as it seeks to tap new East Africa deals and serve large multinationals in the country.

The bank with assets worth $2.56 trillion (Sh262 trillion), which is 37 times Kenya’s gross domestic product (GDP), told Bloomberg it is studying Kenya and Ghana ahead of a possible decision to venture into the two countries.

“You’ll see us open in some countries we are not in. In Africa you’ll be hearing about some of that stuff,” chief executive Jamie Dimon told Bloomberg Television on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland.

The announcement marks renewed interest by the American lender, ranked the world’s sixth largest bank by total assets, which has been gunning to enter Kenya’s 40-plus banks market for several years now.

“J P Morgan has only a limited presence on the continent with an office in Nigeria and South Africa and Kenya is a natural selection for the bank to establish its footprint in the dynamic East African region,” said Kunal Ajmera, chief operating officer at consultancy firm Grant Thornton.

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According to Mr Dimon, a Kenya entry would seek to fill gaps in specialised areas that are not locally available to serve its multinational clients.

Mr Dimon spoke as JPMorgan’s unveiled a $20 billion (Sh2 trillion) investment plan that will see it increase wages, hire people and open new branches as it takes advantage of sweeping changes to US tax law and a more favourable regulatory environment, Reuters reported.

Mr Kunal said J P Morgan would potentially usher in innovative financial products which consumers may not currently access.

“Kenya currently only has three banks with truly global footprint — i.e Barclays, Standard Chartered and Citibank out of which Citi bank does not have retail banking operations in Kenya. It is not clear what will be planned operations of JP Morgan Chase in Kenya at this stage but the presence of USA’s largest bank will be a welcome addition in an increasingly global market place,” said Mr Kunal.

Kenya has witnessed renewed interest by global banks, since the CBK lifted a licensing moratorium in March last year.

Several international banks have been making overtures for Kenya. They include one of Russia’s largest privately-owned banks, Promsvyazbank, which said in August last year it is mulling over a Kenya entry.

Recently SBM Holdings, Mauritius’s second-biggest lender, acquired Fidelity Commercial Bank and Chase Bank and has kicked off expansion in East Africa. Dubai Islamic Bank recently entered the market.

Several other foreign lenders have opened representative offices. They include FirstRand Bank of South Africa, Bank of China, HDFC Bank of India, Bank of Kigali, Mauritius Commercial Bank and Dutch lender Rabobank Nederland.

JPMorgan Chase & Co is also one of the largest asset management companies in the world with $2.5 trillion in assets under management and $28 trillion in assets under custody and administration.

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