Statistician steering Sh1b credit firm

Entreprenuer Reuben Kimani. [File, Standard]

Reuben Kimani, a trained statistician and commercial banker, is behind the steering wheel of budding microfinance start-up Eden Bridge Capital.

Three years into its inception, the firm has grown into a Sh1.2 billion business. The managing director talks about the firm’s growth and the competitive lending market.

How is Kenya’s credit market faring compared to a few years ago?

The appetite for capital in the Kenyan market is huge. We have many upcoming entrepreneurs. However, cheap credit is one of the biggest challenges facing most of these entrepreneurs. They can’t access credit from the banks, which again brings the aspect of the interest rates.

Kenya is on the right path toward cutting down on interest rates. Several components determine the interest rates that financial institutions give. One is the aspect of inflation cost of funds, the risk appetite and operational costs on the margins by the banks.

And the biggest challenge that you have in this market is that all banks have interest rates dependent on footfall. So, one goes to any bank that will offer the cheapest interest rate. But this is changing. Whether you are a risky customer or a not-so-risky one, the playing field will be levelled thanks to the recently introduced risk-based pricing.

This is also a competitive market space...

Eden Bridge has been around for three-and-a-half years now. We offer loans, insurance, trade, finance and trade finance products such as bid bonds and guarantees to our customers

I know there’s a lot of competition - right from banks and even Saccos. One thing that we focus on is being customer-centric. We develop tailor-made products and make sure that every time a customer walks through our door, they feel like a king. I know there’s been a bit of misconception around credit with characters such as shylocks. As an organisation, we’re going to bring the professional aspects into alternate lending.

Are Kenyans in the diaspora market a key focus for you?

Many of the companies that come to our space are foreign ones. We are seeing a lot of interest coming in from the diaspora market. Even during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, we saw diaspora remittances keep rising. They have since become one of Kenya’s and Africa’s largest foreign exchange-earners.

What the diaspora lack is a trusted partner who can help them invest in Kenya. Currently, we are creating a product around that such that we can even help them in terms of where they want to develop

Where do you see opportunities and what are the firm’s future plans?

We have a leadership team that is quite experienced. The company has managed to steer through turbulent moments and we can say that we are growing. Currently, we are a Sh1.2 billion ($10 million) business.

I think there are many opportunities in areas such as agri-financing, health and transport. We plan to have a presence in every county across the country. As I said earlier, one of the biggest challenges in Kenya is access to cheap capital.

Any tips for budding entrepreneurs?

I encourage Kenyans to diversify. We’re used to very traditional ways of investing. Look at chamas, when they pull money, the first thing they do is look for land. That has seen some lock their cash in unproductive land. Look at other aspects of investment.

One thing I would like to challenge them on is that leadership can be very lonely. Make sure you have a mentor.

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