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New dawn in Kenya's financial services sector

COMMENTARY
By George Wainaina | May 16th 2016

The world is witnessing an unprecedented technological revolution as consumers adopt more sophisticated lifestyles.

The financial services sector, in particular, continues to leverage on cost-effective technological advancement to facilitate the delivery of accessible, affordable and safer financial services to Kenyans.

It is noteworthy that the landing of the fibre-optic cables along the East African coast has enhanced connectivity speeds, lowered the cost of transactions and improved efficiencies in the banking and financial services sector.

There is no gainsaying that money transfer service is an integral part of economic development as it enables people and businesses to cost-effectively move money.

Against this background, industry players are investing in modernising their infrastructure, building interconnected ecosystems, extreme channel integration and robust IT platforms. One such platform is the Kenswitch Domestic Interbank Transfer Service (DITS) that allows users of the Kenswitch network to transfer funds on a real-time basis across the network, amongst participating members.

DITS is accessible through the existing infrastructure of member banks like ATMs, online banking platforms, mobile banking applications, Point of Sales (POS) devices and agent banking.

With the focus now shifting towards a paperless economy and with branchless banking now in place, cheques will soon be a thing of the past.

Other than efficiencies in the transfer of money and stemming insecurity associated with carrying large sums in cash, DITS offer benefits such as lower transaction costs, transaction values of up to a million shillings per transaction, speedy availability of funds for the business, hence better cash flow and a robust platform.

A key salient feature is that the platform can be integrated by banks seeking easier channels for loan repayments, as well as County governments wishing to automate revenue collection. Businesses can also save on disbursement of funds like salaries through the cost effective platform. It will also make it easier to recharge pre-paid cards in the transport sector using the platform.

With the advent of mobile phones, financial services can now be delivered to remote areas, as banks move away from the brick and mortar model, onto electronic channels.

The cost of delivering financial services eventually goes down, as banks decongest their branches.

Above all, money transfer services in the long run contribute to the growth of the EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Tax, Depreciation and Amortization) of a number of banks and non-bank financial institutions.

In the long run, money transfer service is a core part of any financial institution’s strategy, with e-banking driving not only the bottom-line but also crucially, deposit mobilization.

It follows that an efficient national payment system reduces the cost of exchanging goods, services, and assets, and is indispensable to the functioning of the inter-bank, money, and capital markets.

But challenges also abound with cash transfer platforms. Key among them is the cost of firewalls and risk mitigation.

The high internet bandwidth brought about by the landing of the fibre-optic cables is a double edged sword that builds and destroys businesses at the same time.

With the availability of broadband, cases of cybercrime are on the rise, notably in the form of identity theft and phishing. There is no denying that a number of banks have in the recent past lost huge sums of money through such vices.

But when all is said and done, the benefits of having a robust payments platform far much outweigh any demerits that may come in the way of leapfrogging transactions to the next level.

Ultimately, financial services boundaries are set to blur as platforms reshape industries into interconnected ecosystems.

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