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New Absa CEO Abdi Mohamed vows to take on industry's big boys

 Absa Kenya Chief Executive Abdi Mohamed. [File, Standard]

The newly appointed Absa Kenya Chief Executive Abdi Mohamed has set his sights on expanding the lenders' product range.

Mr Mohamed said on Thursday the lender, which is part of South Africa's Absa Group, would target small businesses and adopt disruptive innovations to improve customer experiences to take on established rivals in a high-growth mass market area and grow market share.

The veteran Absa insider, who was tapped by the lender last month to head the Kenyan unit, said he has prioritised revamping operations to boost offerings for small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

"Number one part of our strategy is to accelerate growth and the momentum that we have seen. The growth is maintained at the top line and we deliver to our shareholders but at the same time looking at the market that is innovating and looking at our role within that changing marketplace," said Mr Mohamed at a press briefing in Nairobi.

"Digital transformation is a big deal for us, and you'll see a lot of work by us in that space."

 Absa Bank branch at Queensway House along Mama Ngina Street, Nairobi. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard}

South Africa's Absa Group owns 62.8 per cent of Absa Kenya. Absa Bank Kenya, formerly Barclays Kenya, rebranded after Absa Group bought a majority stake in London's Barclays Africa Group, which held the lender's operations on the continent for over a century.

During its heydays, the British banking giant once straddled the Kenyan market like a colossus before the surprise sale of its African unit five years ago.

The transition coincided with the rapid rise of its indigenous rivals like Equity, KCB and Co-operative Bank. Mr Mohamed takes over after immediate former CEO Jeremy Awori quit for a similar position at pan-African lender Ecobank Transnational Incorporated Group.

Mr Mohamed, who has been with the lender for nearly three decades and cut his teeth in various banking divisions within the Absa Group, rose from a teller to his new corner office role.

He said retaining and attracting top talent remains his priority, raising the prospect of a new talent war within the banking sector as he moves to beef up his dream team.

Mr Mohamed said on his watch, the lender will increasingly lean on financial technology (fintech) at a time when sector players are under pressure to innovate and outpace existing traditional brick-and-mortar systems.

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