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OPINION: Banking halls should be left for those with little ICT skills

Kenya has earned numerous praises for its innovations on the financial services applications, starting with the world-famous mobile money transfer platform M-Pesa.

Just thinking of what I can do with my phone to access my financial services, I simply do not understand why I need to literally queue at my bank anymore. Having entered a banking hall earlier this year for a new ATM card, I was surprised to see a long queue with a combination of young and the old, the literate and the illiterate. Most of those in the hall were there to deposit money while a sizeable number withdrew from the counter.

Of most concern was the sizeable number making withdrawals over the counter. On average, most Kenyan banks would charge approximately KSh100 less the hours wasted on the queue for this activity.

The old adage, ‘Time is money’ kept resounding in my head. To be more critical, many of those withdrawing had gone short of more than the KSh100 charged for the transaction.

Considering there were about 100 people waiting to be served and just four service counters, it meant that the last person would need to queue for more than a quarter of an hour if everyone was to use a minute to be served.

I started calculating the overall cost of this transaction. I imagined that a number of people had travelled from outside the central business district hence had spent some money on transport. At the same time, given it was around lunch hours, the same individual was likely to eat lunch in town before heading back home.

Others might have closed down businesses, I presume for this exercise. Of course, some were there to deposit money which did not lead to any transaction charge by the bank but a waste of time and energy.

This waste of time, energy and resources in a country famed world over for money transfer?

Heading back to the office, I decided I had to remind people that they could access these services from their sitting rooms or nearby their habitats at a much lower cost.

Most of the banks in Kenya have launched the M-Banking platform with contact centers and dedicated staff for this purpose.

For instance, at Kenya’s Co-operative Bank, where I’m an accountholder, the services I have earlier called a waste of time and energy are accessible using a mobile phone.

Using my phone, I can access my account and verify the details, access the funds in the account, transfer them to either another account or to my M-Pesa account.

In the last example, it would cost me KSh25 to withdraw from my M-Pesa account, KSh30 to transfer the money from the bank to M-Pesa and about KSh15 to access the service though my network provider. Therefore, for less than the KSh100 charged by the bank for an over the counter withdrawal, I can access the same money.

To deposit, I would need to pay a little amount less than KSH50 although save on time and energy by depositing money on my M-Pesa and sending it to my account.

If the money is for a purchase, I can even buy the good directly using the many mobile money transfer platforms available.

To make things even simpler for the technophobic agency, agent banking is today available countrywide.

Above all, I reduce the incidences of travelling with the money over long distances and thus lessen my risk associated with carrying liquid cash. In addition, looking at the last balance sheet by my bank, I’m not surprised Co-op bank made KSH4 billion from non-funded income which consists of charges such as those in over the counter withdrawals.

For a bank with over 3.2 million customers, making such an amount would be simple with be simple with such long queues. However, for a country where you do not require a smartphone to access such services, it bothers me why anyone would queue for anything other than picking up your new PIN or access your card.

For all who have embraced technology, thumbs up!

Posted in: Mobile

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