Absa Bank Kenya Pledges Support For SME’s And Invests 1.6 Billion In Technology To Serve Customers Better

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Left: Absa Board Chairman Charles Muchene and Managing Director Jeremy Awori (right) Cut the ribbon officially launching the new revamped Queensway branch, Nairobi

“We are definitely here, #WeAreOneWithYou and we definitely look forward to your continued support,” Jeremy Awori, Absa Bank Kenya Managing Director remarks closing the ceremony that marked one year since the brand transitioned from Barclay Bank back in February 2020 to Absa Bank. Celebrating this first anniversary in the new revamped Queensway branch in Nairobi, Absa, took the chance to highlight its achievements over the past year, ways in which the bank has navigated the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and its plans for the future and the community it serves. 

Looking back, Absa Bank, which has a total of 86 branches and a presence in 38 counties had just laid down its strategy to expand and grow maximising on the vast opportunities in the Kenyan Market. But no sooner had the company set out to achieve its goals, did the COVID-19 hit positing challenges that were both unforeseen and detrimental to the bank and to the economy at large. The disruption led to;

  • Reduced local and foreign investments since global lockdowns had an impact on key sectors such as the horticulture, floriculture, tea, coffee, tourism and hospitality.
  • Reduction of economic activity as the fortunes of the banking sector are directly intertwined with those of its customers and the broader economy. Different projections indicate 2020 Kenya GDP growth rates of under 1.5%.

However, in the spirit of Africanacity, which is a drive to get things done and turn challenges into opportunities, Absa re-imagined its strategies and a year later the bank celebrates an array of achievements including; 

  • The redesigning of the Queensway branch which is now equipped with self-service solutions and aligned with the bank’s goal of transforming the customer experience.
  • Enabling up to 59,000 small businesses over the past year, to navigate the challenges brought by COVID-19 through loan reliefs – valued at Ksh 62 billion.
  • Introducing new propositions in its product portfolio. The bank introduced the first-in-market Absa vertical debit and credit cards as well as revamped its SME Wezesha Biashara proposition to play a bigger role in the SME sector. This proposition offered unsecured loans of up to Ksh. 10 million which is the highest in the market, as well as LPO financing and invoice discounting of up to Ksh. 50 million amongst other benefits. This strategy was able to grow the business.
  • Despite the times and the system upgrades required as the bank coped with the complex and uncertain environment brought forth by the pandemic, ensuring that all Absa branches were open, fully operational and that the digital platforms had a 99.8% uptime
  • Working with triple bottom line men and women in Bombolulu by bringing to life their dreams and materialising their efforts.
  • Re-inventing its strategies and focussing on humanitarian efforts thus living up to its promise to become a force for good.

These achievements only came about as Absa developed the agility and resilience needed to navigate the COVID-19 crises. The Managing Director pointed out that the strategies which enabled the bank to sail the turbulent currents and adapt to the changing times included;

  • Rolling out of a variety of care initiatives to enhance the safety of every person working at Absa Kenya. This ensured that the services delivered to customers were not interrupted.
  • Contributing over Ksh. 50 million to the COVID 19 Fund Board, which went towards funding various initiatives in the fight against the pandemic.
  • Offering capacity building programmes to SMEs customers in order to equip them with skills and tact required in navigating the challenges presented by the pandemic.
  • Enabling 55% of the bank’s employees who work in back office to work from home. This was by providing support functions needed to work from home. On the other hand, instituting a shift arrangement for frontline colleagues who were needed at the place of work.
  • Partnering with insurance providers so as to offer medical support to those who were infected/affected. Additionally, Absa partnered with distinct wellness service providers who provided regular calls to the bank’s employees, giving them the peace of mind they needed to serve.
  • Increasing digital adoption and innovation to continue serving customers.

If one thing is to be noted is that the pandemic has prompted the humanisation of many businesses, causing them to restructure their priorities, strategies and the way they interact and serve their customers and the community at large.

In the words of Absa bank chairman Charles Muchene, “The evolving nature of the pandemic meant that we had to rethink our priorities, to focus our energies on saving and safeguarding livelihoods.”

Thus far, Absa has donated over 210,000 surgical masks to medical workers in hospitals and an additional 20,0000 reusable masks to Boda Boda riders. A further 13 million shillings was invested towards the fight against the pandemic through various colleague led initiatives. 

It has been 4 years since the bank embarked on a journey of transitioning all their business assets from Barclays to Absa. Now with its legal and regulatory requirements complete, its begs the question of how the future of the company will look, especially in regards to the still existing challenges brought forth by the pandemic?

In masks and maintaining social distance, Absa Chairman Charles Muchene and Managing Director Jeremy Awori (right) share a glance before cutting the ribbon at new Queensway branch.

“At Absa, we will continue to execute our growth, transformation returns strategy and scale our business to the next level. At the core of our strategy is our commitment to continue enhancing our customer experience through significant investments in leading technologies and capabilities,” notes Jeremy Awori, during the launch. 

Additionally, Absa plans to invest over Ksh 1.6 billion in technology so as to enhance and offer a differentiated customer experience. The bank also aims to roll out over 60 different technology projects that will fulfil the bank’s commitment to transform its customers’ experiences. Among these projects includes;

  • The automation of Absa’s loan top up process which will enable customers to apply and get top-ups on their existing loans within 15 minutes and at the touch of a button.
  • Rolling out a fully-fledged online business banking platform among other exciting innovations planned to be implemented in the coming weeks, across the Absa platform.

Absa bank Kenya has introduced a new account dubbed Absa One which is an all in one account with no minimum balance requirement and no monthly fees. The account offers unsecured loans of up to Ksh 6 million for individuals, Ksh 10 million for businesses, 0.5% cash back rewards on all ATM and debit card transactions and a multi-currency prepaid card with up to 8 major currencies.

With a pledge to remain customer obsessed through all its undertakings, the activities encompassed through this transition reinforce Absa’s commitment to always put the customer right at the centre of all decisions, proposition and initiatives. 

Quoting the managing director of Absa, Jeremy Awori,  “In order to get it right, we spent a lot of time speaking to our customers across all segments to better understand, not just their needs but also tastes and preferences. We spoke with individuals and spent time with businesses trying to understand exactly what they would like to see from us as their financial partner.”

In light of getting everyone involved in attaining the vision of a better banking experience and a financially inclusive banking sector in Kenya, Absa installed the wall of opportunities at its branch in Queensway Nairobi.

Woman pins her idea at the Absa wall of possibilities at Queensway branch Nairobi.

This wall stands as a platform where customers can share their ideas on how to change the banking scene in Kenya and take part in Absa’s initiative of impacting lives and the community at large.  

To take part, you can visit Absa’s Queensway branch anytime and pin your idea on the wall of possibility, or share your idea on Absa’s digital wall of possibilities available on the bank’s social media pages. Absa bank sets aside 2.5 million to fund the most impactful ideas among those that will be shared on the wall of possibility. 

Absa’s transition stressed on the bank’s agenda of being customer-obsessed while placing focus on the journey that lies ahead as the bank impacts the community.

Emphasising on this, Jeremy Awori points out that, ” When I stand before you a time like this next year, I want to celebrate another year of positively impacting lives, just like the case in Bombolulu. I want to the mama Mboga who is our customer to have expanded her business, I want our corporate and business customers to have employed more people, I want to have helped a young man or woman get through campus with a scholarship, I want to have helped a family own their first, second or third home. I want to have worked with many more Kenyans because when we come together, we get things done.”

The full event is available online and you can watch it here

Last year Absa released its sustainability report which also illustrated the importance of businesses to align their strategies with Sustainable Development Goals.

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