6 Reasons why KCB’s Mobi Bank offering could be a game changer for mobile banking in Kenya
Kenya leads the world in mobile money. This is a fact as over 18 million mobile subscribers are signed up for Safaricom’s wildly successful M-Pesa offering. It’s hard to imagine that just a few years ago although Safaricom’s M-Pesa was just taking off and most of the Banks in Kenya were up in arms lobbying for the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) to have it regulated. Alas, the ship had sailed and today M-Pesa, as we know it, has become one of the most successful examples of how a mobile money system can become totally entrenched in country’s financial services sector. Indeed, after initially fighting M-Pesa, many Kenyan Banks were forced to change tact and embrace it as one of their core offerings. As a result, today, it’s possible to send and receive M-Pesa directly from your Bank account and many Banks in Kenya act as M-Pesa Agents. You could say, quite accurately, that M-Pesa did manage to disrupt the banking status quo and create an entirely new way of facilitating financial transactions in Kenya.
In-line with the above, one of the really great things about M-Pesa and mobile banking services being offered in Kenya is the ability to utilize the two services in tandem to facilitate a whole range of services. One of the things that I do personally on a regular basis is draw funds from my bank account via mobile banking and then load my M-Pesa on the go. I do this not only in Kenya but also when I am travelling out of the country in and beyond Africa. It’s such a convenience that I can’t remember the last time I bought a physical scratch card for airtime. At the same time, via mobile banking, I regularly check my bank account balances and receive timely alerts as and when various transactions such as cheque payments and deposits happen. However, this is only half the story. On the flip side, there have been many limitations to mobile banking services offered by most Kenyan Banks which leads me to speculate that KCB’s recently launched “Mobi Bank” offering could truly be a game changer going forward (NOTE: I am NOT a KCB Customer so this is a completely impartial point of view I am presenting in this blog post).
KCB’s Mobi Bank offering was launched in Kenya a few weeks ago. Now, several other banks like National Bank have also recently launched their own re-vamped mobile banking offerings but below are the six reasons why I think KCB’s Mobi Bank is such a game changer:
- It works on ALL mobile networks in Kenya: Yes, not just Safaricom and/or Airtel but Orange and YU too. This means that the service is accessible to all using the short code *522#. You do however have to sign-up and open an account at a KCB Branch or Mtaani Agent. Most mobile banking services in Kenya work on only one or two mobile networks in the country with Safaricom being the default due its dominant market position with over 20 million mobile subscribers to-date.
- It works on the mobile web: You can access Mobi Bank using USSD but also via the mobile web at https://mbanking.kcbbankgroup.com/wap/. Yes, unless I am mistaken or uniformed, this is a Kenya first for banking services. I am not talking about a mobile app per se although that is sure to come eventually but any mobile device that can get on the mobile internet can access KCB’s Mobi Bank. This means that even if you in or out of Kenya (consider Kenyans in the Diaspora for instance?), you can access your bank account.
- You can send money directly from your bank account to ANY mobile number in Kenya: This again is probably a Kenya first. The ability to send money from your bank account to ANY mobile number irrespective of whether or not the end-user has a mobile money account is significant. This in itself is one of the features that could make KCB a somewhat worthy contender to Safaricom’s M-Pesa offering in that you don’t even need to have a mobile money account to draw funds – all you need to do is present your ID at a KCB Branch or Mtaani Agent to collect your payment(s).
- You can send money from your bank account directly to ANY mobile money service on ANY of the mobile networks in Kenya: This means, quite simply, you do not even need to be on a mobile money service in Kenya to send someone mobile money irrespective of the mobile network they are using. I personally have experienced the frustration of trying to do this if an intended recepient is NOT on Safaricom’s M-Pesa and you need to send a payment – it certainly makes life simpler!
- You can directly top-up mobile airtime on ANY mobile number on ANY mobile network from your bank account: This is a no-brainer. You can re-charge different mobile numbers from your bank account. It’s a real frustration for me at times since I have a second number on another mobile network away from my Safaricom line that I currently CANNOT top-up from my current Bank’s mobile banking service. Dare I say, could this be reason enough to consider moving on? I think, possibly…
- You can make payments directly from your bank account: This final aspect of Mobi Bank for me is interesting. You can use Mobi Bank to repay bank loans, credit card bills or even your post-paid mobile bills. This means no trips to the Bank and you are empowered to free up your time for more valuable tasks on a daily basis.