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Wednesday, 14 Jun 2017 18:35 EATyarriska90som@live.com
Through the Kenya Commercial Bank’s Manager of the Wajir Branch, the story of ancient banking that transformed and grew with its people comes to our desk. The story of the oldest Kenyan banking began in the 19th century, with the bank tracing its roots to the time the National Bank of India set its foot in Kenya in 1896.
Listening to the Wajir Branch Manager of the bank, Mr Siyad Ibrahim, talk about KCB is akin to sitting through a history class. Having started his career in 1996 as a clerk with the KCB, Siyad has learnt and risen the career ranks but in the process also developed an understanding of the institution's history to its present success levels that is rare in a financial field.
The man with a zeal for accounting and economics has maintained a balanced personality throughout his stay in the banking sector, a reason that catapulted him to his present position. Ever dutiful looking, the manager is a strong believer of good public relations, and serving here in Wajir he has come to embody the egalitarian mien of a common-man's bank that has made KCB the leading bank in the region.
Flexibility to the endless customer demands and self-discipline in coping up with hot character persons set good foundation of better banking; probably hat explains best why you chose one bank over another thus every bank is its relationship with the people is the hundred million dollar wisdom to go-by.
KCB was the first bank to open its doors on Wajir way back in 1983. Then, they had a conventional banking hall, but Wajir County having almost 100 percent Muslim population, the bank felt compelled to research on possible Muslim banking products, a process that would lead it to implement a fully Islamic Sharia compliant operation in Wajir.
The bank has heavily re-invested to meet the demand of the vast Muslim population, and some four years ago, the first Sharia compliant branch named as the Sahal was established in Wajir, thanks to the efforts of staffers like Siyad, who beside being a leader in the bank is also a Muslim just like the many of his clients.
"I have played a major role of course, and with efforts of other important officials pushed for the upbringing of a compliant branch, to suit the demand of the vast Muslim majority population," he told these writers in an interview, explaining that the Sahal Branch is now fully operational.
Sahal products constitute largely Islamic compliant services and products, and services under it include: salary account, business (savings accounts current/bulk), all of which meet and comply with Islamic banking principles
Due to its versatile functions, grew from the best bet to the best bank in the entire county. According to the Branch Manager, KCB controls more than 85 percent of the banking market in Wajir. One of the most enjoying portion of clients are the salaried civil servants of both the county and the national governments. County staffers enjoy earlier payment of salaries with no delay and with fair withdrawal charges.
Poised to meet the demand of all, the Bank is chosen for asset finance, contract finance, and liability finance in both personal and business provision. Providing business club services at a friendly cost in its bulk teller section, business persons are allowed to specially transact with the bank flexibly at a cost of Sh500. In the world full of tenderprenureship, the need to have a readily financing partner is handy; a service in which KCB outclasses its competitors.
Almost all contractors here deal with the bank for their project financing, due to its flexibility, stability, honesty, good public relationship of the Bank with them. From the retail desk, these writers learnt that to enhance suitability, KCB provides exact contracting requirements: Bid bond, finance contract and performance information, Asset finance such like building of houses, purchase of car, leasing land is handled best to attract more customers.
"Many of the contractors bank with us, because of our positive rapport and engagements with them. For us if you have the award letter we can finance you, of course following set of our procedures," says Siyad.
Those who earn low incomes or operate small and medium business don’t have to feel pinched financially, thanks to the bank’s programmes for such customers. One can borrow as low as Sh5,000 that is Sharia compliant. Salary earners are allowed to borrow up to Sh20,000 interest-free debt.
The Branch also undertakes corporate social responsibility functions. According to Abdi Farah alias Maina, the chairperson of the Persons Living with Disability in Wajir, the Bank is friendly to them. It sponsors the Desert Wheelchair Race, an annual sport competition meant for the disabled persons.
"To us, as the disabled persons, KCB is of great help, basically its the best bank, most friendly to us of all the existing banks in the county; it has stood with us whenever we sought their aid in our activities," he said, citing the aforementioned race held in Isiolo last year.
The KCB Foundation, the bank's non-profit arm, assists members of the society who hail from poor and needy backgrounds by sponsoring small scale business, community projects and youth ideas through written proposal. These sponsorhips are given in form of grants. The Foundation also offers scholarship for the bright but needy students who have done well in KCPE.
Also under the KCB Foundation is the Tujiajiri program which sponsors unemployed youths get necessary skills from tertiary institutions. For instance, KCB pays for the collage fees for students in the polytechnics. The Tujiajiri program has in Wajir County over the last four years supported small businesses like farm producers, bodaboda businesses, and water and tea vendors.
As part of the corporate social responsibility, KCB leads tree planting and forestations programs, purchasing of school chairs and desk for many primary schools in Wajir County, purchase of photocopy machines and printing machines for Kutulo Girls Secondary School. In last year's visit by deputy president William Ruto during the celebration of the 50th anniversary of Wajir High School, KCB donated Sh1 million.
The Bank Branch Manger noted: "I am very pleased to work for the people of Wajir with my twenty-something years of banking experience. One thing I will conceder as a wake-up call, is that our people need to make use of this facility. I always encourage mamas, youth to come up with business ideas, so that they can get support from us and earn better living."
Showing heart to the less fortunate in society, Siyad said that to boost agriculture in the county, the bank is financing water pumping engines for enterpreneurs.
To include the aspect of Islamic Banking and the term Sharia Compliant, Siyad explained. "For now the Sahal Branch caters greatly to the Muslims and also for the Non-Muslims. It may not be 100 percent compliant but basically its currently the best platform of banking for the Muslims."
Sharia compliant loan for instance is that loan where the bank an asset for clients on the price you’ve settled with the seller and the bank gives you the asset with a 14 percent profit rate. This 14 percent is what the bank refers to as profit as opposed to the 14 percent interest rate of the conventional loan. The bank doesn’t give the buyer cash money. This forms the basis of halal (legal) transaction.
Muslims are restricted by Islamic law not to take loans with riba (interest). Even though the banking industry struggled to contain wide range of Muslim clients through advancement such as the Islamic Sharia packages, the realisation of a complete-piece Sharia compliant model is yet a pipe dream, a sojourn, but Siyad hopes we will reach there soon.
Abdirahman Rashid Farah contributed reporting for this article
Mohamed is a contributing reporter for the Kenya Free Press based in Wajir County