CRDB Bank received Fund support in relation to rolling out its mobile wallet solution. The product, dubbed SimAccount, was launched in 2017, and is a digital product designed to serve people at the bottom of the banking pyramid.
At the time, CRDB identified three market gaps that led it towards SimAccount:
- Only 16 per cent of the population above 15 years were using mainstream financial services.
- 66 per cent of the population were living within five kilometres of a financial access point.
- Mobile money services were limited to money transfers mainly.
The situation existed partly because of limited existence to digital financing platforms that supported existing informal financing structures beyond non-remittance and non-transfer products. Also, existing digital financing products and services did not complement the existing local or informal financial services in the market. Third, last mile operators such as agents were crippled in service provisions due to challenges in mechanisms for e-value and liquidity replenishments. And finally, there were stringent or lack of proportionate requirements for client on-boarding.
The Fund supported the project to achieve its milestones in bringing multiple products to market, particularly its marketing and branding activities. Through this support the Bank managed to promote SimAccount countrywide, educate users on the product features and benefits, and make product enhancements that emanated from customers’ needs.
In particular SimAccount has had the following results on its journey so far with Fund support:
- More than 400,000 customers have been subscribed in total, with over 50% attributable in part to the Fund intervention.
- More than 12,000 agents have been recruited.
- More than 12,000 merchants have been onboarded
- More than 3,000 groups have been on boarded.
- A number of loans have now been disbursed through SimAccount.
In more detail, some particular achievements included:
- Uptake based on functions allowing groups to self-manage: While initially individual focused, the group feature in SimAccount that allows members to a create a virtual group in the platform and provides options for the group to define its own operating rules has been well received with over 3,000 groups registering onto the platform. This feature also attracted group members to open individual accounts, save and participate effectively in their group’s affairs.
- Uptake for digital loans that are quick and convenient: Small scale traders (Wamachinga) such as those through Kariakoo Wamachinga Association (KAWASSO) have embraced digital loans applied and provided through members mobile phones based on simplicity and convenience.
- Through the developed M-Wallet platform the bank has been able to:
- Accelerate reach to low-income segments using customers mobile phones.
- Enhance partnerships with MNOs to transform mobile accounts into bank accounts
- Participate more effectively in expediting financial inclusion through:
- Digitalization of money (Cash to e-value and so to the cashless economy).
- Offering rural communities and low-income earners a full range of products – deposit and credit that were not previously adequate.
- Group accounts to allow formal (registered MFIS) and informal groups (Vicoba, merry-go-round, unregistered SACCOS, Fundraisers) to operate bank accounts.
- Integrate excluded segments into CRDB and so enhance formal financial inclusion.
The product’s focus on digital and cashless payments for customers, with agents facilitating cash in and cash out, while merchants accept payments from customers for goods and services delivered.
The product is accessible through a USSD channel (*150*62#) for customers, agents and merchants while a portal is used for bulk payments for institutions.
INSIGHTS AND LESSONS LEARNED FROM WORKING WITH THE FUND:
A number of insights and lessons have been drawn from the project implementation and working with the Fund.
- Benefits of the investment in marketing take time to be realised: A number of activities were conducted including interviews on radio and television stations, advertisement placements, promotional campaigns in addition to working through outsourced partners and foot soldiers. It has been noted that major results from the campaigns are not immediate and can bear fruit after a long time (even up to 12 months) with noted increase in subscriptions referenced to the campaigns.
- Cost savings on self-registration can be achieved: Different from the use of outsourced partners or using bank staff for customer recruitment, this option has proved to be cost effective and has enabled a good number of customers to register themselves after hearing the benefits of using SimAccount.
- Creating awareness of alternative banking channels to enable repayments was important: During implementation, it was noted that some customers - particularly borrowers - had not acquainted themselves with using bank agents for loan repayments. As a result, some repayment instalments were delayed. This necessitated awareness building activities on the use of CRDB’s alternative channels to be included in trainings to loan applicants.
- There was limited flexibility on the funds usage based on the identified activities only: The Fund allocated support for approved activities only and there was little room for re-allocation if that need emerged e.g. an important activity that could support growth but was not included in the agreement. There is potential for future criteria and decisions to be more flexible.
The project has proved to be particularly important in enhancing financial inclusion, with increased demand for the financial services, convenience, simplicity and low-cost factors playing a role in serving low-income communities with Fund support.