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Equity Bank upgrades system to curb ATM outages, handle more customers

February 12, 2014


Equity Bank has completed an upgrade of its banking system to accommodate rising customer numbers and minimise outages that have disrupted its ATM and banking hall services in recent months.

The lender, which has an estimated 8.7 million customers, had to deal with a public relations crisis last year following system breakdowns that caused ATM service outages attributed to system overload and the upgrade process.

"We are not shy to say there were hiccups, but we have now stabilised," said Equity Bank CEO James Mwangi Wednesday during the launch of the upgraded system.

Rapid customer growth had strained its system which was installed in 2004. The new system, Finacle Version 10, can process one million transactions simultaneously compared to 300,000 previously.

The new system will also enable customers access their accounts across the five countries where Equity has operations in without transfer of funds.

Last year, Equity customers complained of system failures especially during the end-month peak period when it was clogged with high transactions.

As at September last year, Equity was processing 7.5 million cash transactions a month, with ATM being the most common channel of transacting. The bank has over 200 branches in the region, 700 ATM outlets and 8,612 agents.

Mr Mwangi declined to disclose the cost incurred by the lender to install the new system. In 2004, it paid Sh960 million to Indian-based Infosys for a system dubbed Finacle Version 7.

Banks have been upgrading or changing their core banking systems to capitalise on the customers' migration to online and mobile phone based transactions.

Co-operative Bank said it spent Sh2.5 billion to implement a new operating system in 2012, while mid-sized lender NIC Bank said it spent Sh800 million in the same year.

Other lenders that have recently changed their core systems include KCB which attributed its 18 per cent growth in operating costs in 2010 to the change, Standard Chartered, Barclays and Family Bank.

The is yet to report its full-year results which will give an indication of whether costs associated with the system change impacted on its financial performance.

Equity, however, hopes that its cost-to-income ratio will improve, helped by greater efficiency of the operating system.

The Central Bank of Kenya requires banks to have a standing information technology committee, underlining how crucial systems have become and the risk exposure in case of a failure.

Equity intends to ride on the platform to launch new products such as Islamic banking services.

"Sharia compliant banking option is open to us the products are inbuilt in the system, it is only for us to activate and launch," said Mr Mwangi.

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Source: Business Daily (Kenya)

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