News Column

Equity woos clients with phone loans in mobile banking bid

June 1, 2014

OKUTTAH MARK, mokuttah@ke.nationmedia.com -1



Equity Bank is set to give loans to its customers for purchase of 10 million smartphones over the next four years to support the lender's switch to mobile banking.

The bank's chief executive James Mwangi said in an interview that customers will be given loans and repay the smartphones in instalments.

"The smartphones acquired will be used as guarantee, for those who fail to honour the contract we will simply disable their handsets," said Mr Mwangi.

Equity Bank announced on Monday last week that it will be launching its mobile money services next month, which will also come with voice and data services.

The lender acquired a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) licence from the communications regulator to give it more control of its mobile banking strategy.

Besides potentially raising uptake of its mobile banking service, Equity's move is set to provide a new revenue stream from the loans advanced on handsets.

"We will charge a two per cent interest rate (per month) on the phone loans, we cannot charge an interest higher than what we charge for our other banking products," said Mr Mwangi.

READ: Equity Bank goes for special SIM cards for its mobile money service

Compared to basic handsets that retail from as low as Sh1,500, smartphones with the capability of handling data-hungry services sell from about Sh7,000, indicating a likely lucrative lending opportunity for Equity, whose total loan book stands at about Sh200 billion.

Customers will choose their favourite mobile handsets under the scheme, similar to a laptop loans deal dubbed "Laptop ni Lazima" that targeted students.

Spectrum licence

Equity's subsidiary for mobile services, Finserve, is among three firms that the Communication Authority of Kenya (CAK) licensed as Mobile Virtual Network Operators in April.

The MVNO licence enables an entity to offer services such as customer registration, SIM card issuance, billing and customer care to end users without holding a spectrum licence.

Other than Finserve, other providers that were licensed include Mobile Pay Limited, owned by Tangaza Money and ZionCell. Currently there are only slightly over 4.5 million smartphone handsets and tablets connected to the four mobile providers; Safaricom, Airtel, Orange and yuMobile; against a mobile subscriber base of 31.3 million.

This means that most mobile subscribers have basic phones which are not capable of accessing faster internet services such as 3G, leaving a huge unutilised investment by the mobile firms.

According to latest statistics from the industry regulator, the number internet subscriptions rose to 13.1 million from 11.6 million.


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Source: Business Daily (Kenya)


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