Equity Bank has been at the forefront of the banking industry revolution for a long time. This can be seen in the bank’s decision to serve the lower segment of the market in the 1990s, when banking was seen as the preserve of the wealthy.
In fact, during this period, banks used to require a minimum balance of Ksh. 10,000, which left many people unbanked. Equity’s decision had the effect of forever changing the banking landscape, so much so that other banks began to court this largely untapped market.
In its quest to deliver financial inclusion, the bank has invested heavily in technology over the years to make it a reality. This investment in technology to facilitate banking operations took off around the year 2000. So after Equity saw that urban areas were well covered by other banks, they came up with the idea of providing banks (mobile banks) to remote areas of Kenya, which were not served. Mobile banks consisted of four-wheel-drive vehicles that served rural areas with population densities of over 400 people per square kilometer. These mobile banks made weekly visits to the communities they served and provided all the services one would find in an Equity branch.
The village mobile units have proven to be very popular as they have saved their clientele transport costs. So that at the beginning of 2004, the units were profitably serving 12,000 clients in 29 villages.
In 2004, Equity was the first bank to introduce USSD banking through which its customers could access banking services by simply dialing *247#. This ensured that anyone with a cell phone could do banking, which went a long way in making banking services accessible, as a good number of people had phones. This option is still available for those with feature phones that cannot access the Internet.
In 2013, the bank had, and I still believe, one of the largest bank branch networks in the country. This model has enabled the bank’s customers to have access to banking services nearby and in the very comfort of their neighbourhood. Since then, that number has grown to more than 62,854 banking agents in the markets it serves.
In 2015, the bank launched a suite of digital products named EazzyBanking, which promised to deliver a simple, comprehensive and secure banking experience. This decision was driven by a growing number of digitally savvy banking customers who wanted a service that gave them convenience, choice and control.
This suite includes;
This banking app allows customers to send money, pay for goods and services, get loans, pay bills, and check your account balance. It is available on the Google Play Store and the iOS app store.
This feature allows customers to borrow up to Ksh. 3 million from their phone. They can do it through Equitel or EazzyApp.
This product is for chamas and helps them manage their group activities like record keeping and banking transactions. The app is available on Google Play Store and the iOS app store.
This is Equity Bank’s online banking proposal that allows transactions to be carried out over the Internet in complete security. It is available on ke.equitybankgroup.com/eazzynet.
In 2018, the bank launched Riziki Insurance Coverage whereby Equitel subscribers are covered for loss of daily income from their employment or personal business in the event of hospital admission. The product is available to anyone with an Equitel line who uses airtime worth Sh100 and more or performs mobile banking transactions worth Sh1000 or more per month.
As with everything else, Equity Bank has been very successful in using technology to enable its customers to access its services. So much so that in 2020, the digital bank has overtaken the historical bank both in number of transactions and in value of transactions processed daily. Online banking products and services saw the strongest growth with digital transaction values up 34%.
Equity’s fintech innovation and digitization has enabled at least 98% of transactions to take place outside of the bank, with at least 83% on mobile and internet banking platforms. Additionally, 59% of Equity’s transaction value occurred outside of branches, with mobile and internet banking accounting for 33% of total value.
This is in line with Equity Bank’s Africa Recovery and Resilience Plan, which aims to catalyze Africa’s natural resource-driven transformation. The fourth pillar of the plan deals with the technology-based economy with the aim of attracting 100 million online customers by 2025.