Equity Bank, Kenya’s biggest in terms of customer base, has won the global SME Finance Award in the Platinum category of SME Bank of the Year – Africa, at the Prestigious IFC Global SME Finance awards held in the Netherlands.
The award is organized by International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, and the SME Finance Forum and endorsed by the G20’s Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion (GPFI). The Global SME Finance Awards celebrate the outstanding achievements of financial institutions and fintech companies in delivering exceptional products and services to their SME clients.
This year’s award winners were selected from a competitive pool of 144 applicants. A panel of independent judges chose the winners based on their Reach, Uniqueness and Innovation, Effectiveness and Impact, and Dynamism and Scalability.
In awarding the Kenyan bank, the independent judges said that the bank has demonstrated good and sustainable profitability supported by its ability to innovate products and adapt to the market. The judges added saying that the bank’s strong digitization in terms of both automation of turnaround time and products offered, resulting in clear benefits to customers thus making a market.
Equity Bank Corporate Banking – SME Associate Director Jeremy Kamau acknowledged the award on behalf of the bank.
“We are humbled to have received this award. Our purpose is to offer integrated financial services that socially and economically empower consumers, businesses, enterprises, and communities. Since Equity Bank started as a small business, we understand the hurdles MSMEs and businesses face, including lack of access to capital and markets and lack of business management knowledge and skills. As a Bank, we have championed MSME banking through the provision of professional, flexible and integrated banking services,” Kamau said after receiving the award
Equity Bank’s core business and service offerings are geared toward MSMEs growth, with its current MSME loan book standing at 60% of the total loan book of the bank and SME deposits contributing 21.5% to the total bank deposits.
The bank has trained 45,725 entrepreneurs in partnership with Norfund, International Labour Organisation, MasterCard Foundation and the Lundin Foundation. For micro-entrepreneurs, Equity Group Foundation in partnership with MasterCard Foundation launched the Financial Knowledge for Africa (FiKA) programme in 2010 to deliver quality financial literacy training and advisory services to women and youth throughout Kenya. Since its launch, more than 1.8 million women and youth have been trained in financial literacy and money management skills.
Equity has since inception been supporting and empowering Small and Medium Enterprises through financing and capacity building such as financial literacy training for women and youth and entrepreneurship training for SME customers. Equity recently became a member of the SME Finance Forum, a global network managed by the IFC, aimed at promoting the financial growth of SMEs.
Commenting on the award, Equity Group CEO and Managing Director Dr James Mwangi said it is an honour for the bank to be recognized on a global level for its efforts in supporting the growth of SMEs.
“Our customer-centric and ecosystem approach to intermediation has given us an opportunity to target our customer’s horizontal and vertical value chains,” he added, “The branch is evolving to an SME centre as majority of our customers move to more convenient self-service digital channels.”
The bank has invested heavily in digital channels for MSMEs, offering solutions such as EazzyBiz, a direct to bank platform that allows MSMEs to make all their transactions online; EazzyNet, an e-banking solution; and EazzyBanking App, a fully-fledged mobile banking app. The bank recently digitized its treasury instruments to SME’s through EazzyFX, an electronic platform for settling forex transactions
The SME Finance Forum works to expand access to finance for small and medium businesses. The Forum operates a global membership network that brings together financial institutions, technology companies, and development finance institutions to share knowledge, spur innovation, and promote the growth of SMEs.