L-R: Marko Reis, Regional Manager East Africa for Infobip, Myriad Connect CEO Fabien Delanaud, HF Group CEO Robert Kibaara, Wayawaya CEO Teddy Ogallo and Kocela CEO, Abel Masai at the launch of HF Whizz WhatsApp Banking. HF becomes the first bank to commercially go live with the product. [Photo/Business Today/Courtesy]

HF Group has unveiled a new banking solution that would offer customised mobile banking services to its customers on Whatsapp, effectively becoming the first bank in the region to commercially go live with this product.

But now HF Group has partnered with Infobip, the global cloud communication company for businesses and Wayawaya, Kocela and Myriad to implement and take to market this revolutionary product to its existing and new customers.

The implementation allows customers to interact with the bank through WhatsApp for functions such as virtual account opening, funds transfers, loans, bill payments and goods purchases, among other services.

‘’A highly popular messaging platform with millions of active users in Kenya, WhatsApp unlocks an opportunity for us to offer our customers a more personal, intuitive and efficient way to engage with them on chat. This capability we are pioneering enables HF’s customers to manage their banking needs within their WhatsApp chat with the same efficiency as services obtained at our branches and other digital banking platforms. Customers can simply add HF’s WhatsApp phone number to begin a secure Chat Banking session,’’ said HF Group Chief Executive Robert Kibaara.

To subscribe to this service, customers are required to save the bank’s WhatsApp phone number – meaning access to the chat is granted on an individual and personalised basis.

Combining this powerful and interactive platform with Artificial intelligence (AI) enables businesses to scale their offerings to keep abreast with customer changing preferences. AI makes it possible for machines to learn from experience, adjust to new inputs and perform human-like tasks.

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“Customers’ expectations are constantly changing and it’s our duty as a customer-centric bank to ensure that our customers are provided with the means to initiate or carry out banking services through any channel they desire wherever they are conveniently,” added Kibaara.

This new channel is part of HF’s digital banking strategy and cements its commitment to providing solutions to social and economic challenges through innovation geared at resolving critical issues around ease of access, convenience, safety and simplicity of essential financial services.

“We are very honored to collaborate with such a prominent financial solutions provider. By offering WhatsApp as an alternative channel to their clients. HF Group is strengthening its relationship with customers and acting as a true leader in digital innovation. Enhancing the customer experience is a goal that all big companies should strive to achieve, and we’re thrilled that HF Group was one of the first financial institutions that recognized this opportunity in Kenya,” said Rachel Njiru, Infobip’s Managing Director for Kenya & Director OP in Africa.

KCB Bank is the only other lender that has seen the opportunity offered by the popular social media platform. The Bank in late July announced it was piloting a digital service platform that enables interaction with customers on Whatsapp.

KCB Bank became one of the leading African financial services companies approved for the WhatsApp Business solution pilot programme.­

The platform, designed by San Francisco-based customer experience solutions provider Sparkcentral, will create a centralized communication hub for KCB Bank digital customer care interactions.

In addition to WhatsApp, the solution supports interactions through Facebook Messenger, Instagram, Twitter, as well as bi-directional SMS and modern live chat.

Mobile phone connectivity widespread in Kenya

Kenya tops the list of African countries with ease of access to financial services thanks in part to its high uptake of mobile money, placing the country ahead of economic giants such as South Africa, Nigeria, and Ghana. Other key drivers of this development include mobile adoption and internet connectivity. 84 percent of Kenya’s population has access to the Internet.

An estimated 91 percent of Kenya’s total population has a mobile phone, compared to the average of 80 percent mobile penetration in all of Africa.

The most used social media platforms identified in Kenya is WhatsApp with 74% population usage according to the Jumia Kenya Mobile Report 2019.

The Jumia Kenya report says the higher mobile and internet penetration has led to the growth of social media users, currently at 8.2 million.

“Kenyan users on social media will spend close to 3 hours a day on social media, with the most used social media platforms identified as Whatsapp (74%), Facebook (70%) & Twitter (50%), based on users own claimed activity,” it says.

Other factors that have driven growth in mobile subscriptions, according to the Jumia Kenya Mobile Report 2019, include more affordable smartphones & declining mobile data plans.

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