Impact Stories

Impact Stories

Commercial Bank of Africa Delivering Personalized Digital Banking through Big Data


Starting in 2011, the Commercial Bank of Africa (CBA) began a drive towards innovation in the banking space and has been first to market with full digital banking channels. Drawing on lessons learnt from the SME Finance Forum, CBA recently focused on how to better deploy their Omni-channel distribution for financial inclusion. For CBA to fully roll out their digital financial services offering, most notably via mobile phones, having the right partners with the expected thought process and synergies was critical.

CBA’s fintech partner of choice in this was Strands, another founding member of the SME Finance Forum, which develops innovative software that enables banks to offer personalized digital banking experiences. The Strands Finance Suite includes a comprehensive set of white-label solutions, all of which are based on Big Data analytics and machine learning. Prior to joining the Forum, Strands and CBA already had an existing commercial partnership. This relationship became more entrenched as a result of both being members of the Forum. The convergence of sharing in various topical and critical discussions at the Forum, enabled both institutions to properly shape their commercial partnerships and utilize their unique capabilities more robustly in advancing financial services to the market digitally.

CBA had always been an innovator. It was the first bank in East Africa to introduce a US dollar credit card. Outside Africa, CBA is perhaps best known for M-Pesa, the world’s first mobile money value proposition, which it developed in partnership with Vodafone and Safaricom in 2005.

“One of the things we realized initially was, as a bank, in our 54 year history, we were more inclined towards being a corporate bank, with a bias to serving high net worth individual’s than the mass retail or small businesses market. Over time, we realized that there was an opportunity around having inclusion across a wide spectrum of the market, if we could basically leverage our technology, people and partner capabilities,” said Clifford Odhiambo, CBA’s Executive Business Support Manager, speaking from Nairobi.

And that’s what they did. In 2012, again in partnership with Safaricom, CBA developed the world’s first mobile-centric banking service – M-Shwari. M-Shwari offers both savings and loan products. It has acquired 14 million customers in just 40 months and continues to develop new products. The same concept was replicated in Tanzania, namely, M-Pawa, a banking product that allows customers to save money through their phones, and was launched in 2014 in Tanzania, in partnership with Vodafone, through their local affiliate Vodacom.

“There are so many fintech models out here. So many techies and so many financial players hooking one capability after the other. The noise can get so overwhelming. We were able to become skilled, through our executive team attending Forum events, to know who to choose and when. So we've been able to, for lack of a better word, cut out the chaff,” said Odhiambo

CBA continues to innovate and grow. It has plans to expand from 3 markets to 16 in the next five to ten years, and is well on its way. CBA will continue to seek opportunities to improve the daily lives of its customers, and will do so digitally and in a profitable way.

About Commercial Bank of Africa (CBA)

Commercial Bank of Africa (CBA), a founding member of the SME Finance Forum, is the largest privately owned bank in East Africa and has been operating for over 50 years. It currently has banking operations in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.