Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Does universal banking have a future in Kenya?

Universal banking is the term used to define banks that are one a stop shop for any combination of depositors, lenders and or investors and insurance seekers. Globally, Citi, UBS Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi and the newly formatted BofA are typical egs of universal banks. In Kenya, we have 2009 Equity and CFC Stanbic.
The key driver for this type of banking has always been the economies of scale in costs and knowledge and products. That is the upside...
The downside which has rarely been priced in the past is that the management matrix and knowhow required to centrally manage such businesses has been huge and as yet, there are few successes. The outcome of this is that management is delegated by default to those knowledgeable in the various facets e.g. an investment banker is given the remit of running the show on the ib part of the business and ditto for the insurance part of the business. This has then lend to a situation where its difficult for the ultimate bank ceo to get a handle on a daily basis what his/her value at risk from the universal bank. Cue the sort of big issues we've seen with these types of banks in the current crisis.
Given the embryonic state of banking regulation in Kenya (is no where near adapting Basel 2 type of capital/ liquidity requirements), it currently is prudent to encourage universal banking without either very targeted regulation of the various parts of such a bank.

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