Although there are many factors that are considered when deciding on the the correct loan rate, 3 are key. Cost of borrowing; return on capital; loan quality.
- Cost of borrowing: Quite simply, a bank is gets its money from 3 sources in order of quantity; depositors, lenders and shareholders. The lenders will typically charge some internationally priced rate and shareholders are covered below. If you look at a typical Kenyan bank's balance sheet, you'll note that the largest two single items are deposits and loans. While we are can talk about the desirable type of depositor (i.e. raia like you and me who are seen as far more stickier than corporate or other financial entities), the key consideration here is the rate depositors require before they can deposit with a typical Kenyan bank. That is, the rate they lend to the bank. Per CBK, the current average deposit rate is 4.89%; typical savings rate is much lower at 1.81% and finally the interbank rate is 2.17% (its unusual for the interbank rate to be so much lower than the CBK rate in itself a sign of some dysfunctional issues). So Kenyan banks are paying 489 basis points for deposits. They are then not going to charge bank loans at anything less than 4.89% and possibly more if their borrowing from abroad (i) attracted higher interest rates and (ii) is a significant portion of their borrowing. We've overlooked the maturity mismatch issue i.e. the bank is borrowing short (you as a depositor can withdraw your funds at any time) but lending long-term (a bank can't take back its loan tomorrow). So lets say 5.5% to breakeven against cost of borrowing. But is this real cost of borrowing? What about staff costs, administration costs (IT, branches) et al. I'd say add 50bps. Thus arrive at 6%.
- Return on capital: A bank has many stakeholders, but the shareholder is the key one as they can guarantee continuity from a regulatory and financial perspective. The bank's lending rate must therefore reflect the shareholder's desired rate of return on his/er capital to keep their capital with the bank. Straightaway, you'll note that the shareholder wants the regular income in form of dividend and eventually in form of capital gains. A potential shareholder (note not a speculator), will want to keep his/er capital with a bank share for say 2 to 3 years. He/she doesn't know what may happen in those 2/3 years i.e. the risk is high, but at the end of it they'll want a return on the principal and reward in form of gains or income for keeping the cash there. The alternative would be to stick the same cash in a t-bill and earn minimum 8.75% per year with guaranteed principal protection. The bank has to deliver an annual income of no less than 8.75%, guarantee the shareholder's principal by ensuring growth in shareprice and reward the shareholder for sleepless nights. Lets say we are now at 10%.
- Loan quality: In Kenya, a bank historically relied on quality of collateral in form of a clean title deed. Many banks have learned painfully that (a) title deed may not be legit (b) may not mean much if there has to be recourse to the courts where you are asked to form an orderly queue at case number 900,001. Other forms of collateral such as shares; guarantors are costly to enforce. Secondily, the other way you judge the quality of your loan book is to have borrowers that don't already have 5 other loans. In Kenya, its not possible to tell this because credit scoring started this year and of course banks didn't share customer information. The risk of lending and guaranteeing that the loan will not go bad has to be rewarded. Add another 300bps to the 10%. Therefore 13% borrowing rate.