The evidence is no longer anecdotal. Equity Bank is not for us all!
Over the years, since this bank started operating in Kenya, there have been recurrent complaints from a growing section of the Kenyan populace who feel the bank serves only the interests of a certain community. In keeping with my practice to breath fire when I think things aren't going right, let me say that the community folks refer to is our brothers and sisters from Central Province. It doesn't help matters that the bank is heavily staffed by men and women from that region. So if perception is anything to go by, it is time for people across the country, who feel the bank does not serve their interests, to close their accounts and walk away.
A secret analysis of the bank's trends was conducted by folks I won't name here after complaints about the bank's lending patterns reached a crescendo early this year. The findings are indeed troubling. First and foremost, it is now clear that the bank generally lends larger sums of money to Kikuyus than it does to folks from elsewhere, unless those folks are supper-rich and would pay back the money lent to them within a few days. according to that study, this amounts to the bank using funds from communities across the country, who bank with it, to enrich the region from where its top management emanates. This is a morally indefensible practice.
Then there is the practice of loading key positions within the banks hierarchy with members of the House of Mumbi. In another lifetime, we used to call that kind of thing tribalism. The problem with this practice is that the decision-making committees are automatically dominated by folks from Central Province. Given that state of affairs, chances that loan applications from non-Central Kenyans are scrutinized and turned down at a higher rate than would be ordinarily acceptable if the decision-makers were a lot more mixed.
If you add the fact that Equity Bank's ATMs are down at the end of every month to the troubling lending trends, and the fact that the bank boasts some of the longest lines in the history of Kenyan banking, what you have is a bank that people should be fleeing, not celebrating. And by the way, those rumors you've heard about the bank's political connection are not unfounded. Looking at where the donor funds to the government are pumped and where top politicians from Central Province bank, you can't deny this political-connection reality. Lest I sound naive, let me say that in and of itself, the fact that Central political and corporate heavyweights bank at Equity is not a problem; the problem is whether the bank will survive when President Kibaki is no longer its unofficial patron.
Can Equity Bank be trusted to get it right?
As it's presently constituted and run, NO!
Fellow Kenyans, what I'm saying is that the time to walk away from a bank that does not serve the interests of this nation's people is now. From Kisumu to Nakuru to Kakamega to Isiolo, the time to reassess our allegiance to this institution is today, not tomorrow. If we wait till tomorrow, we'll have unwittingly participated in the empowerment of one community at the expense of the ones we come from. That is not what we set out to do when we opened accounts at Equity.
So let's work with banks that will empower Kenyans equally. Unless Equity meets the Lord and gets baptized!