Equity Bets on APIs to Digitally Transform Banking Services

Equity Bank CEO, Dr. James Mwangi


Equity Group Holdings Plc announced its Q3 Performance at the Investor Briefing event that was held yesterday (October 30). Other than its financial performance during the quarter in question, the bank’s CEO, Mr. James Mwangi spent a significant amount of time to talk about the institution’s gains in terms of innovation and the processes it was undertaking to digitize its mandate completely. Part of that presentation concentrated its banking Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) that it has leveraged to achieve this goal.

In essence, APIs are a crucial technology, and the bank understands their potential in reframing business strategy with financial solutions. Mr. Mwangi said the bank is spending resources to bridge the technology divide and articulate how API strategy can meet the institution’s goals. In other words, APIs are transforming the banking sector in the country and by extension, the entire globe.

On the local front, Equity continues to use them for financial services agenda as this goes in line with the bank’s mission anyway. The Group’s CEO continued to assert that the digital business model leverages the use of APIs to meet rapidly evolving customer demands and expectations, as well as opening the digital ecosystem for robust exploitation because APIs have a role to play collaboratively in delivering a new world of openness in the bank.

Access to these APIs was first made possible in December 2016. At that time, the bank’s subsidiary, Finserve Africa Limited launched Equitel to primarily tap into the mobile money transfer market. The MVNO has grown significantly.

According to Kenya’s Communications Authority (CA), Equitel Money comes second after Safaricom’s M-PESA in terms of number of transactions made, their value, mobile commerce transactions and person to person transfers. These transactions can be attributed the Eazzy Suite that include Eazzy Banking App, EazzyPay and EazyLoan, among other services.

Another way that the bank’s APIs and digital mandate can be put into perspective is based on its involvement in powering the digital economy and creation of opportunities. For instance, the bank is directly involved with 25 startups business (in Kenya, for the moment) in a pilot program that started a couple of months ago.

Also, up to 40 developers have been trained on the use of Eazzy APIs. It should also be noted that 156 SMEs received payments on the Eazzy API platform on ecommerce as of September 2017. The institution has also put 3 incubation centers in place. All in all, it hopes to train more than 500 developers, boost the number of incubation centers to 6 and support up to 2000 SMEs in future.

It is noteworthy to give credit where it’s due owing to the number of digital and APIs services that the bank offers at the moment. I can count up to 10: financial inclusion (for agency banking, Equitel-based banking), mobile payments for mobile banking, personal finance, personal gateways for card ecommerce and mobile wallets, lending, credit score research, insurance services, bills and airtime, as well as card acceptance and stock exchange service. Quite a robust list, apparently.

These are services we see in other products. For instance, Jumia was among the first businesses that implement the Equitel APIs. Others include Chamasoft, Cellulant and Strathmore University, among other businesses.

It is clear that Equity is committing to drive a digital business agenda with an API strategy, and seeks to educate and manage it as a product with all support it needs.