Fireside Chat with Equity Bank CEO & MD, Dr. James Mwangi

By Hilda Moraa
  Published 14 Jun 2011
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Fireside Chat with Equity Bank CEO & MD, Dr. James Mwangi
Opening the Pivot25 event with a fireside chat, CEO & MD of Equity Bank, Dr. James Mwangi spoke to the Pivot25 audience about Equity Bank and his opinion of the future of the Mobile Money sector. Q: What is your take on innovation in the Kenya Vision 2030? I am an innovator and believe innovation is important in the modern world today. Equity Bank was built through innovation and this has created a social solution. If Kenya continues to do things the way they are currently do, then Kenya will continue to use the same, slow processes while carrying our transactions. Therefore, we need to change through innovation. Q: While developing applications, should revenue generation be in mind? Ideally, innovation is an output of entrepreneurs. The society is willing to pay a price for that solution. The two ideally are inter-related. However, we need to look beyond the revenue generation and more of a sustainable solution for the local community. Applications should solve a solution, but at the same time money is necessary to scale the solution. Q: What did you do differently in banking that makes Equity a success? Equity is more than just a payment solution bank, it has moved to become more of a service provider and delivering dignity in a more convenient and affordable way. We are different because we invested the source code in the pocket. If we have to solve the problems of Africa we have to be very innovative by: - Demonstrating the innovation to people, - Understanding the innovators and supporting them (because innovation can be an expensive venture), - rolling out Equity's new innovation centre that will give people with burning ideas a chance to showcase and roll-out their products. Q: What is your take on Mobile Commerce? Equity Bank discovered the innovation and power for cell phone is increasing and we asked ourselves as a bank how can we leverage that? Equity has made the cell phone a delivery service, over 1.5 million of equity customers are using the mobile phone to access their services because: - It is a very cheap product; - There is no depreciation; - It is a better substitute than keeping money under the mattress; - It is a very attractive , cool and convenient tool for customers; and - It allows customers to have the bank in their pocket. Q: What can be done to excel in ICT? 1) The government needs to streamline policies and get focused in implementing them 2) Solutions of the country lie in ICT and mobile space, the government needs to subsidies on these sectors Q: Why is equity interested in the mobile space? Equity is interested in mobile space because we have the customers and the interface so we should show the customers we can make the innovation on a SWITCH. Also, the average age of Equity Bankers is 26 years old and this shows that we need to be tuned into this new space. Future of Equity Bank The future for communication for Equity Bank will be built around social media. We believe we will have a blog and face book for clients to air their views within 3 months from now (September 2011). Q: How are you helping universities to develop their ideas? -Laptops initiative for the students’ with partnering institutions -We help top Form Four students get exposure in IT and become ambassadors of the program -Equity innovation centers as a corporate venture. Q: How does Equity reach out to the people using their innovative tools? -We have innovation centers and as the tools are being developed the social media, we will take part in educating and partnering with the developers to facilitate training and education. MIT are a partner for resources and we are also talking to universities to leverage the local knowledge. -Crowd computing power to around 3,000 Innovation Centers will be able to host around 100 innovators. Concepts will be proven and move to Acceleration Centres where patenting, accounting services, and setting up the company will be provided for free. We aim to create an ecosystem in creating innovations. Q: Can an idea be the security of a start-up? The challenge has been in the entrepreneurs. The problem is not at the micro enterprises, it’s when you move to the SME space. We want to set a specific brand where people are trained on the idea of financing and security. Equity feels that for its success, it needs to move into partnership with other players in the market. The objective is to be the core of the innovative eco-system through players. We believe it is more important to bring to the innovators the 7 million clients we have and tell them to make it happen with your innovation.
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