Most of the major Banks in Kenya and parts of South America have embraced Agency Banking as a way of improving their services to their customers and cutting a niche for themselves in an ever competitive market.
Why Banks have embraced Agency banking
Agency banking has enabled bank customers to access the basic banking services, for example, cash deposit, cash withdrawal and bank balance inquiry conveniently or what would be termed as within the comfort of their neighbor-hood. The convenience of access to banking services and the extended hours that the agencies work has been the most attractive features to the customer (as most agencies work between 8am up to 8pm). The rural population especially has heartily welcomed this idea since they have had to sometimes go through Vexing experiences to access banking services due to the poor road infrastructure and high costs.
Benefits of Agency banking to Banks
It is not only the customers who have benefited from Agency Banking. Banks too have benefited a great deal at a time when most banks are working towards cost management. Some of these benefits are listed below:
- Huge savings on cost of construction of bank premises and leasing costs when banks are using the Agency premises.
- Human Resource expenses have reduced. The banks do not have to employ new staff to manage the agency and the cost of training if any is to the bare minimum.
- Savings on equipment like furniture and computers.
Challenges of Agency banking for Banks
There are of course challenges that the banks need to address to avoid losing customers and maintaining the Banker- Customer relationship. The customer is still the responsibility of the Banks and the same has not been delegated to the Agency. Some of the challenges that need to be addressed are:
- Confidentiality – Every year Banks ensure that their staff members sign secrecy forms and maintain confidentiality for all customer information. This should be looked at as these agency employees are not bank employees.
- Security – Most of these agencies are in areas that are what would be considered ‘high Risk’. The Bank needs to audit the security measures being taken by the agencies to ensure the customer can transact confidently without having to look behind their backs.
- Customer service to the bank customer – Service is a huge challenge for the banks as they need to train and retrain the Agents so as to maintain high levels of customer service..
- Issues of Fraud – The agency staff will be a target by fraudsters as they are aware that they will not be able to easily identify fraudulent transactions for example identification of documents for originality or if they are fake.
The bank must address the challenges that are posed by having agency banking while at the same time taking advantage of all the benefits of having this channel of banking. Agency Banking may eventually lead to financial inclusion in the countries where it has been adopted.