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Preparing for the New World of Banking

Monday, July 20, 2020

KCB Group: 2020 BEST Award Winner, #2


As the banking industry moves increasingly online, KCB Group is focusing on reskilling its branch staff and engaging them in preparations for the future.

In recent years, KCB Group, headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya, has been witnessing significant changes in how its customers are accessing its services. Between 2016 and 2019, the number of transactions made at KCB branches decreased from 36 percent to 12 percent as more customers turned to online banking tools. The company's leadership decided it would be necessary to upskill branch staff so that they were prepared for the digital banking environment.

Breaking down siloed roles

The talent development team was tasked with the mission of upskilling staff so that each employee could serve as a one-stop service point for customers who came into the bank. A law capping interest rates, passed in Kenya in 2016, added to the mission's urgency. Customer-facing staff needed to be able to form a deeper understanding of their customers so that they could point them to different banking solutions that might meet their needs. This would help counter the law's potentially detrimental effect on KCB's bottom line.

With those aims in mind, the talent development team designed and launched the Universal Relationship Manager Program. During the needs assessment, the team examined key success metrics for each of the branches, including wait times, time to serve, portfolio of products held per customer, profitability, complaints, Net Promoter Scores, and staff productivity. It also visited branches to observe customer interactions and talk to staff about their daily activities and learning gaps.

The team decided that the key skills needed for branch staff to provide better customer service in an increasingly digital banking environment included a better understanding of the range of KCB's products and services; data analysis and the ability to connect independent pieces of information; communication skills that covered a variety of platforms; and increased business acumen, which would help staff predict customers' future needs based on past transactions and interactions.

The resulting training program for relationship managers, which took place online and in person at each branch, helped break down silos between different roles, says Samuel Ayiro, head of learning development and talent. Previously, each relationship management group dealt with a specific product. But customers' feedback indicated that they wanted to be assisted by one bank official who had a deeper understanding of them and their business, not "tossed between desks anytime they had a question about the bank," Ayiro explains.

Relationship managers received training to help customers optimize the bank's online tools, which led to even fewer in-person visits but generated a 44 percent increase in fees and commissions and an 11 percent increase in other non-interest income.

In preparing relationship managers to consult with customers with a wide variety of banking needs, the Universal Relationship Manager Program had a ripple effect on the company's success during an uncertain time.

While other institutions cut back on lending due to the cap on interest rates, Ayiro notes, KCB "was able to continue, as we had an in-depth understanding of our customers, their families, their businesses, and even the value chains supporting their enterprises."

He adds: "The relationship managers were also able to unearth new needs that the customers had and match them to solutions offered by the bank. This led to an increase in revenue from other business lines that had previously not been tapped."

Internally, the program also helped increase engagement levels among branch staff.

"Our role was to help teams understand the changing environment we are currently operating in," Ayiro explains. "We realized that many times people get so fixated on what they are doing that they don't see what is happening in the rest of the world."

The program "ended up sparking conversations that led to new solutions and driving adoption of things that have been rolled out," he reports.

Giving employees control over how technology affects their future

One key forum where conversations about the company's future take place are employee town halls, which the talent development team and a business lead facilitate. The focus of the town halls is to discuss how staff members' jobs will change as a result of digital transformation in the banking industry.


Employees usually come into the town halls full of concern over whether machines will take over their jobs, Ayiro notes. But the purpose of the discussions is to help employees understand how the industry is changing and what role they can play.

The discussions always start with a presentation of how KCB's business has changed during the past few years. Then the facilitators get employees talking about unique requests they've received lately from customers and trying to detect any patterns or trends. They also talk about how technology may augment or assist in their day-to-day work. Often, the talent development team converts employees' ideas into pilot projects to test their viability and potential impact.

For example, one employee believed that it took staff too much time to manually reconcile data, which meant that customers couldn't get up-to-date information on their accounts when they had issues. He suggested the use of bots for that specific function. The resulting technology ended up helping branch members complete tasks in hours that had previously taken days or weeks. KCB is now testing the use of bots in other use cases across the company.

The town halls not only help employees better understand their company and the banking industry—and the global forces affecting it—but they also ensure that employees have an active role in shaping KCB's future and their own.

"Employees walk away feeling empowered and excited to be helping craft the future of the organization," Ayiro says.

This serves to diminish employees' fear of the unknown and increase their trust in KCB's leadership and their engagement with their day-to-day work.

View the entire list of 2020 BEST Award winners.

About the Author

Stephanie Castellano is a former writer/editor for the Association for Talent Development (ATD). She is now a freelance writer based in Gainesville, Florida.

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