Although there are some marked differences between African Millennials and their American counterparts, they share a certain sentiment towards personal banking. In Nairobi, the Commercial Bank of Africa (CBA) recognizes that long queues, red tape, and triplicate banking forms are not in the best interest of this customer segment—i.e. account holders born in the 1980s and beyond. After all, this is a generation that came of age around the same time M-Pesa revolutionized Kenya by transforming smartphones into mobile banking branches.
In 2017, CBA executives announced the launch of Loop, a personal banking app for the iPhone and Android-powered mobile devices. One of the salient features of the CBA Loop app is that it presents personal financial information in a manner that is not only visually attractive but also easy to assimilate. Altogether, Loop offers 18 functions that range from account balances to budgeting, and from bill payment to forecasting major purchases. According to Eric Muriuke, general manager of CBA, the Loop app effectively eliminates the need for queuing up at a local branch to seek the assistance of bank tellers and clerks. To that extent, it can be said that Loop breaks the glass barrier that separates bank employees from account holders.
Loop also enables money transfers between CBA account holders as well as international wires that can be placed right from the smartphone; this is extremely important for generous Millennials who enjoy helping each other with cash transfers.
The Friendly Loop Stores
Aside from lending, investment, and management of financial goals from smartphones, the Loop initiative has another special, brick-and-mortar feature. In Nairobi, CBA has opened six Loop Stores that invite customers to walk in, pick up their bank cards and shop around for new accounts, investment products and neat merchandise. Naturally, account holders are invited to help themselves to the free and speedy Wi-Fi in the Loop Stores, which are nothing like the traditional branch banking experience.
CBA is hardly the first African bank to target Millennials; Standard Bank in South Africa has already been exploring this segment. Nonetheless, the CBA Loop program and its retail component stands to become a new approach to personal banking on the Continent.