What you need to know:
- The business models of some financial institutions are changing, and they no longer need some clients.
- Statistics from the Central Depository & Settlement Corporation Limited (CDSC) show that there are about two million investors at the Nairobi Securities Exchange, 1.9 million of who are local individuals.
- Billions of shillings flowing to obscure secretaries, hairdressers and companies sometimes end with regulatory trouble for their bankers.
I have spent a frustrating month trying to prove that I exist and that I am the same person who opened an account with a bank, and a stockbroker and still wishes to transact.
The business models of some financial institutions are changing, and they no longer need some clients. They are also under pressure from their regulators to weed out dormant accounts and to transfer idle assets off their books. “KYC” or Know Your Customer has been ramped up at all financial institutions as dormant accounts are seen as possible channels for fraud. And the weekly scandals in the newspapers that feature billions of shillings flowing to obscure secretaries, hairdressers and companies sometimes end with regulatory trouble for their bankers.
One stockbroker has decided to focus on another line of business and has asked all its clients to take their business elsewhere. I chose another stockbroker where I have an old account. The new stockbroker already has some fees lined up for activating and maintaining the account. But first, I have to prove that I exist and this means providing the stockbroker with dozens of signed and stamped documents, bank statements, photos, board resolutions, and company searches.
When banks migrate their technology systems, they might also lose your account or details. Last year my stock-broking account vanished from the online platform. After proving I still existed, the broker created a new account for me and migrated my suspended shares over from their suspense account.
One bank changed the terms and conditions of an account, and in a few months, it was drained to zero. When I tried to follow up, the customer service person wanted me to bring in all the letters that I had sent to the bank, including my request for a savings account that would not have monthly charges, but which the bank had ignored or lost.
Another bank closed a dormant account after draining it to zero with bank charges. A third bank keeps calling to remind me about a dormant account. I have told them to close it as I no longer need it, but they want me to pay a fee before they close it.
As a person in Nairobi, with daily access to the Internet, and to the necessary documents, online and offline, that prove I exist, it has been quite hard dealing with these different institutions. Now imagine someone in a rural area, like a retired teacher or the hundreds of people who attend annual general meetings of companies.
Two million investors
Statistics from the Central Depository & Settlement Corporation Limited (CDSC) show that there are about two million investors at the Nairobi Securities Exchange, 1.9 million of who are local individuals. As shareholders, they live for their dividends and attend the annual general meeting, for lunch and a nice gift bag. But now they are being put on zoom meetings to ask their questions online.
They only come round to brokers to buy shares when there is a huge IPO like Safaricom or KenGen. They do not actively trade their shares, and in this era, they will be declared dormant and the pile of accounts at the office of unclaimed assets will grow in a few years.
Eventually, I went to the stockbroker’s office and was pointed to a sign by the watchman at the gate that read “No visitors allowed”. I was asked to call upstairs which I did, and a staffer came down. I got some dismal service at the gate, in front of the watchmen with the sanitiser and thermometer. This is the nature of stockbroking services in the era of Covid-19.
Anyway, the struggle continues to prove to the financial institutions that I still exist and want to pay them for the services they advertise they will provide.