FinTech Companies Eyeing Barbados

Financial technology (FinTech) companies in Kenya are making significant strides in that rapidly growing sector, and during last week’s Safari Oceans Barbados-Kenya Alliance Forum, hosted by Export Barbados (BIDC), local companies heard first-hand how FinTech could help business development here as well.

Attending the Forum were two young Kenyan entrepreneurs, Cynthia Wandia Mburu and Jihan Abass who led businesses in the fast developing FinTech sector, in which Kenya is becoming a leading global innovator.

In her presentation, Abass, the Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Lami Technologies Inc., an insurance technology company founded in Nairobi, Kenya, to increase insurance coverage in Africa, suggested that through technology Barbados could also boost its insurance coverage. She is therefore hoping to soon explore such opportunities.

“When I assessed the Barbadian market, it seemed that there was a really big drop in insurance sales in the past three years. I don’t know if it was fully attributed to COVID or the lack of tailored products in the market, but I really think that through technology, we’ll be able to launch micro insurance products, which is not something that’s very big here. So bite-sized, more affordable insurance products that actually can be plugged into places like supermarkets at the checkout, or through payments that are used on a day-to-day basis, to simplify the uptake of insurance products.

 Jihan Abass, the Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Lami Technologies Inc.

She explained that Lami Technologies is an end-to-end digital platform that has digitized the entire value chain of insurance. As such, she noted that work which would normally be done by a large staff, could now be achieved through a platform that is fully automated.

“So you’re actually able to go and create a new product and have it readily available for digital distribution in as little as two weeks. We also have billings and payments, with various kinds of payment options, whether it’s pay on a daily basis or pay on a monthly basis, to try to increase that flexibility, to convince people to purchase insurance… And then we also plug in a variety of insurance companies to make their products available for distribution,” Ms. Abass stated.

Cynthia Wandia Mburu, Co-founder and CEO of Kwara Limited, a global digital banking company that exclusively serves credit unions, also spoke of what they have to offer.

“We serve 66,000 members with 45 employees. But the numbers we’re most proud of, are that credit unions who use our platform grow their loans by 46 percent more than they did the year before they used our platform. And they grow their membership by 19 percent, more than the global average of 6 percent,” Ms. Mburu said.

With offices worldwide, she said their global operational headquarters are in Nairobi, while research and development is done in Berlin, Germany. The CEO added that they are “extremely excited” to be exploring the possibility of opening a local unit in Barbados as well. She is confident that her FinTech company can further boost the credit union movement in Barbados, which manages $2.8 billion in assets.

“One of the reasons we started Kwara was because we noticed that while credit unions are essential in the global financial system, they often face unique challenges relative to banks and MFIs [microfinance institutions]. One of them is that legacy IT systems are not fit for purpose for the specific aspects of a credit union. They’re also quite CapEx [capital expenditure] heavy, which takes away liquidity from lending to members; and vendor support can tend to be less than optimal. At the same time, members’ needs are increasing”, said the FinTech entrepreneur.

She continued, “The rise of digital lending also means that in some countries, it’s actually easier to borrow than it is to start to save. At the same time, as credit unions increase their asset base, compliance needs increase as well, which means the requirements for real time reporting, more audit trails, more analytics and a higher degree of data accuracy. So that’s where we come in.”

Any Barbadian credit union that signs up with Kwara, the CEO said, will be included in the member portal, which allows members to view their balances, download their statements and apply for loans online. She explained that such capability has been shown to increase member engagement, reduce support requests and engage younger customers.