Banking on legal practitioners

Discursive legal sector networking could solve the existing 21st Century legal financial requirements faced by legal firms.

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By NLM writer

Gulf African Bank recently hosted Nairobi lawyers to a discursive legal sector networking meeting, a move that’s expected to solve the existing 21st Century legal financial requirements faced by legal firms, practicing partners and their institutional clients.

Attendees discussed why legal firms really need institutional partners to champion their growth, and why Gulf African Bank particularly is wooing legal practitioners, their firms and clients with customised products.

While it seems ordinary for a bank to focus majorly on a certain profession in order to reach a wider target audience, insiders believe that the current drive to embrace customised products will pay off.

The bank’s head of consumer banking, Abdullahi Adan, submitted that in the ever changing world of competition, they will continue to customise their products and services to meet customer needs exhaustively.

“We recognise the critical importance that networking plays in furthering relationships,” Adan said, “and have organised for legal clinics for our legal sector clients which will be held in our innovative Biashara hubs. We will also provide lawyers and their institutional client’s competitive rates on their deposits, special foreign exchange rates and equity finance to advocates seeking partnerships in law firms, backed by a guarantee from the firm.”

Amina Bashir, who is head of legal at the same institution, says that, among other things, the bank is focusing on high-touch servicing, responsiveness to inquiries, customised financial solutions and personalized relationships.

Bashir emphasised that offers are already in place for special pre-approved credit card to partners of the firms with a limit of between Sh500,000 and Sh2 million, and individual pre-approved financing for the firms’ partners for amounts of up to Sh5 million, depending on the size of the firm.

“Financing is critical for the growth of any legal practice. Having a financial partner that has a unit solely focused on enabling their growth is a great step in the right direction,” Bashir said, adding that the bank recently launched services targeting high net worth individuals as it celebrates ten years since it debuted Islamic banking services in Kenya.

It is not the first time that the bank has entered into a partnership like this. About two years ago, it launched a programme targeting professional doctors with an intention of extending the same to sectors that will remain lucrative such as aviation and others.

At the same time, the bank is the first in Kenya to sign up for United Women’s HeForShe campaign, a solidarity campaign for the advancement of women empowerment, and has put in place measures to ensure that gender equality in its operations is observed. Its women specific program “Annisaa”, for example, is embedded in three pillars – empower, educate and protect that which matters to women most – and offers unique and innovative financial products designed specifically for women.

According to a survey of bank customers in Africa by consultants at McKinsey & Company that was released in May this year, reasons for choosing a banks as per 11 percent of customers polled include requirements by employer, which stands at 9 percent, security in an event the bank closes down (8 percent), products and services (5 percent) and brand (4 percent). The findings which drew participation of 2,500 bank customers also indicated that banks which offer low-priced products especially products are more likely to get a big piece of the market until 2022.

As higher expectations on service delivery continue to rise, figures show that KCB, Equity and Co-operative banks – some of the players that have invested big in agency banking model – controlled about 33 percent of the market in 2016, an indication that segmentation of customers is not only happening at Gulf African bank.

Lately, high growth companies like financial institutions have got creative, including by going out of the way to woo customers with tempting products as pain lies in getting customers. People familiar with the financial sector identify the number of financial technology solutions (now popular as Fintech) being rolled out these days to be the main reason there is a disruption with banks trying to go for niche markets.

The powerful shift, which can be compared to the proverbial “damned if you do and damned if you don’t” has meant that banks, for example, must recognise that there is a consumer who needs tailor made packages to get a piece of the pie.

Apart from the promising emerging technologies, leveraging on specific areas – for instance, by coming up with products specifically targeting doctors, teachers or farmers – could be a sure fire way of staying relevant in a market chockful with competition. (

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