Meet Rebecca Mbithi a transformative leader in the banking industry

Rebecca Mbithi, the Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director at Family Bank,

Hardly a year into the job, Family Bank registered an historic and mind-boggling growth in profitability of 300% in the first three quarters of 2019, reflecting a huge jump from similar period in 2018.

By Dr Hanningtone Gaya PhD  FIMI  MKIM EBS

Get to know Rebecca Mbithi, the Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director at Family Bank, an indigenous commercial bank in Kenya and the fourth largest bank by branch network.

Rebecca began school with the dream of becoming a pilot but found her passion slowly gaining roots in law and finance. She is a highly experienced professional with an extensive background in leadership in various organizations at director level specializing in law, project finance, corporate restructuring, equity/ debt raising and governance.

A seasoned professional, Rebecca holds a Master’s in Business Administration in Strategic Management from United States International University-Africa and an LL. B degree from the University of Nairobi. She is a Certified Public Accountant and a member of the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Kenya (ICPAK), a Certified Secretary and a Member of the Institute of Certified Secretaries, an advocate of the High Court of Kenya and a member of the Law Society of Kenya.

Prior to taking over the steering role at Family Bank, Rebecca was the Company Secretary and Director, Legal Services—a position she held for four years. That put her in the steering role where she was instrumental in strategy and business development, capital and debt raising, risk management, compliance and controls, providing legal services and strengthening the bank’s governance structures.

“I have been part of the transformation journey for the bank having been part of the Family Bank’s senior management team for four years. Taking over as the CEO has given me the opportunity to steer the ship with formidable strategies that have put us back to profitability and we continue on an upward trajectory. I am privileged to be heading a team that comprises of focused staff whose resolve is to put the customer first while providing innovative products and services that meet their needs,” says Rebecca Mbithi.

On her nomination as one of the Top 25 Business Leaders to watch in Kenya in 2020, Rebecca says she is humbled by the recognition and dedicates it to the customers of Family Bank whose support of the brand has been unmatched.

“I am very humbled to be recognized by Business Monthly, one of the most respected monthly publications on business in Kenya, as one of the CEOs whose work has contributed to the growth of industry and commerce in our country. At Family Bank, we will continue to work hard to create value for our customers and together we can work towards growing our economy,” added Rebecca.

Away from work, Rebecca is passionate about impacting communities through provision of clean and safe water. This is especially through Family Bank’s sustainability projects such as Maji kwa Wanafunzi.

Rebecca is an avid marathoner who has run in five of the world’s major marathons including New York, Chicago, London and Berlin Marathons.

Family Bank Ltd CEO Designate Rebecca Mbithi receives marathon permit from Athletics Kenya Chairman Gen J.K Tuwei (Rtd) and Athletics Kenya CEO Susan Kamau during the launch of Family Group Eldoret Half Marathon The Family Group Foundation

Rebecca was appointed in mid-2018 and immediately shook the banking industry with her sterling performance. For instance, hardly a year into the job, Family Bank registered an historic and mind-boggling growth in profitability of 300% in the first three quarters of 2019, reflecting a huge jump from similar period in 2018.

The bank’s notable growth in the period is attributed to aggressive deposit taking and on-lending to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) that was against the weighted risk of a rate cap environment. Customer deposits grew by a substantive 26 percent to Ksh.60.2 billion as net loans and advances kept pace at 11 percent to grow to Ksh.49.3 billion.

“Our aggression in deposit taking was targeted at institutions, county governments, NGO’s, corporate and SME customers as we arrived at an optimum deposit mix,” CEO Rebecca Mbithi says in a corporate newsletter available on the bank’s website. In the same report, ‘Family Bank’s net interest income rose by 16.1 percent to Ksh.3.6 billion anchored on a flat Ksh.1.2 billion interest expense to depositing customers and a fall in other interest expenses.

Investments in digital continued to strengthen the bank’s balance sheet by weeding off costs to see operating expenses retained at a flat Ksh.4.7 billion from a similar period in 2018,’ the report adds. The CEO further states that, ‘Adoption of digital channels saw 70 per cent of transactions conducted online including requesting for loan advances, through Pesapap app that was launched in January 2018. The enhanced efficiency has seen the lender improve on its asset quality in the slashing of its net non-performing loans portfolio by 15.5 percent to Ksh.4.6 billion.’

Included in 2020 ROI for Rebecca is the much-acclaimed Family Bank partnership with Isuzu East Africa in a deal that ensures its customers receive up to 95% financing to purchase vehicles, in a financing product dubbed Changamsha Biashara. This unique deal incorporates innovative features which include:

  • Customers enjoy up to 90 days repayment holiday, that is, before they start to remit the monthly repayments.
  • Customers can access an additional biashara boost credit facility of up to KES 200,000, to stimulate the business, hence the Swahili term changamsha.
  • Flexible repayment period of up to 5 years (60 months) to suit the individual customer needs and cash flow management
  • Customers get two free memberships for Maisha Air Ambulance Cover from AMREF Flying Doctors, a very important service to ensure peace of mind for the driver and his loader.
Isuzu EA MD Rita Kavashe (centre) and Family Bank CEO Rebecca Mbithi (right) pose for a photo after the signing of an asset financing agreement that will see SMEs get upto 95 pc financing on Isuzu trucks and pickups. With every vehicle purchase, SMEs will also obtain two AMREF Maisha Covers in case of emergency evacuation services.

This partnership is already enabling Micro, Small and Medium-Sized (MSMEs) customers in the agribusiness, trade and logistics businesses to conveniently purchase the indomitable Isuzu Truck, Bus and Pickup work horses at affordable yet competitive interest rates, a financial package that is already enabling Isuzu vehicles to commence the path towards new sales recoveries, after the initial onslaught by the Covid-19 pandemic effects.

In particular, business owners in the transport, logistics, agribusiness, education and religious institutions are accessing 95% financing for credit worth customers.

Additionally, customers who run their own businesses or are in the transport business are now enabled to take advantage of competitive insurance rates through Family Bank of Kenya’s insurance partner, Kenya Orient Insurance, which is incorporated within the asset finance facility as one single total cost. The insurance package includes accidental damage excess protector, political violence, terrorism cover and the theft of the alternator and starter for the school buses.

“As a Bank that values MSMEs, Family Bank aims to bridge the gap hindering their growth and this partnership is a big step in that direction. With this partnership, we will not only offer entrepreneurs financing for Isuzu Vehicles products but will also extend to them favourable terms and quick approvals that will ensure their businesses keep growing,” stated CEO Rebecca Mbithi during launch.

Customers are already accessing this asset financing deal across Family Bank’s 91-branch network and can collect their desired vehicle from any Isuzu East Africa distributor and dealers throughout Kenya.

Family Bank equally has a similar although slightly different asset financing arrangement with Simba Corporation, facilitating the purchase of Mitsubishi and Mahindra trucks and light commercial vehicles.

Turning to social engagement, Family Bank has been recognized with several awards such as the Best Bank in Micro-Finance in 2013 and runner-up in the Think Business Magazine Awards in 2014.

The CEO Rebecca Mbithi was recently celebrated as one of the Top CEOs to Watch in 2020 by the prestigious Business Monthly magazine, as part of the magazine’s 25th Anniversary issue.  Coincidentally, also nominated in this issue is Rita Kavashe, the MD and CEO of Isuzu East Africa and the first lady to hold such a position in a multinational in the motor industry in Kenya. In this same year, Rita Kavashe is staring in the executive leadership landscape, including an appointment as a director at BAT Kenya, which was quickly followed by her elation within only months to the coveted position as the board Chair.

To confirm her place as the Queen of the Banking industry, by growth in financial and customer increase and satisfaction metrics, Family Bank under Rebecca closed the 2019-2020 riding a wave.

Family Bank has posted a 63.6 per cent increase in its profit before tax for the Group through the first six months of 2020 to Ksh 852.1 million, up from Ksh 520.9 million registered in a similar period of 2019.

The growth is attributed to increase in net interest income hugely from loans and advances and income from government securities.

The total operating income grew by 17.6 per cent to Ksh 4.2 billion during this period compared to Ksh 3.6 billion last year. Non-funded income slightly decreased by 1.4 per cent to Ksh 1.3 billion.

Family Bank saw an expansion of its balance sheet in the period as its loan book grew by 17.5 per cent to Ksh 54.9 billion while customer deposits increased by 23.5 per cent to Ksh 66.7 billion. Net interest income in the period rose by 28.5 per cent to Ksh 2.9 billion from Ksh 2.3 billion last year backed by lending and additional investments in government securities.

Total assets grew by 19.7 per cent to Ksh 86.9 billion compared to Ksh 72.7 billion during the same period last year. Total operating expenses marginally rose by 9.8 per cent to Ksh 3.4 billion, highlighting the cost containment measures being implemented by the Bank.

“The Bank’s impressive performance is a testament of the resilience of our business in light of our current tough operating environment amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Going forward, for our business outlook, we remain focused on driving a differentiated customer experience driven by a deeper understanding of our customers, automation and digitization of our processes, of which 80% of our transactions are on the digital platform anchored on simplicity and personalized service as we continue to cushion businesses, especially the MSMEs, through the emerging pressures,” adds Ms Mbithi.

During this pandemic, the Bank offered relief and extension of loans to customers at no extra cost in order to cushion our customers from the adverse effects of this pandemic. Family Bank has restructured loans worth Ksh 15Billion and provisioned Ksh.464M for bad debt due to Covid-19 during the first half of the year.  It has also waived all charges for balance inquiries and money transfers between account and mobile money wallets.

“We recognize that the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in difficult operating environments. As a result, as part of our strategy to build a sustainable business, the Bank continues to work with the County Governments to assist vulnerable groups affected by the pandemic. So far, we have contributed in-kind support in the form of ICU beds, ventilators, personal protective equipment, face masks, foodstuffs, among others,” says the Family Bank CEO.

Performeter Head Of Business David Maina (left) And Family Bank CEO Rebecca Mbithi (right) After The Signing Of An Agreement That Will See 100,000 Dairy Farmers Boost Milk Yield on September 10, 2020.

Going into 2021, Rebecca’s most important tool is the Bank’s 2020-2024 Strategic plan, dubbed ‘take-off’ that is aligned to 13 of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

2020 marks the first year of the implementation of the strategic plan which is anchored on the following three drivers:

  • Creation of a customer-centric Bank driven by unique customer profiling and an unmatched value offering that goes beyond banking services;
  • Unmatched capability in people, technology and infrastructure through building a high-performance customer-oriented culture and creating an agile rationalized structure anchored on the right skills and capabilities;
  • Achieve operational excellence by improving systems reliability, increasing internal efficiencies, speed of service and offering customized solutions to tap into the ecosystem and the value chain.

Other than leading her bank from the front, Rebecca:

·       Is a great physical fitness enthusiast, has run five out of the six major world marathons including New York, Chicago, London and Berlin Marathons. She has also participated in all major marathons in Kenya and East Africa.

·        Enjoys mentoring young girls and has over 20 girls under her belt at any one moment.

·       Is a great believer in women in leadership and has taken it up as a personal mandate to grow women leaders in the bank.

·        Thrives in driving sustainable change through delegation and employee development, resulting in her employees doing only the best at work and thriving on deliverables. Through this, Rebecca has nurtured a great family of achievers at Family Bank. This leadership trait is what she brings to the table for the larger banking industry. So far, she has achieved this in a number of opinion pieces that this magazine will be serializing from the next issue. Among the topics are:

  • Fraud prevention
  • Using ATM facilities responsibly
  • Availing credit to the MSMEs.
  • Legal framework for starting a micro-business.

For Rebecca Mbithi, it is no longer the glass ceiling. That would be too low.

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Dr. Hanningtone Gaya

Dr. Hanningtone Gaya

Kenya’s Dr Hanningtone Gaya, holds a PhD in Commerce in Business Management from Nelson Mandela University (NMU), is viewed as an authority in country branding and is the founder chairman of the Brand Kenya Board.

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