Equitel urged to lower registration charges

Equity Bank needs to lower registration costs for thin-SIM card users in order to penetrate the mobile money market, financial research institute Helix has aised.

The bank currently charges Sh500 for the thin-SIM cards, which come with Sh200 airtime making the net cost S00.

Helix Institute argues that people might not see the additional value of thin SIM as they already have SIM cards, which provide them with call services, money transfer and banking platform thereby removing the aantage of the registration fee.

“Thus, the cost represents a significant barrier to entry for the service, and lowering it may significantly increase enrolment,” said researchers from the institute.

The thin-SIM is overlaid on an active SIM-card, be it of Safaricom, Airtel or Orange, allowing a phone to perform as a dual-SIM with one slot.

READ: Equity launches thin SIM in market with brand-loyal customers

Equity Bank had argued that the cost was negligible given that it was saving users from buying new handsets to host a new SIM card.

Helix noted Equity needed to recruit huge number of active subscribers on its mobile network, Equitel, so as to have control over market pricing and ensure success.

Equity Bank is the largest bank in the country by customer numbers at more than seven million and hopes to convert the current base to the mobile network platform.

The registration process at the branches was also found to be time-consuming with the analysts taking between two to three hours.

Users of Equitel can open bank accounts using the phone but are also required to present themselves physically for further documentation and installation of the thin SIM on top of the applicant’s existing SIM, which is done by a specially trained staff.

Helix Institute said: “Equitel offers great promise, and we think it solves some of the fundamental problems the Kenyan market has experienced in trying to move beyond payments.”

Equitel was launched in July after dispelling security concerns raised by competitors. The bank was told to be more aggressive in assuring the users of the system security. “While this is a perception issue, that still might be enough to deter some cautious customers.

Further, as users themselves cannot remove the thin SIM, but will have to use the services of trained professional from the bank branch, it may deter people from making such a commitment if they have even an iota of doubt related to security of their data,” said Helix.

Equitel is banking on price to bring on board more users. Equity customers can move cash within the bank for free as well as transfer money to other banks at between Sh0.75 for the lowest amount of Sh50 and Sh200 for a maximum of Sh1 million.

READ: Equity offers cheap loans to good borrowers on Equitel

Helix also challenged Equity to look for a shorter code to be used while switching between SIM cards. Users of the thin-SIM have an option of turning off the phone or dialling a code (076300) in order to change networks.