Umba, a digital bank for emerging markets until now operating only in Nigeria, has launched operations in Kenya as it begins to expand across the continent.
Umba is a digital bank built for Africa, aiming to open up banking services for Africa’s vast, underserved market. The startup aims to make it easier for consumers and SMEs to interact with banks and mobile money networks, providing a transparent, low-fee service that allows users to take control of their financial lives.
Users get a no-fee current account, low-cost payments, billpay and loans. Umba also uses the proprietary data generated by customers to offer credit products and generate revenue where customers can receive and repay credit products through their mobile phones.
After acquiring a majority shareholding in Daraja Microfinance Bank, Umba can now offer full banking services in Kenya, including current accounts insured by the Kenya Deposit Insurance Corporation (KDIC), interest-bearing savings accounts, fixed deposit accounts, lending, and payments.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity we have been given to bring Umba to the Kenyan market. It’s been an extremely challenging and lengthy process to make this acquisition but the ability to stand on our own two feet and grow the bank into a serious player in the market is absolutely worth it,” said Umba CEO Tiernan Kennedy.
“We’re very thankful to the Central Bank, the shareholders at Daraja and our market expansion team at Umba for making this happen. Kenya needs a great digital bank to offer the services that customers want, without the massive fees they have been paying to the legacy players. The winners here will be who provides the best services and we’re confident in our team’s ability to deliver.”
Umba has strong backing from leading fintech investors, including Costanoa Ventures, which led the startup’s Series A, as well as Lachy Groom, Lux Capital, Palm Drive Capital and strategic angels such as Monzo founder Tom Blomfield and executives from NuBank. Chandaria Capital is also a backer, and strongly supported the Kenya launch.
“We’re delighted to see Umba launch in Kenya. We invested with the knowledge that they had a unique entry point into the Kenyan market, as well as a strong business in Nigeria. We believe that Umba brings a really strong offering to consumers and businesses. The team has been shipping value to their customers month over month and the result is an excellent product. Going from one country to two can be a big challenge, but the opportunity is huge when executed well. We’re excited to continue supporting this team and this market opportunity,” said Mark Selcow of Costanoa Ventures.
Umba has recently strengthened its leadership team through the additions of Peter O’Toole and Dan Watts. Peter is an experienced CFO and financial services expert, with over 30 years experience in leadership positions. He was previously Group CFO of Interswitch and CFO of Renmoney. Watts, meanwhile, has spent the past 10 years building innovative and sustainable lending programmes with banks and fintechs across Africa in his role of chief credit risk officer at both Renmoney and Carbon.