Now known as Equity Bank Kenya Limited, the financial institution started in 1984 as Equity Building Society, a mortgage financing provider for low-income families. The society’s logo was a modest brown roofed house, indicating its target market. Equity’s core value is to transform the livelihoods and lives of Kenyans, and in Africa in general where the majority of the population does not get substantial access to financial resources.
After nine years of operation, Equity Building Society was declared technically insolvent. The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) pointed out that the society’s problems were due to ineffective governance and poor management. The CBK was however reluctant to ask for Equity’s deregistration due to its impact on the lives of many Kenyans. They gave Equity time to reverse its fortunes and propose an agent of change. That is when the current CEO of the bank joined the institution to facilitate change in management. He was a prominent banker with another financial institution and a major depositor with Equity.
Through his effective governance, Equity was back to its feet. Its rise and transformation into a fast-growing microfinance institution and later into a commercial bank continues to inspire financial institutions across the world. With over 9 million customers, Equity Bank Kenya Limited is Africa’s largest bank by customer base. Its services are not only available in Kenya but other African countries as well. The bank’s business model is now studied in developing countries of Africa and Asia as well as in some of the most prestigious business schools globally.
In 2010, the bank rolled out the Equity Bank Foundation, which it uses to give back to the community through acts of philanthropy. Although the foundation deals with six thematic areas, its Wings to Fly Initiative is the most visible program. Through this initiative, Equity Group Foundation partners with MasterCard Foundation and the German Government through KfW to give scholarships to bright and deserving Kenyan scholars, who would otherwise miss out on good education due to financial challenges.
Every year, the foundation awards 1,700 students full scholarships to pursue secondary school education. The scholarship covers the scholars’ tuition fee, stipends, uniforms, and books. The program seeks to transform all aspects of these students’ lives, and besides the scholarship, they also get career guidance, networking opportunities, and they attend mentoring and leadership development workshops. After graduating high school, high performing students from financially disadvantaged families get further financial support from the foundation. They join Equity Bank for paid internships as they wait to join universities. The foundation takes care of their post-secondary education in Kenya, and for those that secure admissions to top schools across the globe, Equity Bank Foundation partners with other organisations to fund them.
Due to Equity Bank’s corporate social responsibility and acts of philanthropy which extend beyond the education sector, it is now the banking institution of choice for half of the Kenyan population who own bank accounts. The community resonates with its core values and philosophies as it has seen the institution take practical steps to promote equity in the society and give underprivileged children the wings to fly to a brighter future.
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