Founded last year, credit institution is impacting the market with a new form of financing
By Wachira Kambogo
Like any other entrepreneurs across the globe, Kenyan entrepreneurs often find themselves facing stubborn financial straits. When this happens, their businesses implode. Cash constraints bite hard, culminating in staff layoffs. In extreme cases, businesses close shop.
Unlike their counterparts in the developed world who can easily access affordable credit, local entrepreneurs have few options.
The statistics are scary. Data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics shows that 52% of all loan applications made by SMEs were rejected by banks and other financial institutions.
To change this narrative, a non bank and non deposit taking financial institution is introducing an innovative way of financing SMEs.
Momentum Credit, established last year, is pioneering the tried and tested invoice factoring product to finance SMEs without demanding any form of collateral from them.
“We looked at the statistics and realized that there is a problem. We believed that some of those rejected loan applications could qualify for financing,” says Job Muriuki, the founding CEO of Momentum Credit.
He believes that his firm can transform the SME sector by providing quality cash flow solutions. “We need to focus on SMEs if we want to transform the economy.” There’s no escaping the fact that small and medium sized businesses are that backbone of the Kenyan economy.
Various sources estimate that Kenya has over 5 million SMEs that provide jobs to 15 million people. These SMEs account for a third of the country’s economy. Simply put, SMEs are an important cog in the wheels of Kenya’s economy.
Muriuki says that Momentum Credit’s decision to venture into the credit industry was motivated by the challenges that continue to dog the important sector.
A year after they launched, their services have been well received in the market, demonstrating that the sector needed such an intervention.
Invoice factoring is a relatively new financial product in Kenya, although it’s quite popular in the developed world. Basically, a business sells its invoices to a third-party (factor) at discounted prices. The factor then converts the invoice into cash. Momentum Credit focuses on helping businesses meet their short-term financial needs and lends up to Ksh5 million without requiring any form of physical collateral.
“Our product helps people to improve their working capital velocity,” he says.
Other than invoice factoring, the financial institution provides two more products namely; log book financing and bank guarantees.
Muriuki says that the company is already overwhelmed by the number of people seeking short-term cash flow solutions. “We want to reach more people because we feel there’s a lot of headroom to do more.”
As a young CEO, Muriuki has interacted with many entrepreneurs to understand their plight. Other than lacking access to capital for growth and expansion, local SMEs are unfairly branded as disorganized.
“When you directly deal with the SMEs, you realize that these are companies that could potentially create more jobs.
I’m always excited by the quality of SMEs that we serve.”
Predictably, the demand for these products is at an all time high especially now that the country is smarting from a financially challenging year that was punctuated by a prolonged electioneering period.
Why do small businesses wither out?
The Small Business Authority of UK estimates that four in ten start-ups die within the first five years. While the statistics might ring true in Kenya, Momentum Credit is raring to work with small businesses to buck the trend. Its flagship product is already gaining traction.
It’s no surprise then that the company is growing tremendously and now serves 1000 customers after one year of operation. The CEO says the company is overwhelmed by the large number of customers seeking short-term credit solutions. “We want to reach more people and we can see there’s a lot of headroom to do that,” says Muriuki.
The company, growing at 20% month on month, now plans to scale its services. To do this, the company is banking on technology. “Technology is reducing physical barriers. Momentum Credit can now reach millions of people without setting up tens of brick and mortar branches.”
Traditional financial institutions must embrace technology to survive. The CEO says that those companies that will fail to innovate could soon go out of business. Just like technology, data is becoming an important part of the lending industry. Indeed, more companies are using data to score their customers’ creditworthiness.
Other than scaling their operations, the company is enhancing the experience of the clients that it serves through a call centre.
It’s among the few financial institutions that boast of having a fully functional customer experience centre.
Momentum Credit believes in building people and helping them to deliver their best. At their Nairobi offices, most of their staff is young, radiating with enthusiasm and passion.
“You can only grow as an organization when there is energy,” says the 33-year-old CEO, who occasionally mentors his youthful staff members.
An engineer by training, he says he ventured into the industry out of passion. Now at the helm of the fledgling firm, he’s optimistic that the company will continue to innovate to make a difference in the industry.
As the CEO, Muriuki accepts that the lending industry has its own challenges. For instance, some government regulations like the capping of interest rates makes credit less accessible as lending institutions become more risk conscious.
Despite the challenges, he’s bullish about the SME industry and hopes it can create millions of jobs to solve the unemployment problem. The firm also wants to expand into three East African countries in the next few years.
In the meantime, Momentum Credit continues to provide their clients with working capital solutions, one of the most important tools that allow businesses to thrive and create the much needed jobs, and revenues.
CEO’s Sneak Peak:
He’s 33 years old
An Engineer by profession
Studied at The University of Cambridge
Is passionate about the finance and entrepreneurship industries
Wakes up at 6.00 am and gets to the office by 8.00 am.
Handles urgent issues that need his attention, including risk management and sales.
Mentors staff members.
Leaves the office at 7.00 pm