Women-focused micro financier gains competitive edge through new security platform

The Kenya Women Microfinance Bank (KWFT) has fast-tracked its product offering development time and increased market agility.

The Kenya Women Microfinance Bank (KWFT), a women-focused banking institution headquartered in Nairobi, is securing its position as an industry leader in the region, with a suite of new Fortinet solutions to underpin its strategic development and speed up its time to market.

KWFT was established in 2008 and has risen to be the most successful microfinance bank in Kenya, controlling over 45% of the microfinance market and serving over 800,000 clients from 230 offices across the country. This multi- award-winning institution has received widespread recognition for its innovative banking solutions and its levels of ICT enablement. In 2017 alone, its accolades included the Banker Africa - Best Microfinance Institution in East Africa ; Think Business Banking Awards – Best Mocrofinance Bank, and Most Preferred Microfinance Institution at the Mombasa
Business Awards in 2016.

KWFT’s focus on financial inclusion and dynamic products relevant to local market needs has driven its deep penetration into remote, rural and peri-urban areas.

Kibet Kipkemoi, General Manager ICT at KWFT, notes that the bank offers products and services that meets its clients financial needs. The credit products include business loans in support of micro, small and medium size business; school fees loans; agricultural loans for income generation and food security; water and sanitation loans such as water purifiers and tanks; and renewable energy loans such as solar lighting and safe cooking
stoves amongst others. The savings portfolio of products consists of an array of account based savings options for groups, loan guarantees and contract based savings solutions such as fixed and call deposits. In addition, the bank offers money transfer solutions such as cheque books, real time gross settlement (RTGS), western union and pesa link amongst others. The bank takes many of its products to market via digital channels such as ATMs and mobile banking to give customers in rural areas easy access to financial services.

“The new Fortinet solution automates device provisioning and maintains policies; and supports high levels of security across the bank’s alternative banking channels including ATMs and mobile banking.”– Kibet Kipkemoi, General Manager ICT at KWFT

Business Impact

  • Achieved full control and visibility over development and testing environment
  • Eliminated the need for additional layer of security on newly-developed products
  • Decreased time to market with banking solutions and innovations
  • Gained assurance of security across the environment
  • Now positioned for PCI compliance

Solution

  • FortiGate 1000D x 2
  • FortiAnalyzer VM x 1
  • FortiManager VM x 1

“Kenya embraces mobile technology, specifically mobile banking. Therefore we have for some years delivered technology-enabled solutions to our customers that fit into their day-to-day lives and expand financial inclusion. But this is a competitive environment that changes rapidly. In order to stay ahead, we develop our innovative solutions and applications in-house, and we need to be able to do so quickly and efficiently, without compromising the much needed controls and security of our ICT systems,” says Kipkemoi.

KWFT’s ICT security solutions did not adequately support the desired levels of innovation and rapid time to market KWFT aspired to. The bank began assessing new solutions late in 2016. After comparing several IT security solutions, Fortinet East Africa was awarded the contract and assisted KWFT in assessing the solutions that would best support its growth needs.

The new solution, comprising two FortiGate 1000D enterprise firewall solutions, a FortiAnalyzer VM centralised network security and logging solution and FortiManager VM centralised security management system, was implemented by Kenya’s Crescent Technologies in collaboration with Fortinet. The solutions are components of the Fortinet Security Fabric, which offers control, integration, and easy management of security across the entire organisation, coupled with the support of (Internet of Things) IoT to the cloud. The Security Fabric allows security to dynamically expand and adapt as more and more workloads and data are added, and at the same time, seamlessly follow and protect data, users, and applications as they move back and forth between IoT, smart devices, and cloud environments throughout the network.

The system went live in February 2017 with minimal implementation challenges. KWFT is already seeing the benefits and is now engaged in talks on rolling out further Fortinet solutions.

“Our IT department is crucial in helping our organisation remain the pacesetter in the industry,” says Kipkemoi. With up to 3,000 SACCOs, microfinance and banking firms operating in Kenya, innovation is crucial for business success,” he notes.

“Because the company leans heavily on our innovation capability, we need to churn out new products rapidly, with full control and visibility of the entire environment – including how data moves from the endpoints to contact centres to connectivity solutions all way through to the data centre. The new Fortinet solution correlates all this information and aggregates what all users are doing, giving high levels of visibility and unified policy management within a single pane of glass.”

It also automates device provisioning and maintains policies; and supports high levels of security across the bank’s alternative banking channels including ATMs and mobile banking.

The bank has significantly reduced development time as a result of the implementation. It now has a solid security platform that allows it to build any secure new solution and roll it out on the fly; whereas in the past, every new solution had to have a security layer custom built, in a process that could take up to 6 months. This reduced time to market on innovations supports the bank’s growth in a highly competitive market.