KENYA – The Co-operative Bank of Kenya (Co-op) is planning to open five new branches in various towns in the country despite the industry’s growing focus on digital banking channels.

The new branches will be based in Nairobi, Kapenguria, Maralal and Chogoria making Co-operative bank’s physical outlets 160 in number.

In Nairobi, Co-op Bank will add two more branches — one along Kenyatta Avenue at Standard Building and another at the upcoming Parliament tower. The soon to be opened Kenyatta Avenue branch is undergoing final touches, with branding having been done.

The bank’s move comes in the wake of digital banking when all banks and customers prefer to make their transactions faster and easily wherever they may be.

However, the decision by Co-operative bank to open more physical outlets is said to be because of the bank’s need to keep up with the competition in cash-rich areas as well as reach out to underserved regions in the country.

Chief executive Gideon Muriuki said the new sites for branches have been determined through rigorous market research and will blend with continued investment in alternative service channels such as agency banking.

“We believe there is no one single channel that will displace all others. Rather, it is the investment in an optimal and balanced multichannel strategy that will offer a fulfilling experience to the customer,” Mr Muriuki said.

 “We settled for those regions to have our new outlets, and we believe it will also blend well with the agency banking,” said Mr. Muriuki.

The move continues last year’s trend when the branch network of Co-operative bank increased from 148 to 155, leading to recruitment of about 182 employees.

The CEO says physical branches are increasingly becoming service hubs to customers and SACCOs who are the foundation of bank customers.

Bank agents also largely depend on the branches to execute their services and to enable them to manage their cash.

The Kenyatta Avenue branch will bring competition to the doorstep of Sidian Bank, which is also on the same building.

Kenyatta Avenue already has Equity, Standard Chartered, I&M, Gulf African, National Bank of Kenya, Bank of India, Ecobank and Stanbic bank, showing the significance of the location to bankers.