The role of flatters( outsourcing, workflow software, mobile and wireless technologies) in providing a level playing field in the banking industry in Kenya : a case study of Equity Bank
Globalization is shrinking the world, leveling the universal playing field, flattening our planet by abolishing hitherto unavoidable barriers of space and time. The title of Thomas Friedman’s book “The world is flat” is a metaphor for viewing the world as a level playing field in terms of commerce, where all competitors have an equal opportunity. Friedman makes use of the word ‘flatteners’ to denote the ten forces that have led to globalization. One of the flatteners he describes in his book is "The Steroids": Wireless, Voice over Internet, and file sharing. Personal digital devices like mobile phones, iPods, personal digital assistants, instant messaging, and voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). Digital, Mobile, Personal and Virtual – all analog content and processes (from entertainment to photography to word processing) can be digitized and therefore shaped, manipulated and transmitted; virtual – these processes can be done at high speed with total ease; mobile –can be done anywhere, anytime by anyone; and personal – can be done by you.The general objective of this study was to determine to what extent Equity Bank is conforming to Thomas Friedman’s flatteners and how they are impacting on its business. The study was aimed at addressing the following specific objectives: to establish which flatteners are applicable to Equity Bank with the kind of infrastructure available; to determine to what extent Equity Bank is conforming with the flatteners; to determine the impact of the flatteners on Equity Bank; and to propose a model for responding to the flatteners. The nature of the research design was a survey. Data was obtained mainly from questionnaires and interviews with the relevant managers and directors as well as from secondary sources. Analysis was done using Microsoft Excel and SPSS computer programs and output presented using appropriate visual techniques i.e. frequency distribution tables, graphs and charts. The study established that the flatteners relevant to the banking industry were workflow software, outsourcing and the steroids with the bank conforming to these flatteners to varying degrees. However, the impact of the steroids is quite apparent with the total number of transactions steadily rising in recent times. The transactions related to the steroids have been rising in recent years, while the mundane banking transactions i.e. over the counter have been reducing. A Branchless banking model with Enterprise application integration was also proposed by the study as an innovative strategy in line with the Thomas Friedman flatteners. Main recommendations from the study were in the form of further research areas in which the implementation of the branchless banking model in terms of timelines and in line with the recently released agency banking guidelines from the Central Bank of Kenya can be looked into as well as which additional functions within the bank can be outsourced so as to benefit from the same.