We have to let Chase Bank go

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The story around Chase Bank and our banking sector as a whole has made a lot of us nervous. Very Nervous. We seem to be really impressed (I won’t use words like happy) with the way our new CBK governor Dr. Patrick Njoroge is handling the matter – but we have quite a ways to go. I hope he can weather this storm.

First off the bat – the goodwill, the spirit and the will to keep Chase Bank alive; to bring every doctor from near and far, to perform the necessary surgery to save patient Chase is commendable. No one is willing to see Chase Bank die. Not its customers (obviously), not the rest of the financial sector, the business community or the rest of the country. The death of Chase is unacceptable. However this is why we also must support the CBK Governor in his efforts to bring sanity to the sector. That said, when all the memes and jokes and stories, including mine, are done, two things are important. There must be restitution and jail time. Say it with me, restitution and jail time. Make it a hashtag, make it trend, it’s one we need.

[Also read: Chase bank put under receivership by the Central Bank]

[Also read: The Chase Bank debacle explained by Manwa Magoma in 100 Tweets]

However, before I continue with my very difficult and maybe controversial narrative allow me to state without hesitation that I stand by my sentiments on Chase Bank. Whatever I said on YouTube, whatever I may have Tweeted or put on Facebook in their favour, I stand by it. Business don’t fail, leaders do. The 1,000 plus people who work for Chase, who have built a formidable, disruptive brand over 20 years cannot and should not be burnt at the stake because a few people at the helm lost sight of the shore. I never put my name, my voice or my brand behind something or someone I am not willing to defend and I stand by my thoughts and utterances on Chase Bank.

Let’s be honest, I’m not alone. The reason we are sad and shocked rather than mad is because we not only believed in Chase, we’re actually holding out against hope that there will be a way to salvage this. I see we have even started a petition – proof once again that Chase is a gem. The people who work at Chase Bank have done a sterling job with that brand. There is truly nothing like in the banking sector.

I am told that the real workers of Chase (not the thugs) the people who build that brand over time are still showing up to work and taking their marching orders from CBK with calmness and pride. A little bird told me that Friday 8th March 2016 was simply impressive because after saying a prayer, they in unison shouted “Go Chase!!!”. I echo them and continue to wish them well. In years to come when we tell this story, we will start with the words “a few years ago, we had an amazing bank in Kenya called Chase…..”

Chase is a gem and what the CBK governor did on Thursday morning 7th April 2016; was preserve that gem. If he had allowed the bank to open its doors and go through one more run, we would be telling a very different story about everything in Kenya and for everyone, not just for Chase customers and business partners, everyone. One more run at that bank would probably have crippled all of us, Chase customers or not.

I have taken a very deep breathe so I can type this next sentence:

We must let Chase Bank Go. There is no coming back.

Dr. Njoroge and Chase Bank has suitors galore who want to rescue this damsel in distress called Chase. What I believe he cannot do is speak to foreign suitors at all. In my humble estimation, Njoroge has 3 options, the first two are pretty but have no staying power.

Option 1 – Allow Chase’s international partners to inject the much needed money and make it look good and open the doors. Bad idea. The day the doors open, we will all line up and withdraw our money and close Chase. Trust is hard to win back. Intritigy is even harder.

Option 2 – Allow international suitors to take it over and inject the necessary money and either open doors as Chase or as a new brand. It will take months to make that happen. The result however will be the same as above. When the doors open, we will all walk in and take our money out. We don’t know the “new guys” and our relationship took a serious hit. Chase would still be history.

Option 3 – Allow a local suitor or 2 to take up our accounts and take up Chase. If for example KCB (my apologies, I’m working with basic names) was to announce that an agreement had been reached and my bank account at Chase was now domiciled at KCB or for those who love the premier banking feel, NIC. My first instinct wouldn’t be to run and withdraw it all. I’d still want to see my bank balance, but taking all my money out won’t be my first thought or move.

This for me, is the only viable way forward. If a local trusted brand (given, without the bells and whistles we enjoy at Chase) was to take us on – calm would return to the land.

If I knew I could exchange my Chase ATM card for a KCB or Equity card. If I could exchange my Chase cheque book for an NIC or Equity cheque book. If I knew that I would be issued a new bank account number and on checking at the ATM or on my phone, I could see my bank balance and even withdraw a few shillings, I would be calm. We would all be calmer and the economy and the business environment would breathe easier for it.

I’m not reaching. It has been done before in Kenya with Consolidated Bank and it was done with Bank of America and Merrill Lynch. Google remains your friend.

In a nutshell, we must be willing to let Chase go. The brand as we know it today is fragile at best. We must let Chase go because the selfish actions of a few have destroyed it. We must let Chase go if we all are to have a fighting chance and stop the already on-going run on other tier three banks. We must let Chase go, so we can learn to believe in the concept of banking again. I know some will read this and cry, get mad, get angry but we must. A brand is built on two premises; a promise made and a promise delivered.

The brand, the gem, the promise that was Chase Bank has been betrayed and we can only hope against hope that we can survive. We can never open those doors as Chase again and dare to believe that every Sacco, every Chama, every business, every individual, won’t move to withdraw ALL their money – they will and fast.

Someone very perceptive told me that you need to look for in a bank, is return OF the money not return ON the money. If I woke up tomorrow and my Chase account and my money had found a new home at a local bank where I can trust I can get it when I want it, I’ll be fine. Faith in the sector will be restored, albeit nervously. However the return of my money is all that matters and should matter.

But no matter what CBK does, we must never lose sight of the fact that there must be restitution and jail time. It is a necessity not a wish.

Dr. Njoroge over to you. Good luck and Godspeed.

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