The commercial banks the Central Bank regulated were all foreign owned, a situation that was part of the colonial heritage that the new government of independent Kenya was determined to change.
The country’s first fully locally owned commercial bank came on June 19th 1965 when the Co-operative Bank of Kenya was registered as a co-operative society initially to serve the growing farming community. Co-op Bank, as it came to be known, commenced operations as a bank on January 10th 1968 with a start-up capital of only KShs 255,000, supplemented by an interest-free loan from the government of KShs 214,000, repayable in ten years.
Co-op Bank’s first board of directors comprised: B. Kathanga, chairman; Charles Rubia, vice-chairman; J.K. Muthama; A.H. Kamau; M. Gheewalla; J.J. Musundi; D.N. Kuguru; S. Rintaugu and S. Mogire.
At the beginning Co-op Bank exclusively served farmers through the co-operative movement. Individuals were not allowed to hold accounts with the bank and it lacked its own nationwide branch network, relying instead on the main commercial banks as its agents throughout the country. This is a far cry from the bank’s position today where it is ranked the fourth-largest co-operative bank in the world – after Rabobank in the Netherlands, Co-operative Bank in Britain and Credit Agricole in France.