But there are over 20 banks in town now, and even the Central Bank of Kenya’s Currency Centre, just below the Co-operative Bank.
Added to that is also another large number of insurance companies, which cannot be divorced from the financial services.
“There was no insurance company with an office in Meru town in the 80s but they are nearing number 20 now,” says North Imenti MP Rahim Dawood, who has several buildings in the CBD and Makutano area.
With close to 20 large international and national commercial banks and a good number of microfinance institutions started by agriculture farmers, residents are spoilt for choice when it comes to banking their hard-earned cash.
It is a fact that former governor Peter Munya, now the Agriculture Cabinet Secretary noted when he started the Meru Microfinance Corporation, barely two years into his tenure at the county headquarters.
Mr. Munya said the fact that large commercial banks had saturated the town was a show of the fact that residents were depositing and taking loans.
But, Munya noted, the loans are taken cost an arm and a leg and was thus unaffordable to the common mwananchi.
Munya said he was starting the bank to cushion residents against exploitative interest rates, and to give out loans at low interest rates to those who needed it for various ventures.
Munya said the many banks in the county were charging high interest rates that small enterprise owners can ill-afford.
“We are starting a micro-finance bank where small business people can get loans at very low interest rates. We have the best interest of the traders at heart so we intend to give them the loans they need to grow their businesses,” said Munya then.
Four years down the line the bank has opened a branches in Timau, Meru town and Maua.
The bank offers capital to small and medium-sized enterprises across the county.
The Remu Microfinance Bank formed by a group of Meru entrepreneurs 10years ago has changed its name to Key Microfinance Bank, with a branch in the Meru town Central Business District.
Key Microfinance was formed a group that included Suntra Investments
CEO Luke Kinoti, Mastermind Tobacco tycoon Wilfred Murungi, Solomon
Muthamia and Titus Ntuchiu, currently the Meru County Deputy Governor.
The deposit-taking microfinance which was formed with the aim of
providing banking services and credit facilities to small and medium
sized businesses have branches in Meru town and Maua, but aims to add
more across Meru, according to Mr. Kinoti.
It is not lost to Kinoti that a big number of big commercial banks
have come into Meru town, for a piece of the pie as more development
is seen in the agricultural and other sectors of the economy.
Mr. Kinoti says the fact that Meru town boats of a big number of national commercial banks was testimony people were enterprising, and the region had huge potential for economic advancement.
Ken Mwenda said as a fruits farmer who gets regular income, he opted to open an account with a local sacco, majorly made up of coffee farmers.
“There are big banks in Meru town, but those are for the really loaded business people or companies. I have to punch within my weight, so I opened an account with a Sacco which gives me small loans whenever I need them, with no security!” he said.
Derrick Munene, a businessman, said there was a lot of money in circulation in Meru town, and it could have attracted the big financial services provided in the area.
“If you check keenly, people are steadily streaming into banks and SACCOs from the minute they open their doors in the morning to close of business. The security in town is also tight, especially around these banks. I have never heard of a major robbery,” he said.