How Kenya Co-op Bank rose from 1998 bomb terror attacks
When terrorists allied to the Alaquida exploded a 2000 kilogramme bomb targetting US embassy in Nairobi August 8 1998, among buildings extensively damaged in the blast that left 225 civilians killed and 8 American marines dead, were the Cooperative Bank of Kenya 21-floor tower headquarters.
So intense was the blast that adjoining Ufundi house which housed a secretarial college was brought down burying alive several students some of whom were rescued from the wreckage but several died including support staff. Fortunately for the bank despite extensive damage to almost several other buildings within the CBD radius, the Coop House with a bell bottom shape remained standing defiantly windows and doors blown out but still standing erect! Later intensive inspection by structural engineers confirmed that the Israel designed pillars and foundation had not been breached by the mega blast!
Only moments earlier before the explosion Uganda's tourism minister Brigadier Moses Ali had been visiting the house when the deafening explosion went off heard up to 45 km away! The visibly shaken Ugandan minister lucky to be alive later boarded a plane hurriedly back to Kampala. So now 22 years later the watery grave of Alquida mastermind Osama bin Laden, who plotted the attacks on US embassies in Nairobi and Dar, with Kampala escaping narrowly, has grown colder. But the bank he sort to destroy as 'legitimate target" has not only fully recovered from losses that ran into millions of shillings in rehabilitating offices and replacing damaged furniture, computers and data, but is posting record setting profits as it expands operations beyond Kenya.
Coop Bank managers appear battle hardened and even when civil war broke out in South Sudan in 2015 they remained open perhaps with the hindsight of this experience, and are now reaping the fruits of unrelenting resilience as peace fully returns to Juba. Co-operative Bank ATM slogan of having a "lion' in the wallet best epitomizes what the bank has been able to achieve, turning around what had seemed like a near hopeless situation to a success story including circumventing colossal challenges that arose from the Millennium spill-over of 1999-2000, the event takes place only once in 100 years! When 2099 comes around again few people including those being born today will be alive to witness the roll-over!
Ex Coop Bank CEO Erastus Mureithi who is accused of bungling the millennium switch triggering huge losses, was replaced by a dynamic and result oriented Dr. Gideon Muriuki who swiftly turned around the bank fortunes. Reading like a rags to riches success story Kenya's Coop Bank is now the fastest growing commercial lender in the East African region and some might not remember that the bank went through some extremely trying times as the country grappled with the first major terrorist attack ever.
The bank can now look back and raise its head in pride to have not only survived deadly terror its head office intact now fully refurbished and operational. For some months the banks operations had to be run from rented offices at Re-insruance Plaza as repairs and refurbishments were undertaken at Coop House. Dr. Muriuki has kept restating bank strategies that are hinged on the premise of listening and understanding the customer before rolling out products tailored to customer satisfaction, which has ensured a constant upward mobility and expansion.
Today the bank can look back at the past 21 years and strongly restate it had survived mega challenges with its chief executive Dr. Muriuki heading a dynamic team of technocrats who are now in the thick of digitization of operations in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan. The sky can only be the limit for the lender that has been scooping top prizes among corporate blue chip companies in Kenya and abroad for the past 15 years in a row.