“We want to let people do business the way it is done in other parts of the world, so you do not have to carry large amounts of cash.”
Godwin Emefiele, Group Managing Director of Zenith Bank
Hi-tech playing its part
Across Nigeria major banks are improving existing facilities and embracing new technologies in order to maintain a modern, online banking system for the digital age
The use of online banking websites, ATMs and digital transfers is set to increase dramatically across Nigeria over the coming decade as the Central Bank introduces cashless banking initiatives to bring Nigerian financial institutions up to date with international standards. These innovations will enable the Nigerian workforce, many of which remain unbanked, to embrace a simpler, more straightforward approach to personal finances which has the potential of eradicating a substantial amount of unnecessary poverty still experienced due to lack of available financial advice or lending.
At present Zenith Bank boasts the largest number of credit and account cards among its customers as well as the highest number of point of sale terminals across the country. This technology allows Zenith customers to pay digitally at retail checkouts and tills, reducing their reliance on cash, and increasing their control over personal spending. This focus on technology is something that Zenith Bank innovated and is now a standard model across Nigeria.
“Since the inception of Zenith Bank we have taken our people and our technology very seriously. Because of this, we have developed a lot of innovative products. Zenith was the first bank in Nigeria to adopt technology. In terms of online real time services, Zenith Bank stands tall. Internet banking started in Nigeria through Zenith Bank back in the early 1990s,” says Godwin Emefiele, Group Managing Director of Zenith Bank.
“We want to let people do business the way it is done in other parts of the world, so you do not have to carry large amounts of cash. I think people in Nigeria should begin to do business with the aid of electronic cards and channels. People do not necessarily have to visit a bank after opening an account and getting a credit card.”
The aim of a cashless country was set out by the Central Bank of Nigeria and has been embraced by every major bank. Guaranty Trust Bank has also been an innovator when it comes to new products and digital solutions. The institution now boasts an E-branch, a system for drive-through banking, and the new Guaranty Trust Bank On Wheels, a fully mobile banking branch. Guaranty Trust was also the first company to issue a specifically Naira denominated MasterCard, reducing the costs of international banking for many of its customers.
A large amount of young Nigerians, especially university students, are becoming accustomed to shopping online and digital payments, and Nigerian banks are keeping up with these demands by offering wireless banking through laptops and mobile phones.
“The last time I heard the Minister of Communications Technology speak she was talking about the importance of ‘creating clouds’ in universities so people have more Wi-Fi access through their phones and thus are able to reach a much larger population. Through targeting young people and university students, one thing that is clear to me is the greater Wi-Fi access they have, the better it will be for all concerned within the banking and telecommunications sector,” said Olusegun Agbaje, the Managing Director of Guaranty Trust Bank. “These ‘clouds’ of Wi-Fi above all the universities is great news for us because when I think of internet banking I do not think of PCs anymore, I think of Wi-Fi and so forth. I have started to think more in terms of mobile phones rather than laptops.”
It is not just the existing customers and the younger generations that will benefit from these new technologies, as they are also aimed at attracting the large population of Nigerians who remain without bank accounts. It is estimated that only 43% of working Nigerians currently use a bank account, which leaves a huge proportion unbanked and exclusively using cash. The cashless initiative set up by the Central Bank of Nigeria aims to help these people embrace digital transactions by making the transition as simple as possible. Each major bank in Nigeria is keen to attract the un-banked. Mobile payment and online banking are two areas that are expected to attract working Nigerians without bank accounts, especially those in rural areas with no access to bank branches.
Mr Emefiele is confident that these initiatives are the way forward for the Nigerian economy, stating: “Zenith Bank recently received final approval for mobile payment, which is something that the Central Bank and the financial industry hope will help bring in the un-banked. So Zenith Bank has just put all the necessary facilities in place. We believe that this will allow between 60%-70% of the under-banked population to be financially included in the system.”
Juan Carlos Jover, Irama Vega, Fabricio Domínguez