Banking Made Easy through Mobile Applications

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Emma Okonji writes that as banks encourage customers to use mobile applications and other electronic channels for financial transactions, this will not only ease banking operations, but will also boost a cashless economy

In order to ease their operations, commercial banks in Nigeria are unveiling mobile applications and different electronic channels that will enable customers carry out online transactions.

Mobile applications, which bank customers could download on their mobile devices for financial transactions are now being developed. Apart from mobile applications, banks are also encouraging customers to use alternative means of transactions such as ATMs, Point of Sales (PoS) and online banking.

The essence of these, according to the banks, is to discourage bank customers from trooping into banking halls for transactions, which they could carry out from the comfort of their homes and offices, and even while on the go.

First Mobile App

First Mobile is one of the banking applications recently developed by First Bank of Nigeria (FBN) Limited to address the issue of congestion in their banking halls. According to the bank, the issue of congestion in banking halls was becoming embarrassing as it does not only cause distractions to bank workers, but also increases the running cost of attending to myriad of customers on a daily basis. This was why the bank introduced the First Mobile application designed to ease customers’ daily financial transactions.

The application, which could be downloaded and installed from application stores like BlackBerry, Apple and Android, allows the use of Naira MasterCard or Verve card details and PIN.

Upon activation, a One-Time-Password (OTP) will be sent to customer’s registered phone number with the bank to conclude the registration.

The next step is for the customers to choose a five digit PIN for logging into the App, called mPIN. A four digit transaction PIN for authorising customer transactions on the App is also chosen, including a personal security questions and answers for support purpose.

The app, which can be accessed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week from anywhere in the world, works with Current, Savings, Domiciliary, Visa Dollar and Naira Card accounts.

The app allows the customer to transfer funds to accounts in FirstBank or any other bank in Nigeria, pay utility and other bills, buy airtime from any GSM operator in Nigeria for any number, search, book and pay for both local and international flights, save beneficiary phone and account number, manage cheques, and keep up with customer lifestyle.

In terms of security, the App is situated in a highly secured environment to protect customer. The App is PIN protected as the PIN is uniquely linked to the App on the customer device. All transactions on the App are validated by either a transaction PIN known only to the customer or the bank’s issued token. All these are in addition to other security measures put in place to ensure that customer transaction information is protected from intruders.

The First Mobile App was designed in such a way that the transaction PIN is required to authorise transactions within a daily limit.

With the introduction of transaction PIN, the customer does not need a bank token, except the customer exceeds the transaction limit of N50,000 per day.

However, a customer needs a token for a daily transaction limit of N1million. This, according to the bank, is reviewed periodically and can be adjusted.

With First Mobile App, First Bank customers do not need to be physically present in the bank before carrying out financial transaction.

Mobile banking

Apart from mobile App for financial transactions, some banks have also introduced mobile banking whereby the customer could transfer specific amount of money from their mobile phones without downloading any App.

GTBank and some other banks, offer the service to their bank customers. GTB for instance, require the customer to register a particular line with bank for such mobile transaction. Once the number is registered and can receive alerts on financial transactions, the device owner can transfer as much as N50, 000 daily by dialing *737*1*, using the mobile device. With such mechanism, the customer does not need to visit the bank for daily financial transactions.

ATM/PoS machines

The use of ATMs and PoS machines have long been introduced but not all Nigerians use them. With the help of ATM cards, bank customers can actually withdraw as much as N150, 000 per day from the ATM machine, without entering the banking hall.

The PoS is a machine used by merchants to receive payments for goods and services, without receiving physical cash.

Almost all banks issue ATM cards, which could be used on the ATM and PoS machines.

Fear of insecurity

In spite of the several transaction channels introduced by banks to ease congestion in banking halls, some customers are still skeptical about the use of such online channels, for fear of theft, which is common with ATM transactions.

Although the Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System (NIBSS) has said that the use of ATM recorded the highest number of fraudulent transactions in banks in 2015, followed by PoS machines and web transactions through internet banking, it, however, encouraged bank customers to transact online. NIBSS insists that it is the only means through which Nigeria can achieve the cashless policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria.

But NIBSS warned bank customers to be more careful while transacting online, and advised them not to disclose personal information on their ATM cards to anybody, including anyone that claims to be bank officials.

CBN’s directive

In spite of the fears expressed by most bank customers, the CBN has insisted that the best way to attain cashless economy is through online and mobile transactions, without carrying physical cash.

The CBN had in 2012, introduced cashless policy in Nigeria and encouraged all banks to come up with different transaction channels that would reduce carrying of physical cash by customers.

Following the successful implementation of the first phase of the cashless policy in Lagos, the CBN later extended it to six other states in the second phase rollout, and subsequently announced the take-off of the third and final phase of the cashless policy in 30 states.

The banking sector regulator said in Abuja that the decision to introduce the policy in the states followed the successful completion of phases one and two in six pilot states and Abuja.

Phase one of the scheme took off in Lagos on January 1, 2012, while additional states, namely: Abia, Anambra, Kano, Ogun and Rivers States, as well as Abuja, were involved in phase two, which commenced on October 1, 2013.

The third and final phase of the cashless policy was later introduced on July 1, 2014.

The idea to implement the CBN cashless policy was to encourage cashless transactions through different transaction channels. Banks are of the view that if adhered strictly to, it would go a long way to reduce influx of customers into the banking halls.