SunTrust and the Internet of Things

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Lekan Fatodu

The daily reports about businesses that are shutting down, and others which are taking to their heels are depressing and discouraging. While a reputable player in the Nigerian economy has painstakingly elucidated and emphasised the ripple effects of such developments on the Nigerian market, the powers-that-be do not seem to be paying attention.

And we are living the reality. The exit of Sun International, a hospitality and gaming company brought the number of major South African companies that have departed Nigeria to four. Many other local and international investors are groaning under this economic condition. Will they endure? Will they give up? Only God knows.

Whichever way the government plans to reflate the economy, either by expanding its economic management team and opening its door to crack experts to critically assess its framework for economic development or by accelerating the proposed “Emergency Economy Stabilisation Bill 2016”, a swift and viable response is needed, and soon.

Undoubtedly, Nigeria needs to attract new investments to the country and not to drive existing ones away with stifling economic policies.

Meanwhile, it is quite interesting that despite the state of the economy, a new enterprise is set to launch. And in a big way. Expectedly, many are curious about the source of such uncommon courage and the venture’s unique selling point.

Many had those questions when a new bank, SunTrust, announced its entrance into the Nigerian commercial banking league. Instructively, SunTrust had run for the past six years as a mortgage bank until September 2015 when it secured a license to function as a commercial operator. Thus, its management has just decided to commence full operations this year with an official launch days ago. This formal commencement has been followed with some measure of public promotions, although a lot still has to be done to attract the over “100 million unbanked Nigerians” which are the bank’s target.

Nonetheless, I am certain many will still consider the backers of the new bank as uncommon risk-takers for daring to come on stream at a time when financial institutions particularly look more endangered than ever.

Regardless, the SunTrust is set on its goal and is promising unique experiences for millions of Nigerians. Truly, this is the type of entrepreneurial fortitude the Nigerian government needs to grow amongst its people with favourable incentives and regulatory framework that will embolden business expansion, and such should be cleverly cited to guarantee solid and enabling environment for local enterprises and foreign ones alike.

As part of these special processes, the new bank has stated that innovative technology such that has never been seen in banking operations within the country, will be the major driver of its services. And its CEO, Muhammed Jubrin, has further ascertained this.

“We are determined to use technology to attract more Nigerians into the banking sector. We are very positive that this is possible, and with the success in the telecommunication sector, we are sure that our mobile banking applications will entice millions of able Nigerians into the sector.”

“SunTrust Bank will bring banking to your home rather than make you come to us. We will be everywhere but we will be nowhere. We will offer telephone, mobile and Internet banking underpinned by the traditional banking ethics of probity and integrity,” he said.

Although it is a known fact that many Nigerian banks are using technology to run their services, this cannot be said to have been sufficiently deployed to improve operations or make life easier for customers.

Really, nothing exposed Nigerian banks’ lack of extensive touch with modern financial technology than the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN’s), directive that the about 30 million Nigerians within the banking sector be captured by the Biometric Verification Number (BVN).

This otherwise simple technology intervention, unfortunately brought untoward disruption and hardship on a lot of Nigerians because of the banks’ inability to efficiently coordinate the process.

Some banks, after having you stay on a queue for lengthy hours to fill the BVN registration form which is done on a paper, still got daily activities of customers disrupted by blocking any transactions on people’s accounts on the purported basis of not registering for the BVN!

Not a few Nigerians complained of being stranded in different parts of the country after being prevented from retrieving money at various Automated Teller Machines (ATM) because of the BVN directive which many actually reported to have completed.

The worst part of the situation was many of the banks were grossly deficient of the technical know-how to solve the crisis at any location where their customers had been stranded. So the affected individuals were sent back to the branch where they originally opened the accounts to get the problems rectified.

Until now, ordinary banking services that should be easily done on the phone with the assistance of a customer service representative, requires customers’ physical presence in the banking hall leading to waste of ample man-hours.

While the world is already advancing the discussion on the Internet of Things (IoT), which simply means that all our everyday devices, I mean anything that you can ever think of will be linked to a giant network and will be made to serve human needs like a “robot”, Nigeria shouldn’t still be struggling to proffer some straightforward technological answers to her development questions.

As such, if SunTrust truly has its eyes on this ambitious targets, its demonstration of commitment and competence by at least helping to tackle some of the ordinary encumbrances in the Nigerian banking system, as stated previously, through effective deployment of technology will certainly secure its place in the banking sector.