The Managing Director of Funds & Electronic Transfer Solutions Limited, Omotade Odunowo spoke to Goddy Egene on how more Nigerians can access financial services. Excerpts:
One of the major challenges in the financial system is inability to reach a large size of the population with banking services. Most Nigerians remain unbanked. How can this situation be changed?
Banking services can reach the Nigerian population that remains unbanked through initiatives by the Central Bank of Nigeria CBN such as mobile money. The costs of running a traditional bank branch are very high. So it is difficult for them to exist in every nook and cranny. At Funds & Electronic Transfer Solutions Limited (fets) we have built a robust agent network which is a gateway for the unbanked population to get into the financial system. Mobile money enables easy access of financial services to the unbanked population.
Are you satisfied with the efforts by regulators and other stakeholders to deepen the financial inclusion?
We still have a long way to go, but the CBN has embarked on initiatives to improve efficiency and build confidence in the process by putting certain measures in place such as financial literacy schemes, and regular updates to the framework for mobile money which have attracted more users. However, there’s a lot more work to be done in awareness and accessibility.
What do you think are the factors responsible for financial exclusion of most Nigerians?
There are a lot of factors that are responsible for financial exclusion but the ones peculiar to Nigeria include: a lack of accessibility to traditional bank branches/products, inadequate know your customer (KYC) documentation required by the banks; lack of awareness, financial illiteracy among others. These are some of the hurdles we have to effectively overcome financial exclusion in Nigeria.
Despite the risk in keeping money outside the banking system, some people still stay away from banks given their experiences during the period of distress in the banking sector. What do you think can be done to boost confidence in banks?
Generally, I think within the banked population, loyalty, engagement and satisfaction is on the rise; however customer demands and expectations evolve so in the financial system as a whole we must continually pay attention to our customers’ needs and try our best to meet them. While in the unbanked population we must continue to create awareness and educate them on financial responsibility and measures we have put in place to protect their monies.
How is the CBN is deepening financial inclusion through mobile money. As an operator how would you rate the strategy?
The CBN has made substantial improvement in its drive towards financial inclusion. They recently licensed more mobile money operators, according to recent figures that were put out the number of Nigerians financially included are about 53 per cent, hopefully these numbers keep rising, that’s what we would like to see- a steady rise.
Can you tell us more about fets?
fets stands for Funds & Electronic Transfer Solutions Limited. We are a CBN licensed mobile money operator, and commenced operations in 2010. It is a mobile money platform that does not require a bank account to function, all you need is a mobile phone and an active telephone number.
How does fets differ from other operators and how do you aim to facilitate financial inclusion in Nigeria?
One of the keys things we have set out to accomplish this year is to boost our agent network across Nigeria. We will be recruiting more agents especially in the rural areas where banks have limited access. We have a sustainable plan in place to bring at least 25 per cent of the unbanked population onto the fetswallet platform before the end of the year.
As part of efforts to deepen financial inclusion, you entered into separate collaborations with Chanja Datti and Pharm Access. What are the outcomes of these collaborations?
The main objective of the partnership with pharm access is to study how mobile phones and mobile payment technologies can be used to improve access to affordable and quality healthcare services in resource constrained settings. This collaboration has been successful as we converted an entire low income community to use mobile payment as an alternative to cash payments for health services. Also, the collaboration with Chanja Datti is a financial inclusion program for internally displaced women in one of the IDP Camps in Abuja. The main objective of this partnership is to equip the women with a channel for receiving payments for services rendered to ChanjaDatti and also protecting their funds at the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp.
Do customers require smartphones to use fets. Also, in areas where internet connectivity is an issue, how can customers access your services?
No, customers do not require smartphones to use fetswallet. All you need is a working phone and a mobile number. Having a smart phone is just an add on, because it allows you access to the mobile app and internet access. Customers can access fetswallet by simply dialing our USSD code *610#
Security is an issue – which Nigerians know too well. How does your product provide secure services for your customers?
fetswallet is secure. We have put several layers of security measures in place for our customer’s protection. Every customer has a four digit pin, so even though your fetswallet account is unique to your mobile phone number, nobody has access to it even if your mobile phone is lost or stolen. We also encourage our customers to do a PIN reset frequently to avoid any situation where a customer’s PIN can be compromised.
Where do you envisage fets in five years?
In five years, I envisage fets being a house hold name as the leader in mobile money services, and a trail blazer in the financial inclusion strategy 2020; a special project by the CBN to further reduce the financial exclusion rate in the country to 20 per cent by 2020.