The Chief Digital Officer, ALAT by Wema Bank, Mr. Dele Adeyinka, spoke with Emma Okonji on how the new mobile app would digitally transform financial transactions and complement the cashless policy. Excerpts:
Wema Bank recently launched ALAT app, designed to transform the bank into a fully digital bank. How can this be achieved?
Wema Bank believes that banking should go beyond just transacting business, to understanding the needs of the customers to integrating into their lifestyle and offering, personalised solutions to address their current challenges and expectations.
With the shift to all things mobile, ALAT is the mobile app recently launched, and powered by Wema Bank, to enhance digital banking. Over the last decade, we have witnessed how technology has revolutionised the financial sector. Many products are out there in the financial market claiming to redefine the customerâ€™s banking experience, but this is not completely true.
Presently, there isnâ€™t that product that really captures the need of the millennials, who are the digitally savvy generation that are becoming the fastest growing segment in the world and in effect impacting economies and industries across the globe. The response of most banks to the digital revolution is the making of considerable investment in digital enterprises to maintain a competitive edge, creating gains out of technology space, with the hope that they will serve their customers seamlessly.
What is ALAT all about?
ALAT is not another online mobile banking or banking app for some banking transactions. It is an app that helps the customersÂ carry out practically all their bank transactions without customers ever going to a branch.
While ALAT powered by Wema Bank is driven by smartphones, it is not a digital product. It is Nigeriaâ€™s first fully functional digital bank that will totally eliminate the need to visit a physical branch. It is integrated with a responsive contact centre and a seamless back-office process. With ALAT, customers can do all their banking transactions, including account opening, document submission and all other banking transactions, such as financial and non-financial without ever having to enter into any physical branch.
How can customers tap into the benefits of the digital app?
It is simple, easy and convenient banking at its best. The service requires a simple, stress-free onboarding process to be successful. From as little as opening bank accounts, customers can transact and open a bank account under five minutes with minimal clicks on their mobile phones. Once a customer enters his or her Bank Verification Number (BVN), all his or her details captured during BVN registration are displayed. Document upload will also be handled in-app at the customerâ€™s convenience.
Asides this, customers can request for their ATM cards via the app and get it delivered at their preferred location; free debit card and free delivery nationwide. All transactions such as account funding, account updates and profile/status maintenance will all be handled in-app. The app is about putting the bank in the customer’s pocket.
The ALAT app is currently available on Google Play Store for all Android phone users and Appleâ€™s App Store for all Apple phone users, while users of BlackBerry and Windows phones can make use of the web version.
Why does Wema Bank pride itself as the only surviving indigenous bank in Nigeria?
It is a true statement about Wema Bank that it is the only surviving indigenous bank in Nigeria. We started banking business since 1945 and on May 2, Wema Bank clocked 72 years in the banking industry. We have been in the financial business for quite a long time and the bank is currently the only surviving indigenous bank in Nigeria that has been been doing retail financial business. Technology has helped us this far to do effective retail financial business since 1945 and we are leveraging the ALAT app to further digitise the operations of the bank that will bring about digital disruption in the banking sector.
What kind of digital disruption will the app bring to bear?
As a bank, we have introduced an app that will bring about a whole lot of digital disruption in the banking sector. With ALAT app, customers do not need to visit the banking hall for any kind of financial transactions, and the banks do not need to invest so much on buildings as bank branches, just to get closer to the customers. With the app, we are disrupting ourselves as well as the entire industry because it is changing a lot of status quo. With our long years of banking experience since 1945, we understand better the needs of customers and ALAT addresses all that needs, by first disrupting existing protocols that existed for several years in the financial sector.
The app appears to be targeted at the millennials who are the digital natives. Why the focus on them?
The ALAT app is not targeted at the millennials alone because it also addresses the needs of various strata of entrepreneurs, both young and old. The youths will find the app very interesting and the older generation will also be interested in using it because it is easy to access, and all financial transactions could be done easily with the app.
What are some of the unique features of the app, and what makes it different from other banking apps?
The features are quite unique because it comes with automatic transaction in the sense that once a customer makes the first monthly bill payment on the platform and saves it for subsequent transactions, the app automatically performs the function in the subsequent month, without further command. Another unique feature of the app is that it comes with a 10 per cent interest rate per annum on the customers’ savings. In the financial industry today, banks give three per cent interest on savings, but we are saying we are giving as much as 10 per cent on savings.
The ALAT app is different from other banking apps because it is a fully digilalised app, while other banking apps are at best, mobile products. Everything about ALART from the point of account opening to request for debit cards and delivery of the cards, as well as to the point of carrying out financial transactions, are all automated. With ALAT, new debit card can be activated online, and customers can also programme their debit cards to function in countries they wish to travel to, that is outside Nigeria and this could be done online on the ALAT platform, without visiting the bank. Card control among various payment channels within Nigeria can be done online with the ALAT app.
What are some of the security features of the app that give customers the confidence to use the app?
The security features are of high standard and built with global standard. The app was designed locally by Nigerians, developed by Nigerians, but subjected to global rigorous testing with world-class standard. We have done several forms of testing and the app was certified good for use before it was eventually launched. Ethical hackers were employed to try and hack into it, but they are yet to find any loopholes.
We are not unaware of security risks with online transactions, and we are doing everything we can to protect our customers; hence the ALAT comes with high security features that makes it difficult to hack into the system. We are providing financial services under the regulation of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) that also provide security for the financial space.
Since the launch few weeks ago in Lagos, what has been the response of customers to the app?
Customer responses have been very encouraging, and customers are currently migrating to the new digitised app. I am delighted to say that in less than two weeks that the app was launched, we have had over 10,000 customers using the app.
Digital transformation in the financial sector is a global phenomenon but Nigeria appears slow in catching up with the digital revolution. What could be responsible for this?
Nigeria is not really slow in catching up with global digital transformation. In fact, Nigeria is catching up fast and Wema Bank has further boosted that initiative with the launch of ALAT, which is the first fully digital bank in Nigeria and the rest of African countries. With the ALAT project, we travelled to other countries to do comparative study and we were in South Africa, where we discovered that Nigeria is ahead of most African countries in digital banking. For instance, it takes up to three working days to conclude interbank transfer within South Africa, but in Nigeria, it is a matter of few minutes.
ALAT runs 24 hours non-stop and we provide online services every day including weekends.
How can SMEs benefit from ALAT?
ALAT is designed for digital transformation, which include all forms of financial transactions across all sectors of the economy. So small and medium enterprises (SMEs) who are part of the ecosystem where financial transactions are done on a daily basis, are also factored in when designing ALAT. We have several merchants on the ALAT platform currently.
How will ALAT compliment the cashless policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)?
The ALAT app was designed to compliment the cashless policy of the CBN and it is also meant to empower all our customers to do more online financial transactions from any part of the country and from even outside the country.
Just like ALAT by Wema Bank, FinTech is also disrupting banking activities. Do you see any competition between both platforms?
FinTech has come to stay and they are providing several financial services, using latest technologies and this calls for collaboration between banks and FinTech. Over time, it has proven that technology is the best tool to achieve financial inclusion and the need for collaboration is the key.
Agency banking is also coming up with a focus to drive financial inclusion. How interested is Wema Bank with agency banking?
Agency banking empowers customers to do banking transactions with bank agents located on the streets closest to them, without necessarily visiting the physical bank branches. So the agents are extension of bank branches that are helping bank customers to carry out financial transactions outside the baking hall and Wema Bank supports them.