Smartphone Ownership Made Simple


The recent partnership between Sterling Bank and two stakeholders in the telecommunications sector – 9Mobile and Solo Phones – will further deepen financial inclusion and online banking, Raheem Akingbolu reports

Like other commercial banks that successfully navigated the consolidation era in the Nigerian financial sector, Sterling Bank had embarked on positioning drive few years ago with utmost concern. After the fully establishment of its Brand Essence in the market place, the bank had rolled out series of campaigns that were cleverly weaved to reflect its vision and various products.

What appeared to be the peak of such engagement was the unveiling of One-Customer Bank campaign which was launched to celebrate Sterling Bank’s customers. The campaign didn’t only resonate with customers; it repositioned the bank as a creative power house. Among other beautiful attributes, brand analysts have consistently commended the bank for using the campaign to address individuals and give them sense of belonging.  The fact that the campaign celebrates customers, not in numbers but individually makes it unique and relevant up till today.


Driving digital and financial inclusion

Two weeks ago, Sterling bank broke a new ground in an unusual manner by initiating device financing to make live easy for Nigerians. With the initiative, new and existing customers of the bank will be able to own smart phones with ease through an organised payment pattern.

According to the management of the bank, the exercise was embarked upon to ensure that more Nigerians enjoy the benefits of a digital eco-system that is mobile centric. To drive the new initiative, Sterling Bank is currently partnering two telecommunications players -9Mobile and Solo Phones to introduce the contract smartphone pre-bundled with mobile plans.

If succeeded, the bank would have helped Nigerians to address major challenges faced in the emerging markets, where smartphone penetration is hindered by lack of modern payment plan that would enable members of the public to own phone with ease. This is a sorry state compared to US and Western Europe, where 80% of all customers buy phones via device finance. In a country like Nigeria, findings have revealed that customers who buy with their hard earned money have much lower income and 90% of the phones are sold with no credit. Meanwhile, it has also been established that credit access is very limited due to lack of data and efficient recovery options.

As a result of this, the decision of Sterling Bank to bridge the gap is already being applauded by Nigerians. Before now, the clamour for an efficient technology to manage credit risk and open up credit access to mass market has been on the increase. In a report shared by the promoters of Solo Phones in Nigeria, access to smartphone and other devises on modern payment pattern has been difficult for number of reasons. Among other reasons; there are no small loans available to buy phones, people lack credit history, no bank accounts and permanent jobs and fear of being defrauded on the part of financiers.  To this end, it is believed that there is need to build trust between the consumer and the financier need.



Speaking at a Press conference to announce the partnership, Executive Director Retail and Consumer Marketing, Sterling Bank Plc, Grama Narasimhan said the partnership reflects the bank’s commitment to delivering value to its customers. Narasimhan said the bank will continue to be in the business of making valuable partnerships with key stakeholders to deliver value to its customers as well as banked and under banked Nigerians.

“At Sterling Bank, we will always put the customers first, as they are the reason why we continue to seek valuable partnerships that will translate into making the lives of our customers easier” he said.

He disclosed that the contract package allows the customer enjoy a very attractive monthly mobile bundle plan (Voice +SMS+ Data plan + Social media+ Recharge bonuses) in addition to a SOLO Aspire 4 smart mobile phone and the minimum period for the contract is twelve months.

The Chief Marketing of the Bank, Mr. Henry Bassey further noted that the bank will continue to be at the forefront of seeking valuable partnerships that will enrich the lives of customers. “At Sterling Bank, our customers will always come first, that is why we always design solutions that will translate into value for them”. Bassey further noted that this alliance with 9Mobile and Solo Phone is a testament of the bank’s commitment to ensuring that every Nigerian is availed the opportunity to own a smart phone with all its attendant benefits which include Insurance cover, 90 minutes of call time, SMS, Social plans & free 1.5GB data.

Also speaking at the event, the Director of Enterprise Segment for 9Mobile, Mr. Plato Syrimis expressed the delight of his organisation to be part of a partnership that will increase smartphone penetration and its benefits to Nigerians who ordinarily cannot afford to pay the lump sum that is required to acquire these devices.

“This partnership has made it possible and affordable for anyone to go into a Sterling Bank branch, pay a deposit of N10, 000 and walk out with the latest smartphone device. Furthermore, the customer will enjoy monthly voice minutes, data and freebies pre-bundled into the 9mobile SIM attached to these devices.”

Syrimis, who was represented by Mr. Mojeed Aluko, further added that the increase in smartphone penetration is a stimulus for development as more people are able to access the vast knowledge stream available on the internet and mobile application developers can provide easy access to services such as education, health, logistics and transport via the smartphone. This is the beginning of a great journey for our customers as we continue to deliver the benefits of a digital environment either directly or through our partners.

Speaking on the rationale for the package, & Chief Executive Officer of SOLO, Tayo Ogundipe, Founder said: “Driving digital and financial inclusion remains critical to economic growth especially in emerging market. Accelerating smartphone adoption is at the core of realising the growth potential. Our Partnership with Sterling and 9 mobile is designed to change the game by bringing to Nigeria, the same mechanism that has propelled Smartphone adoption in developed markets. This will open the door to inclusion.

“At a time of difficult economic conditions across Africa, making Smartphone affordable especially for the mass market requires fresh thinking and innovative ideas. That’s SOLO’s DNA and we are proud to be part of the team that’s delivering this unique solution in Nigeria.”

This is not the first time Sterling bank is supporting initiative like this. Few years ago, it signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Dana Motors Limited to flag off the Strategic Auto Finance Campaign Promo that allowed customers and non-customers of the Bank acquire KIA Brand of vehicles with ease.

The auto finance campaign came with attractive interest rate and loan tenure that allows convenient and flexible repayment. The promo which will ran for 90 days also offered variety of benefits that included prepayment of insurance premium, free car registration, free fuel voucher, full tank at pick up of the vehicle, free services (inclusive of parts and labor), free tracker and a five year warranty.

Other positioning campaigns

After its One-Customer Bank Campaign, handlers of the Sterling Bank brand have rolled out various campaigns and intervention CSR programmes to impact the society. Recently, the bank intensified its environmental sustainability campaign with the formal unveil of Olamide Adedeji, popularly called Olamide Baddo, as STEM Ambassador. STEM, Sterling Environmental Makeover, is the bank’s corporate social responsibility initiative which seeks to promote practices that contribute to the quality of the environment on a long-term basis.

Through Olamide, a top hip-hop artiste with large followership that cuts across socio-economic classes and age groups, the bank intend to inspire Nigerians, both young and old to alter their lifestyle and adopt sustainable living actions which impact on the environment and makes planet earth a clean and safe place. Olamide is expected to extend the reach and impact of Sterling Bank Environmental Makeover programme.

Launched eight years ago, STEM has promoted sanitation, hygiene and environmental sustainability in more than 14 states across Nigeria. In December 2016, Nollywood actor, Funke Akindele popularly known as Jenifa, joined the employees of Sterling Bank to clean the streets of Lagos.

Speaking on the emergence of Olamide Adedeji as STEM Ambassador, Chief Marketing Officer, Sterling Bank, Henry Bassey said: “As a bank, we are big on the environment and are clearly going to sustain that. One of the ways to sustain this initiative is to create excitement around it and we find Olamide a credible choice. Partnering with Olamide will consolidate on the success of the STEM Programme which covers provision of uniforms to street cleaners in 14 states, national cleaning exercise by Sterling Bank employees, and tree planting in Bauchi, Gombe and Plateau states to address the challenge of desertification.

“We cannot live a healthy life, conduct business and create wealth amidst waste or in a toxic environment. Without clean air, water, land and energy, our collective humanity is endangered. This makes it necessary for us to keep our environment orderly and functional through sustainable living actions and regular cleaning. As a result, we have signed up Olamide as STEM ambassador to nurture this consciousness among young Nigerians and also lead our national cleaning exercises. Our goal is to lead the movement promoting environmental sustainability in Nigeria”, Bassey explained.

Again, the bank had sometimes ago brought succour to parents, guardians and teachers as it launched Sterling Bank “Back-To-School” Campaign. The campaign was aimed at providing succour for all stakeholders in the sector as schools resumed.

The primary target for the campaign were the primary and secondary schools (administrators, owners and teachers) while the secondary audience were all primary and secondary school-students and their parents. Areas covered under the campaign included School financing, Asset Finance, Textbook and Educational Materials Finance for schools.