Dozie: Digitisation Makes Banking Simpler, Cheaper and Faster

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• . Diamond Y’ello Account generates 9m accounts

Chika Amanze-Nwachuku
Top retail bank, Diamond Bank Plc has said no few than nine million MTN subscribers have opened Diamond Y’ello accounts since the inception of the scheme a few years ago.

Diamond Y’ello Account, a mobile money product was developed by Diamond Bank in partnership with MTN Nigeria for the advancement of the cash-less initiative of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
The product, unveiled in 2014, enables MTN subscribers to open and operate accounts from their mobiles phones.

The youth and mass market segments of the MTN subscriber-base, as well as the unbanked and under-banked subscribers are taking advantage of the favourable account opening requirements and convenience features of the service.

Managing Director, Diamond Bank Plc, Mr. Uzoma Dozie, while providing an update on the initiative at a recent interactive session with journalists in Lagos, explained that the scheme was introduced for people who were not familiar with new technology.
According to him, the bank tapped into the nation’s mobile/smart phone culture as Nigeria is said to have 81 per cent mobile penetration.

“Our partnering with MTN made it easier to get the over nine million accounts and that is because we put the choice of opening an account into the customer’s hand by just dialing *710# on their mobile phones and with this code, subscribers can perform basic banking activities.

He explained further: “There is a big difference with Mobile Money wallet and opening an account. Mobile Money is just like a wallet in which you take money from your wallet and send to someone in another area and that is financial exclusion but that is not what we wanted. Rather, we want Nigerians to open a full-fledged bank account wherever they may be.
“Our business model is not just inclined to when you keep or borrow money but creating platforms for people to have access to financial flows.”

He recalled: Twenty five years ago, if you want to open an account, you will walk into a branch and the bank might choose whether or not they will save it. If you want to do a single transaction 25 years ago, you have to go into a branch, but today, with an MTN mobile phone, it takes a few seconds just by dialing *710# and that is it”
Dozie said that the bank’s digitisaion programme has made banking easier and faster, and has reduced the cost of services it provides to its numerous customers across the globe.
Besides, he said, going digital allows the bank generate information that helps it grow its customer base.
“In fact, we are now a data company, not even a cash company. We move more data than we move cash”, he said.

He added: “We have grown customer base faster than some other banks and we have done that not by stealing market shares but growing new businesses and executing our strategies which was growing the retail business and to grow that retail business, you have to build infrastructure, you have to build businesses in areas where there is no retail. So it was taking banking to people and we are using technology to do that. So when we were saying that we were going to use a technology driven strategy to drive retail and why were using technology driven strategy, it is because of cost of deployment, access and customer experience as well.

He said: “When we shifted our attention to retail, where the biggest retail market and where the opportunity was, we had 50 million individuals that are unbanked, and on the small business side we have 17 million unbanked businesses. When you look at where the Nigerian government is focusing their objectives and priorities on, it is definitely in that space, because that is where the future of the Nigerian economic development is.

“Four years ago, we decided that retail is what we are going to pursue, and what that meant was that we were going to focus our resources on retail drive. Now the two resources that are the key to retail are capital and human resource.”

On the bank’s recent divestment from some West African countries, Dozie said the move was a deliberate capital management plan and not a sign of distress.
According to him, the selloff of the bank’s francophone branches couldn’t have been distressful, considering that the made a handsome profit from the transaction.

Dozie said: “It’s not one of distress, it’s one of ‘putting your money where your mouth is,’ because our capital is stakeholders’ capital and not ours. We took a long term view on it and we took that decision two years ago but of course, we have to find a willing person to make sure that we found someone that is going to add value, which is what we have successfully done.”

He further added: “We have sold to a partner that gives us opportunity to also have relationship in that area. So if it was a distress deal, it would have been an unprofitable one, but because we took our time, it was a very profitable venture for us from the balance sheet perspective, from the PR perspective, and also an ongoing relationship.”

Divesting from the five West African countries, he further stated, enabled Diamond Bank to refocus its strategies and resources back to taking advantage of the opportunities in the Nigerian market.
“When you look at the opportunity, and for Diamond Bank then, our business was focused on corporate, and commercial, so it was easy to justify it, because we were actually following our customers’ businesses. That was the reason why we went into those countries, when a lot of Nigerian trade was going through them.”