THISDAY spoke with Oluseye Olusoga, CEO of Parthian Partners, the company collaborating with Sterling Bank to deliver a new-to-the-world solution which makes it easy for all and sundry to invest in treasury bills in a secure manner. Excerpts:
What is I-invest all about and how does it work?
I-invest is an investment application that was developed to enable members of the public invest in treasury bills from any location at their convenience. It was created by Parthian Partners with the support of Sterling Bank to promote investment culture among Nigeriaâ€™s middle-class populace that save sparingly. The savings opportunity availed by I-invest can be a good protection against temporary job loss, sickness, and even retirement.
As you are aware, treasury bills are safe investments that allow members of the public to invest in the development of Nigeria with very little to no risk while ensuring guaranteed and healthy returns on investments.
As to how it works, itâ€™s all about convenience. Currently, in order to invest in T-bills, one has to go to a bank, speak to an account officer, fill forms and deal with all sorts of verification requirements.
With I-invest, if you wish to invest in T-bills, all you need is a smart phone and access to the internet. Armed with these, the user simply downloads the I-invest app from Google Play Store or App store on IOS. The user then follows the prompts on the app to complete the registration process in order to create a personal account and a unique customer identification.
The user can then load a minimum of N100,000 into his wallet to start investing. Once the userâ€™s wallet is loaded, the app makes it easy to select a tenor, and pay the amount the customer wants to invest in T-bills at the prevailing rate at the time of purchase.
Again, the app makes this easy by giving multiple options, from direct transfer to using a debit card. Users can also pay via the e-bills platform on the internet banking portal of their banks. The e-bills mode of payment is efficient and quick and should be used more often than it is currently being used.
The treasury bills are supplied by Sterling Bank and are kept with a duly regulated custodian to ensure the customersâ€™ investments are safe and secured. The I-invest app merely makes the process simple by cutting through the red tape.
I should also mention that it is important that users update their Know Your Customer (KYC) requirement on the app to avoid any delays in accessing their funds.
Is the Nigerian market ready for this innovation now?
Certainly. Nigerians should never be underrated when it comes to the adoption of innovation and technology. More and more people in the country have smart phones as well as access to the internet and we are seeing an increase in the use of apps and smart codes for accessing traditional banking services. I-invest builds on that foundation.
Before now, treasury bills and access to certain banking services have always been reserved for the elite or sophisticated investor but I-invest will change all that because it makes investing more accessible to the average Nigerian. The market has always existed; it is the innovation that was missing.
Are there any buffers for I-invest users against the menace of identity theft and payment fraud?
Yes, the app only allows transfers into accounts linked to usersâ€™ BVN meaning that any money invested, or any gains made cannot be transferred to any unrelated account or third party.
Given the peculiar infrastructure challenge in Nigeria, do you think Fintechs like Parthian Partners can make a difference?
Parthian Partners is not a fintech company but a regulated financial institution promoting technology as an enabler. Without speaking to our nationâ€™s infrastructure, we believe that Nigeria currently provides an enabling environment that grants a fair amount of latitude to innovators in the fintech space. As long as that continues, there will always be movers in the industry coming up with new and innovative ways to circumvent any challenges.
I should also mention that Nigeriaâ€™s use of technology in banking and finance is quite advanced when compared with more developed countries. So, we can say despite the challenges, Nigeria will thrive and players in fintech already are, and will continue to make a difference.
Is Parthian Partners fully equipped to exploit this unique window of opportunity?
Yes, with our wealth of knowledge in the industry and relationships within the banking sector – such as our collaboration with Sterling Bank in this endeavour – Parthian Partners is fully equipped to take advantage of this golden opportunity.
Tell us about your partnership with Sterling Bank?
Itâ€™s a collaborative partnership with the customer in mind. The two institutions came together to take fintech in Nigeria a step further than the traditional airtime purchase and money transfer services.
In what ways will the app deepen the money market and ultimately the economy?
The more people invest on the app the bigger the money market becomes. T-bills are a means of lending to the government for infrastructure development, among other needs. With more money available to government, the cost of funding projects will crash and become lower. So, with I-invest, we are all set to play our part in building Nigeriaâ€™s economy.
Besides Sterling Bank, can customers of other banks use the I-invest app?
Yes. The app was not created for Sterling Bank customers only. It was built for every Nigerian with a smart phone and internet access. Customers of all banks in Nigeria can invest on the app easily and conveniently.
Are you also eyeing other markets on the African continent?
We are focused on getting Nigerians to embrace the app first but may consider introducing it in other African countries in the future.
Finally, what excites you most about the future of I-invest?
We are entering unchartered waters and that is always exciting. Most importantly, we are changing the way things are done and putting the customerâ€™s interest at the forefront. Due to its convenient and secure nature, it possibly will herald Nigeriaâ€™s evolution into a high-saving society where government will access to low cost funds to develop infrastructure, and citizens having enough for the type of retirement they desire. I-invest is just about creating a future of shared prosperity for Nigeria and Nigerians.