Group Managing Director/CEO, United Bank for Africa Plc, Mr. Kennedy Uzoka (2nd right) with Africa’s best Digital Bank award conferred by Euromoney. Uzoka is flanked from left by Managing Director, Euromoney, Mr. John Orchard; General Manager, Energy Bank, Mr. Ebele Ogbue; and 1966 England World Cup winner, Sir Geoff Hurst, at the Euromoney Award for Excellence in London…recently

The United Bank for Africa’s position as Africa’s most innovative financial institution was further cemented recently when it was honoured at the Euromoney Award in London as the continent’s leading digital banker. Rachael Wanogho reports

Growth is the application of revealed principles and means. It cannot be suddenly stumbled upon. Success is worked for and obtained through hard work and the application of principles that have, overtime, been used and put to good use by individuals, organisations and corporate bodies. Euromoney is one of such bodies that possess principles surrounding quantitative and qualitative data and they seek to honour institutions that have brought the highest levels of service, innovation, and expertise to their customers.

Recently, at their awards ceremony held in London, Euromoney conferred on the United Bank for Africa (UBA), one of Africa’s leading financial institutions, “The Best Digital Bank Award”. The award was received by the Group Managing Director, Mr. Kennedy Uzoka.

Uzoka appreciated Euromoney, taking pride in the fact that UBA’s dedication to hard work and provision of quality services to customers are being acknowledged and recognised. He said this feat should serve as an example and encouragement to other financial institutions that impossibilities can become possible and attainable once your mind is set on it.

Leo

Editor of Euromoney’s magazine, Clive Horwood, also had his thoughts concerning the award conferred on UBA. Horwood explained that despite the fierce competition among financial institutions for digital banking, UBA stood out with the introduction of Leo. Strangely, Leo is not human, neither an animal.

UBA is one of Africa’s leading banks with operations in 20 African countries and in London and New York, with presence in Paris. It is acclaimed for its pioneering role in banking and organisational change. The bank bagged the award of excellence by introducing Leo, who is also known as the Chat Banker.

Leo is an e-chat service that makes use of artificial intelligence to help customers execute transactions on Facebook. Apart from its technological features, Leo possesses the physical human characteristics of the average African man, dark-skinned with a seemingly large nose and a clean haircut. Leo’s dress sense also targeted the demographics of a youthful population with his pair of dirty jeans trousers, t-shirt and sneakers. Leo is social, tech-savvy and smart when it comes to financial transactions.

Leo is well deserving of accolades as it has been proved in Nigeria and launched in 15 African countries, including Cameroon, Zambia, Cote D’Ivoire, Senegal, and Congo, and this is set to change the face of e-banking in the key markets and countries. There is no backing down now as the world is revolutionising and taking more daring steps in technology and digital platforms. Leo has so many advantages, and as such, it beats what troubles the minds of its average client and can be used by non-customers, which makes it an honourable platform. Leo is a banking buddy that any customer and money-minded individual can bank on, anytime of the day and in any city. The client can make use of social media accounts across any device – phones, tablets, laptops, and palmtops. He also comes with new features that enable the user to derive vital information, such as important names of global personalities in key market areas that can be used personally. The Chat Banker interacts with the customers, answering questions such as the current time and weather conditions in and across cities, which is imperative for traveller and business individuals that go through cities for either business purpose or personal trips.

One of the most important advantages of Leo is its ability to address banking concerns raised by the customers. They include but not limited to opening new accounts, receiving instant transactions notification, transfer funds and airtime top-up but this is just the tip of the iceberg. The crux is its ability to confirm cheques, pay bills, apply for loans (amazingly), freeze accounts – of course, not too soon – and request for mini-statements in case of emergencies.

For those who like to make suggestions or monitor complaints, Leo also provides an opportunity to handle transactions speedily and timely.

To enjoy the service fully, every user must have a Facebook account, although there is a plan in the nearest future for Leo to show up on other social platforms.

‘Artificial Intelligence Personality’

During the launch of Leo, Group Head of Online Banking at UBA, Mr. Austine Abolusoro, said Leo was an artificial intelligence personality meant to address any type of banking concerns raised by customers. “Leo is ready and waiting to help with most transactions and to deliver any form of banking services,” Abolusoro said. “Leo is operating a lifestyle banking platform on Facebook messenger to assist with your transactions while chatting with your friends and business partners. The security with this platform is that for every transaction, an OTP (One Time Password) is generated to the phone number that is registered on your account.”

Horwood also mentioned that UBA recently added retina and fingerprint recognition and technology to reduce business travel greenhouse emissions. There is without an iota of doubt, that if UBA fulfils their ambitions to partner with financial technology companies, they will continue to lead African banks in digitisation.

Facebook’s Recognition

Uzoka said UBA bagged the award for excellence due to its strong management and unmatched commitment to service excellence. Even though they have been around since 1949, UBA has moved beyond the traditional methods of banking and introduced platforms, initiatives and strategies that other organisations can follow, Uzoka said. Their accomplishments thus far, have been endorsed by President Emmanuel Macron of France and CEO Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, focusing on the values that come with UBA’s leading digital opportunities.

UBA is the first bank in Africa to come up with this kind of solution and the reason it is phenomenal is that it helps to simplify the way customers interact. Discussions certainly took place with Facebook and the collaboration was sealed that birthed a new initiative in the digital world. Before the awards took place, the Chat Banker was given due recognition by the CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, at a conference he attended recently.

Appraisal

Group Managing Director, UBA, Uzoka, who received the Euromoney award, had so many things to say concerning the feat. He said the launch of Leo was part of initiatives aimed at putting the bank’s customers first with UBA continuously developing strategies aimed at easing transactions for the bank’s numerous users while ensuring utmost safety of their transactions.

“The formulation of this product is consistent with the bank’s customer-first philosophy, where we are doing things not the way we like, but focusing on what the customers want, where they want it, and in the exact platform they want it,” Uzoka stated. “At UBA, we have been working with technology giants that have the global capacity to ensure not only seamless but also effortless banking for millions of our customers across Africa. We at UBA have collaborated with Facebook to come up with this innovation that is capable of revolutionising the way banking is done in Africa.”

Uzoka said the recognition would spur the bank to do more in providing excellent banking experiences and meeting the needs of customers with unrivalled services. He said UBA had on its agenda the objective of digital creativity and they would not relent in their pursuit of excellent service but continually lead the new digital age within the financial services industry.