Anionwu: Technology Innovation Will Bridge Financial Inclusion Gap

Nnamdi Anionwu

Head, Digital Services, Diamond Bank, Mr. Nnamdi Anionwu spoke with Emma Okonji about value in the bank’s newly upgraded app, and how it will further bridge the country’s financial inclusion gap, among others. Excerpts:

How do you see government policies in driving banking services in 2019?

Government policies for the banking sector are meant to regulate the sector and also protect the players in the sector, including the customers. I expect to see government policies in 2019, in a manner that will further shape the banking industry. I expect more award of licences for FinTech players in order to increase partnerships with the banks, which in my view, will create more job opportunities in 2019.

What is your bank doing to help the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) achieve financial inclusion for Nigeria?

We are big in the area of financial inclusion and we have lots of solutions that are geared towards achieving financial inclusion and bridge the existing financial inclusion gap in the country. We have opened several Diamond Y’ello Account across the country, which seeks to get in more people at the grassroots into the financial services space. We have over 10 million of the Diamond Y’ello Account and for our Beta Proposition, we have couple of millions of accounts that target the unbanked. We will continue to provide products and services that will speak to the unbaked sector of the Nigerian economy.

There is a global belief that Nigeria is still a cash-based economy despite CBN’s efforts and that of the banks to achieve financial inclusion. What is your view about this assumption?

It is true that a lot of Nigerians still carry physical cash but that does not mean that Nigeria is a cash-based economy because a lot has been achieved in the cashless economy drive of the CBN. The truth is that we cannot completely eliminate cash from the system and this is not a Nigerian thing, it is a global phenomenon. Again I think it is a gradual process to fully achieve financial inclusion.

The news of merger between Diamond Bank and Access Bank is all over the place. What informed the merger and what value is it going to bring to your customers?

The merger is a good step in the right direction because it is going to bring more value for both bank customers. What the partnership and merger means is that our bank customers will have access to more Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) and other digital channels for their financial transactions, which is about more value to the customer at no cost. The merger will see both banks building Africa’s largest retail bank.

What is your biggest challenge in driving the upgraded mobile app?

Our biggest challenge is about those bank customers that have refused to embrace change in this digital age. We still have some customers who do not want to use any of our mobile apps for transaction, but prefer to go to our physical bank branches to carry out their financial transactions. We need such customers to embrace technology and enjoy the convenience that our mobile app brings to the table of financial transactions. The challenge is that we must still provide service to such customers at a great cost to us but digital services come with convenience for the customers and reduces cost for us as a bank.

But the refusal of customers to embrace digital transactions has been linked to fear of losing their hard-earned monies to cybercriminals who most times, hack into customers’ account to defraud customers. How best are you addressing their fears ?

We are big on security and it is one of my major deliverables to ensure safety in all our digital channels. What we have done with the mobile app in terms of security, is to make sure that the customer is responsible for his or her own security. I say this because the customer is in charge of his or her PIN, Password and other security details that are known to only the customer, which must not be disclosed to another person. On our part, we have various layers of security on our mobile app, which prevent unauthorised access and protect customers’ funds at all times.

How has Diamond Bank been able to use technology to drive banking services in the past years, and what are your experiences as head of the Diamond Bank digital team?

I became the head of the digital team at Diamond Bank in August 2017 and it has been interesting and also challenging in driving the digital team of the bank, where digital transformation is our priority. The fact remains that technology is fast driving banking operations and the application of technology solutions is the only way to achieve digital transformation that will close the current financial inclusion gap in the country. For my team, we have always been technology focused and our bank is at the forefront of technology innovation to further drive banking services and boost customer experience, and we as a bank, pride ourselves as one of the biggest in retail banking that is driven by technology.

Most of our banking initiatives are technology based and it has helped us to bring down the cost of banking and to give customers varieties of digital services that have impacted positively on their banking lifestyles and businesses. As a digital bank, we offer our customers with digital services that are convenient and comfortable for them.

Diamond Bank recently announced upgrade of its digital app. What informed the upgrade and how has the upgrade impacted your customers?

As a technology driven bank, we flow with times and trends in the banking sector, which of course informed our decision for upgrade. Aside the recent upgrade, we do upgrade as frequent as possible, depending on the trend and customer demand. We listen to our customers, get feedback and act based on our feedback from customers, and that was one of the major deciding factor for the recent app upgrade that we embarked upon. In Diamond Bank, we set the pace for other banks to follow, when it comes to digital innovation in the banking sector.

So what are the features of the upgraded app that will trigger as the game changer in the financial sector?

The game changer is a situation that we have created around the upgraded app, such that anybody can use the app, irrespective of whether the user is our bank customer or not. In essence, our customers and customers-to-be can conveniently make use of the app to do several baking transactions from the comfort of their homes and offices, without necessarily going to the banking hall. So the app is redesigned in such a way that without logging into the app users can still pay their bills using their cards. So if a non-Diamond Bank customer wants to use the service, the person can conveniently do so without logging into the app. From outside of the app, the person can click on Quick Bill Payment use his or her bank’s card, which could be any bank’s card to do any form of transaction. We also have the Quick Loans on the outside of the app for non-Diamond Bank customer to take advantage of.

What are the unique offerings under the Diamond Digital Services?

Under the Diamond Digital Services (DDS), we offer the Diamond Mobile App, Diamond Internet Banking, Diamond Chatbot and other digital channeled through which we offer unique services to our esteemed customers.

One of the features of your upgraded app is the Quick Loan. How does it work, and of what benefit is it to your customers?

Quick Loan is on the outside of the app and it is easy to use. Once a customer clicks on the link, it will come up with some security details and once the details are accurately supplied by the customer, the customer gets the loan immediately and the customer’s account is credited without any collaterals.

So how does your bank identify those that are qualified for a loan and how does it ensure repayment of loans?

In terms of identification of customers, it is easy because Quick Loan is designed for only customers at the moment, but in developing subsequent bills payment, we will include both the bank customers and non-bank customers, so that non-bank customers can use their debit cards to access the loan. As for the repayment, we have criteria for loan repayment. The terms and conditions for the loan varies with the amount of loan requested by different customers. So there is no fixed terms and conditions for loan repayment, but it depends on the amount that is being requested.

So what makes Diamond Bank app stands out among other banking apps in the financial industry sector?

So many things stand us out in terms of our app. Firstly, it is customer-centric and customer-driven. It is largely designed to meet customers’ needs, based on the feedback we get from customers. We looked at the needs of our customers from all our branches and we develop app to address these needs. For example, we discovered that majority of our customers have need to pay for their DSTV subscriptions and we decided to factor DSTV payment into our app, for the ease and convenience of our esteemed customers. So our unique proposition is about convenience and cost saving for our customers. We are innovative as a bank and we have brought our innovativeness to play in the app, just to bring convenience for our customers and that of course largely stands us out.

What are your views about the emergence of FinTech players in the financial services deliveries. Do you still see them as threat or business companion?

At Diamond Bank, we are technology driven and we had never seen the operations of FinTech as threat because they are into technology innovation, which is key to our business as a bank. We have partnered FinTech from the beginning and we still partner them and we see them as business companion. FinTech players have developed a lot of financial solutions that have brought speed of business and convenience in the banking industry and that has always been our goal and aspiration as an innovative bank whose processes are driven by technology.

As the head of digital team for Diamond Bank, how has your team been able to leverage technology to drive processes, especially in today’s competitive banking operations?

I do not mean to sound arrogant when I say we do not see competitors in the financial space that we play. We are ahead of others because we are technology driven and we do not see others as our competitors. We are pacesetters in terms of digital innovation in the banking sector. My team has been very hard working and we have been able to use technology to address customer needs.