COVID- 19 and Online Banking

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By Udemeh Nsot

Today, we are all under house arrest no thanks to coronavirus. The virulent disease has stripped us of our social lives and our bedrooms have become our safe zones. Lagos streets are quieter than graveyards and roads, heave a sigh of relief, something most of us had never thought possible in decades.

When President Muhammadu Buhari announced a 14-day lockdown of Lagos, Abuja and Ogun on March 31, 2020; so many thoughts flipped through my mind. I thought about many small businesses that would be negatively impacted, took pity on many Lagosians who rely on daily income and worried about how they would stay indoors and feed.

The banking sector was amongst essential services sectors that would be allowed to render skeletal services during the lockdown. But seriously, I had great concerns about their efficiency. I was scared millions of their customers didn’t anticipate the lockdown and would rush to their branches to cash out. I was afraid the rush might put the banks in a difficult position to adhere to government’s advisory to mitigate the spread of the virus and ensure their health and safety. I was concerned about how banks would serve their customers when the lockdown finally takes effect. I was worried whether the banks were ready for the volume of transactions that were about to hit their networks and feared customers would not be stranded due to network failures among other issues. I had so many concerns and these led me to keenly monitor their activities.

But in the last few days, I have been more than impressed with how banks complied with government advisory on social distancing and putting measures in place to properly screen their customers.

At the last visit to Adeola Hopewell branch of Polaris Bank in Victoria Island, Lagos before the first week of the presidential lockdown, of the first I have actually done in a couple of months now; allayed my fears. At the entrance, the bank security personnel pulled out a hand-held digital thermometer provided by the Bank to test my temperature, asked me to sanitize my hands and insisted that I kept five feet away from customers. They ensured we weren’t more than 25 in the entire branch including their staff. I was indeed impressed.

Quite frankly, I wasn’t a proud customer of Polaris Bank since they rebranded the bank, until this coronavirus pandemic. I had thought the bank would have made life a bit difficult as it renders skeletal services in some of its branches outside Lagos. But I couldn’t be more wrong! More surprisingly their internet Banking seems to be on auto-pilot as I was able to pay some of my end of month bills very smoothly and indeed one week after lockdown am still real-time.

For real, Polaris Bank and a few other Banks must be doing something worthy of our accolades.

*Nsot, a Software Engineer, writes from Lagos