Ezekiel Okpuzor, in this interview with the Managing Director of Fortis Mobile Money Limited, Onyeka Ofodile, examines the impact of COVID-19 among the mobile money operators.
We are living in unprecedented times. How has COVID-19 affected your business?
We are not just living in an unprecedented time, we are doing business within it and of course, our business has been affected but mostly positively. We have had to embrace remote working with amazing results and some reduction in costs. We are even putting processes to ensure that those that do not need to come in to work physically do not need to even after the lockdown. We are now automating most processes and as much as possible, holistically digitalizing our business models.
On the transaction side, we have seen growth even if we had anticipated it. Agent transactions grew and we saw our service to the Federal Government deepen during these times as the government utilized our agent networks and robust cash transfer platform to transfer cash to over 150,000 beneficiaries.
At Fortis Mobile Money, we are watching this period and as opportunities are thrown up, we have set up organizational systems that will rise and take advantage.
Can you emphasize more on the partnership between Fortis and the Federal Government?
Of course, Fortis Mobile Money is part of the organizations that is facilitating the Conditional Cash Transfer program of the federal government under The National Cash Transfer Office. We have been on the program since 2017 when we were one of the successful bidding organizations. Thus far, we have facilitated distributions in 8 states in Nigeria, often partnering with microfinance banks, cooperatives and other businesses close to where we operate to ensure that beneficiaries get their benefits in a way that is safe, transparent and auditable.
Are there other ways the COVID-19 pandemic has affected your business?
Like I have stated in other situations where I have had to address my team on the implications of these current realities, I believe that the world of business will be addressed as Pre COVID-19 and Post Covid-19 era. In Fortis, we have escalated our process of partnership with other businesses that will enable us deepen our reach. We are thinking more collaboration than ever before. Aggregators, Agent Managers and other businesses whose network we can leverage to grow faster.
We are also working more closely with commercial banks to scale our offerings. These partnerships will enable us get more payment acceptance equipment that can be easily integrated into our business process and lead our growth. No one can afford to work alone.
Furthermore, we are looking at the data we have been collecting for over 9 years of our existence and now thinking how best we can utilize the information through business intelligence and drive growth.
Capturing the future, how do you see Mobile Money in Nigeria?
What I see and what I feel that many other players feel right now is cautious optimism. It took a pandemic to force certain attitudes that we have always maintained was inevitable.
It took COVID-19 for a greater part of the population to understand how crucial Agent Networks and Mobile Money can be. I feel that the future is here and experts are looking at ways to digitalize most aspects of financial services in preparation for a probable future where COVID-19 or something else would enforce these sorts of behaviour.
Like I said, Fortis Mobile Money has been forced to take a leap into that future and in this past couple of months, I have found that exhilarating.
In the future, Mobile Money and Agent Banking will be accepted as a critical component in financial services and most financial service providers will be looking at ways to enter that ecosystem in the medium and short term.
Fortis Mobile Money Limited, a CBN-licensed mobile money operator. Our company play in the agent banking space and facilitates affordable, convenient and secure payment services using our agent network.