Ugo Aliogo underscores the digital banking revolution in Nigeria
Think of some of the earliest digital transformations – from music, to movies, to meetings, conferences and even how we store information. Think about how all of these and many other things have now shifted to the “cloud”. Transformations from old, bulky physical forms such as audio tapes, video cassettes, paper files, hard drives are now preferably managed on the web, where there are literally no limits. Similarly, today, banks have given us the power to carry them in our pockets, without a need for physical structures such as bank branches. Asides the fact that older traditional banks in Nigeria now scale their offerings to provide digital services, we are now seeing such a huge take-off amongst new, digital-only banks, essentially “branchless” banks, which offer the opportunity to access everyday banking services in a fast, simple and secure way.
The aftermath of the COVID-19 outbreak bumped the banking sector in Nigeria into massive digital disruption, as consumers began to demand for more efficient ways to access and complete financial transactions outside physical structures. In fact, many Nigerians now consider it an arduous task to queue in a bank branch just to sort out basic transaction needs. Another factor heightening the adoption of digital banking is our youthful population, who are increasingly utilizing financial services in modern ways. Online payments are made on the go, and subscription for utilities are usually automated and expected to be seamless.
Visiting a branch versus carrying the Branch with You
The disruption in the banking sector is part of what prompted Branch, a leading digital finance app, to offer better value to customers who are not only excluded but underserved in the financial service delivery space. In Nigeria, a high percentage of the population are financially excluded, with data showing that 36% of Nigerian adults, or 38 million adults, remained completely financially excluded at the end of 2020 (Source). This is the case, not just due to widespread poverty in the country, but also because the processes required to access their bank’s services (e.g., loans) are just too stressful and complicated for most middle and low-income earners.
In most cases, these barriers to financial inclusion shut out people in the lower and middle-income levels, whose financial activities still contribute significantly to the country’s economy, yet are unable to benefit from services they ought to be entitled to. This category of the population, who are most in need of supportive banks in their businesses and personal finances, are made to crumble under the weight of hidden charges, incessant deductions, money transfer limits, and errors in basic transactions. To top this, they lose precious hours in traditional bank branches whenever they try to resolve an issue.
A ‘branchless’ bank doing it differently
Essentially, Branch is a bank in your pocket or anywhere you keep your phone. Whatever your bank can do for you, you can get it done much faster, easier and cheaper as long as you have a Smartphone. When it comes right down to it, massive office buildings and pervasive bank branches do not really meet the needs of their customers. If as a bank customer, you had the option of requesting a small loan quietly from the comfort of your bedroom, rather than sit for hours in a crowded bank branch and fill endless forms, you would probably take that option. This is just one of the many problems that Branch is solving for millions of users in Nigeria and other countries.
Here are some areas in which Branch stands out in meeting customers’ real needs
● By providing a digitized and easily accessible loan process, which is both reliable and considerate to borrowers, Branch meets the needs of customers at their point of urgency – without needing to visit a physical bank building. Furthermore, Branch maintains an ethical debt collection policy, which sticks to a non-aggressive debt collection practice, and non-shaming of borrowers. This feature serves as a relief for the average Nigerian, who would typically approach loans with much trepidation and anxiety, even when there is genuine need for the loan.
● Also, security and data privacy are non-negotiable requirements for many Nigerians before opting for a bank. Branch takes this even more seriously with the use of world-class data security and encryption techniques to protect customers’ data. Also, Branch protects all customer data from third party or data poachers.
● Whenever there is a complaint from a customer, resolving said complaint should be swift and personalized. Rather than make customers wait for several working days, or demand a visit to a bank branch, Branch takes up the responsibility in addressing issues that arise, and also updating their customers with feedback and recommendations in real time all on their phone.
● Lastly, Branch stands out in its offer to customers. Once you have the Branch app, you stand to enjoy free and unlimited transfers from the Branch Wallet, instant loans up to N500,000, bill payments with zero charges and a mouthwatering investment that yields 20% interest per annum.
The huge advantages of this “branchless” bank clearly indicate that the future of banking lies in the ability of today’s banks to leverage modern technologies to provide real financial solutions to all categories of people.