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Digital Banking – A Catalyst for Economic Growth and Financial Empowerment

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Standard Chartered Bank Nigeria

By Lamin Manjang

Think back to a time when the word ‘Bank’ came to mind. It conjures images of long queues, tally numbers, paperwork to complete, pressure to process transactions within working hours, awaiting physical approvals on transactions.

Fast forward to more recent times with the impact of technology and financial literacy, the word ‘Bank’ connotes different reactions to many people. Personalized financial growth, opportunities for business collaborations, access to foreign investment opportunities, transferable generational wealth and financial security all on one’s terms are some of the prevailing thoughts for customers.

Customers now have access to information around the clock at the touch of their fingers and as such can determine what financial needs they want their financial partners to meet. The union of innovation, digital literacy and collaborative opportunities to provide financial services, gives us the solution that is Digital Banking.

Digital banking in Nigeria has evolved significantly over the last five years to become an important part of our daily activities, driving e-commerce, wealth creation, payment solutions, financial empowerment, and improved standards of living.

In a world of digital banking and with innovation and technology positioning itself as the future of payments and wealth creation, there are several opportunities for financial institutions to tackle some of the country’s biggest challenges around job creation, economic empowerment and financial inclusion for youths while being a catalyst for efficiency within the sector.

As with any endeavour towards automation, curiosity with heightened caution is expected primarily around the impact on employment opportunities and business sustainability. However, the reality is that with digitization comes immense opportunities for employees in any organisation to acquire new skills that position them for the future working environment which will be predominantly digital.

Digitization fosters efficiency. For example, it broadens and extends a bank’s ability to reach existing and new customers, previously unreachable due to the limitations of the physical brick and mortar branches. Digitisations simplifies manual processes through automation; reduces delays encountered by end-users; creates new job opportunities, thereby creating multiple opportunities for reskilling, upskilling, and redeploying of employees into new roles.

At Standard Chartered, we are a listening and customer-centric financial institution. We are focussed on understanding how our customers want to transact; how we can improve on the products and services that are important to them while ensuring a smooth delivery method to these solutions.

A growing number of our customers are telling us that they want financial solutions that they can access and utilize anytime and anywhere from the convenience of their own mobile devices.

They want to be able to access investment opportunities 24/7 on the go at their fingertips and equally connect with our customer care specialists who can support them whenever they have any queries. Continuous optimization of our digital banking solutions enables us to meet these financial needs.

In December 2021, as part of the digitization journey we embarked on a few years ago towards enhancing our processes, we closed down 10 of our branches in Lagos and Abuja and made significant investments towards optimizing our operating channels, products and service solutions to suit the demands of our clients.

The decision, with the approval of the regulator, was also driven in response to changes in customer transaction behaviour. We have witnessed significant adoption of our digital banking services by customers as most of them continue to prioritize convenient banking over the need to visit any of our physical locations to access our products and services.

In addition to our customer-centric digital strategy, we pride ourselves in the implementation of a forward-looking People Strategy where we proactively plan our workforce needs to fulfil our Business Strategy.

The banking landscape is very dynamic with rapidly changing customer needs. This year, in response to this, we continue to strategically prepare our employees for the future working environment which will be primarily digital. We continue to upskill, equip, and redeploy employees especially those impacted by the closure of the branches in Lagos and Abuja to ensure career growth and stability for our employees this year.

But digitization is not just for the advantage of our customers and employees only. Digitisation provides an opportunity to positively impact the communities too.

The importance of quick access to finance for example cannot be undervalued and with financial exclusion still being a barrier in some parts of Nigeria – digital innovation in banking can influence positive transformation within the sector.

Recently the bank launched its Agency Banking service as part of its Digital Banking proposition to clients across Lagos. This builds on the launch of our world-class digital bank in December 2019. SC Mobile, the Bank’s mobile app has practically put the bank in the palms of the client as clients are able to open new accounts end to end, transfer funds, effect static data changes, get cards delivered to their doorstep, invest in real-time etc.

We equally launched our Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) service, *977# which caters to clients who may not have access to internet service and wish to transact. These are just some of the initiatives we continue to drive in support of CBN’s financial inclusion agenda to empower Nigerians.

We have taken a ‘Capturing the Digital Initiative’ approach that ensures that over 70 per cent of the most common service requests can be handled by our digital bank with distinct benefits such as a zero charge on all interbank transactions, zero charges on SMS notifications and free delivery of cards to customers regardless of location. We remain forward-thinking on how best we can continue to simplify and improve our customers experience with the bank.

From the 2020 NIBBS report, customers between 25 and 34 years old carried out 36% of all interbank instant payments. With an estimated 60% of the Nigerian population setting the tone for adopting innovative technology, it is essential to welcome the latter while also firmly holding the former by striking a balance in responding to customer-specific needs.

Digital banking is no longer a series of financial transactions and services. It is an innovative solution towards providing empowerment and creating sustainable prosperity for our clients, colleagues and the community. This is the future and we are all encouraged to adopt and maximize these changes for the benefit of all.

Lamin Manjang is the CEO of Standard Chartered Bank Nigeria.

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Banking

Polaris Bank in Safe Hands, No Need to Panic—Management

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Polaris Bank Rewards Customers

By Aduragbemi Omiyale

The management of Polaris Bank Limited has urged its customers and members of the public not to panic over reports that the financial institution has been sold to a new investor, Mr Auwal Gombe, in the sum of N40 billion.

It was recently reported that efforts are being made to hand over the lender to the businessman, who is said to be an ally of former military president, Mr Ibrahim Babangida, after the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) nationalised the defunct Skye Bank Plc into Polaris Bank in 2018.

In a statement issued on Friday in Lagos, the bank described the report of the purported sale as not only “speculative” but done to deliberately “create panic” among its customers and the banking community.

The company said the CBN established it and injected funds for its operations, it has bounced back to profitability, with a solid balance sheet, saying there is no cause for alarm as the bank was in safe hands.

“Stakeholders may recall the regulatory intervention in the erstwhile Skye Bank by the CBN and the subsequent injection of capital via the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) through a bridge bank process, which birthed Polaris Bank in 2018.

“The bank has since stabilised its operations following the intervention; improving its balance sheet, customer base and profitability,” a part of the notice today said.

Continuing, Polaris Bank noted that, “Whilst the intention has always been to return the bank to private ownership, such a sale would occur following regulatory approvals with formal notification to all relevant stakeholders,” expressing its commitment to “ensuring timely communication to the public in such an event.”

 “The board and management hereby reassure its customers, staff and the general public that Polaris Bank remains a stable, strong and credible financial institution, positioned to deliver sustainable value to all its stakeholders,” the statement concluded.

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Banking

Wema Bank Refutes Dud Cheque, Forgery Allegations

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By Aduragbemi Omiyale

The management of Wema Bank Plc has rubbished an allegation that it issued a dud cheque in connection with a garnishee proceeding for the payment of a judgement debt on behalf of the Bayelsa State Government.

A legal practitioner, Mr George Haliday, had accused the financial institution of issuing dud cheques but in a statement issued on Wednesday, the lender explained that the cheques have only not been cleared for payment because of the subsisting appeal at the Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja on the garnishee proceeding which has now been decided in its favour.

According to the statement, the lawyer only ran to the Magistrate Court in Abuja to lodge a complaint about the issuance of dud cheques after he lost his case at the appellate court.

“It is very worthy of note that the judgement debt against Bayelsa State Government, which Barrister George Haliday attempted to enforce by a garnishee proceeding, thereby leading to the issuance of the cheques in question had been settled by Bayelsa State Government via a Terms of Settlement between Barrister George Haliday and the Bayelsa State Government at the Supreme Court,” a part of the statement.

Recently, there were reports that the Managing Director/CEO of Wema Bank, Mr Ademola Adebise, was issued an arrest warrant, but the bank dismissed this, saying its leader was not given a fair hearing in the matter.

“Wema Bank wishes to state that the warrant for the arrest of Mr Ademola Adebise is in violation of his fundamental rights to fair hearing as he was never personally served with any process to appear before the magistrate court nor was he represented in court.

“We are a law-abiding corporate citizen; if there was any court summons properly served on the Managing Director for his appearance in court, he would have done so without fail.

“But in this case, there was no such service extended to him or any court processes personally served on him to appear in court until a warrant of arrest was issued in absentia. We view the arrest warrant as being an infringement on his fundamental rights,” the statement said.

Concluding, the lender emphatically refuted and dismissed “in their entirety, the allegations of dud cheque and forgery levelled against our bank and the Managing Director. We also dismiss the inappropriate issuance of a bench warrant on our Managing Director.

“We are already engaging in legitimate actions to seek redress and bring all the perpetrators of these unprofessional conducts and heinous criminal acts against our Managing Director and the bank to book.”

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Banking

Advans Nigeria Becomes Most Innovative Microfinance Bank

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Advans MFB

By Aduragbemi Omiyale

More big feathers have been added to the colourful cap of Advans La Fayette Microfinance Bank, cementing its leadership position in the small lending business in Nigeria.

Recently, in recognition of its customer-centric credentials and innovation in product development, service delivery and brand management, the financial institution was named the Best Microfinance Bank in Nigeria at the Financial Derivatives Awards 2022.

Also, the company emerged as the Most Innovative Microfinance Bank in Nigeria in the Global Brands Magazine and World Economic Magazine Awards 2022.

The Managing Director/CEO of Advans La Fayette Microfinance Bank, Mr Gaetan Debuchy, while reacting to the accolades bestowed on the firm, dedicated the awards to the working management and staff of the bank, promising that the bank would continue to break boundaries.

“We are excited to win these awards. It further validates our innovative approach to providing customer-centric, affordable and transparent financial services,” Mr Debuchy said.

Also, the Head of Marketing and Communication at Advans La Fayette Microfinance Bank, Mr Kayode Abraham, stated that, “Over the years, we have centred our business on customer needs and feedback, which has helped us develop financial solutions from scratch to completion. We are pleased to be recognised as the most innovative and best microfinance bank in Nigeria.”

Earlier in the year, Advans Nigeria upgraded its mobile banking app ‘Adspire’ to include users’ ability to request bank statements and control their daily transaction limit. Through the app, clients can receive notifications and share by referring their friends and loved ones.

The bank recently introduced a micro-health insurance product and an education loan to facilitate financial inclusion.

The health insurance product was designed to ensure existing and prospective clients have access to high-quality and affordable health care services, while the education loan was designed to provide working and investment capital for school owners and to assist parents in paying their children’s school fees with ease.

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