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Heritage Bank Deepens Financial Inclusion via Technology

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Ifie Sekibo Heritage Bank

In today’s world, making financial services accessible is fast becoming a key area of concern to policymakers for the well-known reason that it has far-reaching economic implications. To this end, financial inclusion has assumed a greater level of importance due to its perceived relevance as a catalyst for economic growth since it is critical for attaining inclusive growth in an economy.

In 2012, Nigeria took major steps in its journey by launching the National Financial Inclusion Strategy (NFIS). The main goal of the NFIS is to ensure that 80 per cent of Nigerian adults are financially included by 2020. Before this, the formal use of financial services by the adult population stood at 36.3 per cent in 2010. To achieve the 2020 goal, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) introduced strategies to spike innovation in the financial services sector in Nigeria and by 2017, one of the achievements was that the CBN had given over 20 licenses to mobile money operators, which has currently grown to 21.

According to 2018 data from Enhancing Financial Innovation and Access (EFInA), 38.1 million of Nigeria’s 106 million (18 years and above) adults or 36 per cent of Nigerians remain completely financially excluded.

In a recent survey by Agusto & Co on Consumer Digital Banking, only 34 per cent of the respondents said they had experienced the service of digital banks. Only 17 per cent of respondents above the age of 55 are aware of their services, while for people aged 41-54, the awareness rate stood at 31 per cent. This spells the need to deepen the financial inclusion drive if Nigeria is to attain the NFIS target and accelerated economic growth.

The apex bank may have missed the 2020 target of 80 per cent for financial inclusion, but it stands a better chance of meeting the target of 95 per cent by 2024, as industry players have argued that to achieve the NFIS target for inclusive economic growth, the financial sector must strongly leverage technology (mobile and digital channels) to promote financial inclusion and enhance access to financial services for the unbanked and underserved segments of the population.

One of the financial institutions that has continued to leverage technology to revitalize the industry via deploying its huge resources and vast networks to deepen financial inclusion in the country for inclusive economic growth is Heritage Bank Plc, Nigeria’s most innovative banking service provider.

The MD/CEO of Heritage Bank, Ifie Sekibo, affirmed that banks cannot push financial inclusion unless they also push secured technology inclusion.

According to him, Heritage Bank has continued to entrench financial inclusion across the board via creating access to accounts and other financial products, savings, mobile money systems and payment systems that provide opportunities for financially excluded Nigerians and Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises.

Introducing HB API Sandbox & Banking as a service via One Pipe

The bank launched an API Sandbox to accelerate the ideas of technology entrepreneurs to build innovative and commercially viable products that were birthed through HB LAB. This platform provides a suite of financial and non-financial APIs targeted to meet the needs of FinTech, Tech SMEs, and Communities. Our APIs grant tech companies, third-party developers, and non-Fintech companies access to multiple payments and financial services required by their customers.

Following the launch of HB’s API Sandbox, the Bank partnered with API aggregator Companies to extend the bank’s API services to a wider audience, layering their value-added services to deliver our BaaS platform. Banking as a Service (BaaS/Open Banking) is an end-to-end business process that allows FinTech and other third-party service providers to offer core financial services to their customers by integrating with the Bank via our readily available APIs. This is a billed service that also provides relevant data insight required to pursue aggressive retail accounts acquisition by leveraging the aggregator’s robust retail prospect pipeline.

Redefining digital banking space with ‘Octiplus’

Sekibo promised that his bank would continue to drive financial inclusion through a robust, innovative, and advanced digital banking solution, ‘Octiplus’ which it recently launched.

Octiplus is a bank-agnostic, all-in-one digital banking application, which grants users access to a bouquet of financial, lifestyle and social networking features with the added convenience of converging card-based payments within one application irrespective of the issuing Nigerian bank. Ifie Sekibo stated that “with Octiplus, we are redefining the concept of digital banking for the discerning mobile user, as the app is equipped with several exciting features that reiterate the bank’s commitment to expand its digital architecture and modernize its interactions with the banking public, irrespective of your preferred financial institution.”

Octiplus promises an intelligent Omni-channel experience which augments the usual transactional features including bill payment, funds transfer and airtime recharge with its unique ability to facilitate a person to person/group interactions which encourages small businesses and a thriving side hustle for young professionals. The App is now available for download on the Google and iOS App Stores.

Catching them young with HB BUD Account

HB Bud account is a savings account for children and the younger demographic aimed at introducing financial literacy and inclusion. The account can be opened in trust for a child by the parent/guardian who will be the primary account holder with the responsibility of running this account until their child attains adulthood and can solely operate their own accounts or possibly move to other age-appropriate products. This product was initially launched in 2014 as a unique proposition to cater mostly to the educational needs of children and young adults who are preparing and saving up for further education and as well as deepen brand visibility and increase the bank’s market share. However, some operational exigencies and regulatory frameworks have necessitated the modification and adjustment of this product to serve the customers optimally. Children and teens from 0 to 18yrs are the target market.

The features are unique as outlined: Access to cash backed loan by parent/guardian/sponsor for school fees/education loan. You can access up to 70per cent of your balance held with the Bank as cash backed loan. The customer must have run the BUD account for a minimum of 6 months to access the cash backed loan. Ease of saving through standing order instructions. Access to exclusive events. Free participation in the BUD MINI career mentoring and coaching sessions once a year. Opportunity to act as a Heritage Bank Executive Committee member for one day.

Catering for the unbanked via HB Starter Product

This is the bank’s flagship CBN KYC Tier 1 savings account to cater for the unbanked. It is a level 1 entry into the savings account category in Nigeria, in which an individual can open without having the mandatory requirements/documents to open a standard or regular account in Nigeria. This is one way of ensuring that all citizens of Nigeria are financially included since the account can be opened with or without a smartphone at the bank or online. In essence, this type of savings account doesn’t require any utility bills, or even an ID to open.

Most people who fall under this category usually do not see the need to open an account because they find it easier to save whatever money they have in their houses. This category of people wants to avoid the bulky manual account opening process and have better time management. This product is very precise and requires minimum account opening documentation, also it can be done in the comfort of one’s home. Customers can in addition be assisted by the Bank’s relationship managers and sales teams. Also, customers can get on the bank’s website to initiate a new account opening process from start and receive the account number at the end of the process.

Product targeted at individuals across all market segments

This is known as HB Individual Current Account Product, which is a checking account for all individuals across market segments above the age of 18years. This account has been made seamless with unique features for individuals’ access to loan products, a minimum balance of N0.00, No COT on all transactions, an account opening balance of N5,000 and access to a clearing chequebook.

Customization of payment gateway on HB CheckOut and Virtual Accounts

Heritage CheckOut is a fully integrated payment processing platform with infrastructure for digital payments across Africa. Olusola Longe-Okenimkpe, Divisional Head, E-Business & Collections disclosed that the platform provides an underlying technology platform that allows businesses to receive and issue payments from anywhere in the world, with robust inbuilt fraud management, compliance, and security applications.

She also defined Virtual Accounts as a series of off-balance accounts whose total balance mirrors the balance in the pool account. According to Olusola, the pool account is linked to all the virtual accounts and the balance in the pool account mirrors the total balance in the virtual accounts.

Opportunities for financially excluded with HB Business Account

The Heritage Bank Business Account is a cost-effective current account that provides a flexible, affordable, and transparent pricing grid based on the debit monthly turnover covenant. The product is targeted at all Micro and Small Enterprises of SME and Retail segments.

Ensuring seamless transaction using HB transfer code

The transfer code *745# of Heritage bank guarantees seamless usage and reduces the stress of going to the branch of Heritage bank to make a payment. Just like other banks, you can use Heritage Bank’s mobile banking code which is *745# to check your account balance, transfer money to Heritage bank or other banks, pay for utility bills and cable TV subscriptions, and pay for church services everywhere you are using your mobile phone.

Capturing educational sector via Alumni Banking service, Acada Portal Solution

To further capture individuals in the educational sector into the financial inclusion space, Heritage Bank unveiled the Alumni Banking Service and Acada Portal Solution which are internet-based solutions that seamlessly integrate the school’s portal and Alumni platforms that benefit the different stakeholders and complement efforts in attaining the best global practices in school management. Alumni Banking service is an educational provision by Heritage Bank that seeks to utilize and track, engage, endow, and invest in a model to help secondary and tertiary educational institutions create modern alumni systems that contribute to their financial stability just like great alumni do in the best global schools.

Inclusion of creative industry, e-sport gaming on HB YNSPYRE Account

YNSPYRE Account is a product targeted specifically at the creative economy populated by not only youths in video and film, and music. It goes much more than that as it involves people in technology, the creative industry and gaming as part of the creative industry.

Addressing the press about the initiative in gaming as a creative endeavour, Dike Dimiri, Heritage Bank Regional Executive, Lagos, and South-West explained that the involvement of the bank is to identify income-earning opportunities for some people in the economy.

According to him, “HB has designed a product that identifies and finds a mechanism that guides Nigerians in gaming or e-sports. The bank is set to revolutionize e-sports by bringing it to an acceptable level attained by football, lawn tennis and other crowd pulling games.”

Heritage Bank is fast changing the narratives of the banking landscape through the adoption of more secured technology (product and channels) for seamless services that guarantee the larger part of the population is involved in economic activities as well as being financially included.

For this to be effective, Sekibo affirmed that the population must access financial services and products which ensure that households and businesses irrespective of income levels have access to and can effectively use the appropriate financial facilities they need to improve their lives and further their savings and investments.

Banking

Cashless Policy: CBN Announces Fresh Cash Withdrawal Limits

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fresh cash withdrawal limits

By Adedapo Adesanya

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has placed new limitations on cash withdrawals from January 9, 2023, following the launch of the redesigned Naira notes by President Muhammadu Buhari last month.

In a letter seen by Business Post on Tuesday, all Deposit Money Banks (DMBS) and Other Financial Institutions (Payment Service Banks (PSBs), Primary Mortgage Banks (PMBs) and Microfinance Banks (MFBs) must not allow individuals and corporates to withdraw more than N100,000 and N500,000, respectively, while cheques above N50,000 shall not be available.

It noted that in line with the cashless policy of the CBN, all financial institutions must comply with the directives, which include, “The maximum cash withdrawal over-the-counter (OTC) by individuals and corporate organizations per week shall henceforth be N100,000 and N500,000 respectively.

The apex bank noted that individuals and companies intending to go above the fresh cash withdrawal limits should be ready to pay processing fees of 5 per cent and 10 per cent, respectively.

“Third-party cheques above N50,000 shall not be eligible for payment over the counter, while extant limits of N10,000,000 on clearing cheques still subsist.

“The maximum cash withdrawal per week via Automated Teller Machine (ATM)) shall be N100,000, subject to a maximum of 20,000 cash withdrawals per day. Only denominations of N200 and below shall be loaded into the ATMs.

“The maximum cash withdrawal via point of sale (POS) terminal shall be N20,000 daily.”

In compelling circumstances, not exceeding once a month, where cash withdrawals above the prescribed limits are required for legitimate purposes, the apex bank noted that such must not exceed N5 million and N10 million for individuals and corporate organisations, respectively.

It noted that this should be subject to the referenced processing fees in addition to enhanced due diligence and further information requirements.

The CBN noted that the financial institutions are required to obtain the following information at the minimum and upload the same on a portal created for the purpose, including a valid means of identification of the payee (National ID, International Passport, Driver’s License).

Others include the Bank Verification Number (BVN) of the payee, notarized customer declaration of the purpose for the cash withdrawal, and senior management approval for the withdrawal by the Managing Director of the drawee, where applicable, as well as the approval in writing by the MD/CEO of the bank authorising the withdrawal.

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Banking

CBN, Stakeholders to Check Rising Wave of Cyber Attacks

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rising cyber attacks

By Adedapo Adesanya

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has assured information security stakeholders and the general public of its commitment to curb the rising cases of cyber attacks within Nigeria’s cyberspace.

This was disclosed by the Director of the Payments System Management Department of the CBN, Mr Musa Jimoh, in his keynote address at the annual Information Security Society of Africa – Nigeria (ISSAN) Cybersecurity Conference in Lagos.

He stated that the apex bank was firmly committed to building a sustainable payments ecosystem in the country.

He also commended ISSAN for organizing the event, stressing that the apex bank will continue to collaborate with organisations that are committed to addressing the rising activities of cyber attacks.

Also speaking, the President of the FinTech Association of Nigeria (FinTechNGR), Mr Ade Bajomo, said to adequately address the rising rate of cyber attacks, organisations should embrace collaboration and information sharing on cyber breaches.

According to him, keeping silence on the part of organizations that had been attacked would not help others, stressing that full disclosure, synergy, and information sharing on reported cyber-attacks and how it was managed would guide other organizations to put preventive and countermeasures in place.

He also called on organizations to constantly upgrade their technology to counter cyber-attacks, urging them to have a data backup.

On his part, the president of ISSAN, Mr David Isiavwe, said the conference was devoted to further exposing the new threats and trends in the cyber security space and also offering practical steps on what businesses and individuals need to know and do to check the rising tide of the activities of cyber-criminals.

He observed that cyber attackers are getting more sophisticated globally, which is an aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, stressing that greater awareness must be created to minimize attacks on businesses that may result in losses by various organizations.

Further, Mr Isiavwe, who is also General Manager at Ecobank, made a case for customer awareness as well as a collaboration by all stakeholders.

ISSAN is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the protection of Nigeria’s cyberspace, specifically and the entire cyberspace in Africa, generally.

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Banking

Bank of the Year Award Shows Zenith Bank’s Resilience—Onyeagwu

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Zenith Bank GMD Ebenezer Onyeagwu GML

By Modupe Gbadeyanka

The Group Managing Director/CEO of Zenith Bank Plc, Mr Ebenezer Onyeagwu, has expressed satisfaction with the emergence of the financial institution as the Bank of the Year in Nigeria in The Banker’s Bank of the Year Awards 2022.

The award, which was announced by The Banker Magazine, Financial Times Group, United Kingdom, during the awards ceremony held in London on December 1, 2022, was in recognition of Zenith Bank’s strong management, sound business model and strategy, support for small businesses and efforts to cut energy consumption.

According to the Banker, Nigeria’s Bank of the Year award was among the continent’s most hotly contested this year, befitting the country’s status as Africa’s largest economy.

This is coming on the heels of the award as Number One Bank in Nigeria by Tier-1 Capital by The Banker won by Zenith Bank earlier in the year.

Mr Onyeagwu, in his remarks, said, “winning the Bank of the Year attests to our tenacity as an institution despite a very challenging operating environment exacerbated by persistent macroeconomic headwinds.”

“Indeed, being recognised by The Banker – the world’s longest-running international banking title is an acknowledgement of the resilience of the Zenith brand as the leading financial institution in Nigeria and the West African sub-region,” he added.

Mr Onyeagwu lauded the founder and chairman of Zenith Bank, Mr Jim Ovia, for his guidance and pioneering role in laying the foundation and building the structures for an enduring and successful institution, the board for their outstanding leadership, the staff for their commitment and dedication as well as the bank’s customers for their unflinching loyalty to the Zenith brand over the years.

Regarded as the industry standard for banking excellence, The Banker’s Bank of the Year award is contested by the world’s leading financial institutions, with winners chosen across Africa, Asia-Pacific, Central & Eastern Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, North America and Western Europe.

Zenith Bank’s track record of excellent performance has continued to earn it numerous awards, including being recognised as Number One Bank in Nigeria by Tier-1 Capital, for the 13th consecutive year, in the 2022 Top 1000 World Banks Ranking published by The Banker Magazine; Best Bank in Nigeria, for three consecutive years from 2020 to 2022, in the Global Finance World’s Best Banks Awards; Best Commercial Bank, Nigeria 2021 and 2022 in the World Finance Banking Awards; Best Corporate Governance Bank, Nigeria in the World Finance Corporate Governance Awards 2022; Best in Corporate Governance’ Financial Services’ Africa, for three consecutive years from 2020 to 2022, by the Ethical Boardroom; Best Commercial Bank, Nigeria and Best Innovation In Retail Banking, Nigeria in the International Banker 2022 Banking Awards. Also, the Bank emerged as the Most Valuable Banking Brand in Nigeria in the Banker Magazine Top 500 Banking Brands 2020 and 2021, Bank of the Year (Nigeria) in The Banker’s Bank of the Year Awards 2020 and Retail Bank of the year, for three consecutive years from 2020 to 2022, at the BusinessDay Banks and Other Financial Institutions (BAFI) Awards.

Similarly, Zenith Bank was honoured as Bank of the Decade (People’s Choice) at the ThisDay Awards 2020 and emerged winner in four categories at the Sustainability, Enterprise, and Responsibility (SERAS) Awards 2021, carting home the awards for “Best Company in Reporting and Transparency”, “Best Company in Infrastructure Development”, “Best Company in Gender Equality and Women Empowerment”, and the coveted “Most Responsible Organisation in Africa.

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