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NITDA Sanctions Soko Loan over Data Privacy Invasion

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Soko Loan

By Adedapo Adesanya

The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) has sanctioned an online lending platform, Soko Lending Company Limited (Soko Loan), for data privacy invasion.

The agency through its Head, Corporate Affairs and External Relations, Mrs Hadiza Umar, in a statement on Tuesday, said the action was taken following series of complaints against the company for unauthorised disclosures, failure to protect customers’ personal data, defamation of character and violation of the provisions of the Nigeria Data Protection Regulation (NDPR).

According to her, one of such complaints filed by Bloomgate Solicitors on behalf of its client, the data subject, was received on Monday, November 11, 2019, which prompted the agency to investigate the claims.

Mrs Umar explained that Soko Loan granted its customers uncollateralised loans which required a loanee to download its mobile application on the phone and activate a direct debit in the company’s favour.

“In such manner, the application gains access to the loanee’s phone contacts,” she said.

According to one of the complainants, when he failed to meet up with his repayment obligations due to insufficient credit in his account on the date the direct debit was to take effect, the company unilaterally sent privacy-invading messages to the complainant’s contacts.

She said NITDA’s investigation revealed that the complainants’ contacts who were neither parties to the loan transaction nor consented to the processing of their data had confirmed the receipt of such messages.

The agency also made efforts to get Soko Loan to change the unethical practise but to no avail.

She added that following the investigation, it secured a lien order on one of the company’s accounts by which it could come up with privacy-enhancing solutions for its business model.

Mrs Umar said instead, Soko Loan decided to rebrand and direct its customers to pay into its other business accounts.

She said: “The agency’s investigation further revealed that the company embeds trackers that share data with third parties inside its mobile application without providing users information about it or using the appropriate lawful basis.

“NITDA has, therefore, found Soko Loan and its entities in violation of use of non-conforming privacy notice, contrary to the content of the NDPR, insufficient lawful basis for processing personal data, contrary to Articles 2.2 and 2.3 of the NDPR.”

It said the company was involved in “illegal data sharing without appropriate lawful basis, contrary to Article 2.2 of the NDPR, unwillingness to cooperate with the Data Protection Authority, contrary to Article 3.1 (1) of Data Protection Implementation Framework and non-filing of NDPR audit reports through a licensed Data Protection Compliance Organisation (DPCO).

“In view of the foregoing and in consideration of its implication on the privacy of Nigerians and erosion of trust in the digital economy, NITDA hereby imposes a monetary sanction of N10 million on Soko Lending Company Ltd.

“NITDA also directs that no further privacy-invading messages be sent to any Nigerian until the company and its entities show full compliance with the NDPR.”

She said the agency also directed the company to pay for the conduct of a Data Protection Impact Assessment by a NITDA appointed DPCO on its operation and placement on a mandatory IT and Data Protection oversight for nine months.

The agency clarified that the incriminating aspects of the investigation were deposited with the Nigerian Police to determine if the executives of the company were liable to imprisonment for violating Section 17 of the NITDA Act, 2007.

Adedapo Adesanya is a journalist, polymath, and connoisseur of everything art. When he is not writing, he has his nose buried in one of the many books or articles he has bookmarked or simply listening to good music with a bottle of beer or wine. He supports the greatest club in the world, Manchester United F.C.

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Banking

Heritage Bank Wins Five Awards at People Magazine, FICAN Awards

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Heritage Bank People Magazine FICAN Awards

By Modupe Gbadeyanka

Heritage Bank has again shown that it is one financial institution in Nigeria many will aspire to be like and this was demonstrated at two notable awards ceremonies, where the lender went home with five different awards.

The bank, which prides itself as Nigeria’s most innovative banking service provider, was the cynosure of all eyes at the 2021 Human Resource (HR) People Magazine Awards and at the Finance Correspondents Association of Nigeria’s (FICAN) 30th-Anniversary Conference and Awards.

The firm was given the HR Champion Award (for MD/CEO, COO), Most Outstanding Engagement Strategy for over 1000 Employees and the HR Leader Award (for Heads of HR).

It was also awarded at FICAN with Platinum Awards presented to the MD/CEO, Mr Ifie Sekibo and Heritage Bank for Outstanding Support towards FICAN and Financial Reporting.

The bank further won the prestigious awards in recognition of the leadership of Heritage Bank in Human Capital Development (HCM) for putting employees first and ensuring that its people management and engagement strategies are second to none and in celebration of its MD/CEO’s leadership style. The bank was also recognised for Outstanding Support towards Financial Reporting in Nigeria.

This was Heritage Bank’s first time participating in such an event as HR practitioners, as the financial institution had the opportunity to enter three award categories.

Over 20 established brands from different industry sectors were also said to have participated in the several keenly contested award categories, which cut across various areas of people management and development. Despite the formidable competition and the very rigorous screening process, Heritage Bank emerged as the winner in the series of awards won.

Commenting on the awards, the Divisional Head, Human Capital Management, Ms Abike Wesey, expressed gratitude to the organisers for believing in Heritage Bank and the leadership of the bank for their support to employees’ welfare.

“We are ecstatic to have received this honour and are extremely grateful for the leadership of Executive Management, for giving us wings to fly right in our corner and always willing to listen.

“It was indeed a remarkable moment for us, as we strutted up the dais, with heads held up high and proud, amidst the cheer and accolades from the HR community, well represented at the event; especially in an event of such calibre, being recognized in a gathering of doyens & captains of Industries for our exceptional accomplishments in a widely acclaimed, challenging year – it was definitely no small feat,” Ms Wesey said.

According to her, “The award and commendations go a long way to show that our people management & engagement strategies are truly working, and we are committed to doing more in our world to keep the Heritage flag flying. We identify with our Heritage, because, winning is our heritage.”

The HR Awards is very unique because of its process and organisation. The organisers are usually not aware of the winners till the day of the event, the same time the results are revealed per category and award submissions are made on a peculiar website – comparable to none in West Africa.

The judges are respected & prominent former heads of HR, selected from five different countries and from various industries, with cutting-edge experience who judge the contestants on global best practices.

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Banking

FairMoney Gets BBB/A3/Stable Ratings from GCR

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FairMoney

By Adedapo Adesanya

MyCredit Investments Limited, which trades as FairMoney, has been assigned an investment grade issuer rating (BBB/A3/Stable) from Global Credit Rating (GCR).

The digital bank obtained investment-grade ratings, BBB (NG) Long Term, and A3 (NG) Short Term with a stable outlook driven by its ungeared position, robust liquidity, resilient balance sheet, sound underwriting practices, and a strong growth trajectory since its inception.

According to the agency, this stable outlook rating reflects expectations that MyCredit Investments Limited is evolving and will show strong overall performance metrics over the medium term.

GCR further noted that cash flow and leverage was a positive rating factor and business growth is expected to remain steady over the next 12 – 18 months.

Over time, FairMoney Nigeria has significantly grown its loan book whilst showing strong profitability.

Non-performing loans (NPLs) have been maintained at a stable yet declining rate over the last year of operations. This is a testament to the company’s advanced underwriting practices which has positioned it as the leading digital lender in Nigeria.

Commenting on the ratings, co-founder/CEO of FairMoney, Mr Laurin Hainy, affirmed that the ratings reflect FairMoney’s resilient business model, international best practices, strong management team and a diversified employee base.

“The milestones achieved since our incorporation within the digital banking space indicates that the Group is on track to achieving its vision of building the leading Neo-bank in emerging markets,” he stated.

Mr Laurin added that the company was focused on superior customer satisfaction and ensuring enhanced value for investors.

“As a customer-first organisation, we are proud that this rating will create yet another win-win situation in the Nigerian market. FairMoney will be able to further serve our customers while providing a solid and secure investment target to institutional investors in our home market Nigeria,” he said.

FairMoney was incorporated in 2017 and has wholly-owned subsidiaries in Nigeria (FairMoney Nigeria) and India (FairMoney India). Both companies are owned by the Paris-based parent company Predictus SAS.

Recently, FairMoney raised a $42 million Series B round with international participation.

The company also launched a N10 billion Private Note programme. The first series of the private note was launched successfully earlier this year and saw participation from a number of the leading reputable institutional investors in Nigeria.

The Investment-Grade rating places FairMoney in a favourable position to access funding from the Nigerian capital markets to finance its strong loan book growth.

The company also plans on launching the second series of the Private Note shortly.

FairMoney Nigeria is a digital consumer and SME lender, and provider of digital financial services in Nigeria. The company recently obtained its Microfinance Bank License from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

FairMoney has created a product that offers near-instant digital loans 24/7 directly via its mobile app. It offers transfer and payments solutions, including bill-pay and airtime purchase, debit cards and other digital banking services.

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Banking

First Bank Partners NIBSS to Promote Digital Payment Convenience

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First Bank Sympathy Letter

By Sodeinde Temidayo David

Nigeria’s top first-generation financial institution, First Bank of Nigeria Limited, has announced its partnership with the Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System (NIBSS) on its recently launched Nigeria Quick Response (NQR) Payment Solution, in a bid to improve customer digital payment experience.

This was revealed by the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of First Bank, Mr Adesola Adeduntan, who noted that the NQR is an innovative payment option implemented for all financial service providers.

“We are delighted with the adoption of the Nigeria Quick Response (NQR) payment solution, an initiative by Nigeria Interbank Settlement System plc (NIBSS) which has been instrumental to easing and promoting payment convenience with the use of mobile phones,” the CEO expressed.

As stated by Mr Adeduntan, the NQR is designed to promote quick and fast transactions by scanning the code on one’s mobile device.

He noted that the NQR is set to promote the vision of the bank, embracing technology to deliver quality and satisfactory services.

“At First Bank, we recognise the indelible role technology plays in promoting businesses across diverse frontiers and we remain committed to reinventing our technology infrastructure to meet global standards whilst being committed to staying true to our mantra in always putting You, our customers First,” he stated.

This new initiative reduces costs for merchants and banks in delivering instant value for a person to business (P2B) and person to person (P2P) transactions by simply scanning to pay.

Unlike other QR schemes, the NQR is implemented with reduced charges that are cheaper for merchants.

The initiative is accessible on the bank’s payment infrastructure as the NQR code can be used to make payments through one’s FirstMobile App and it is also available for the merchant in facilitating their business activities.

The touchpoint and use cases of the NQR payment solution include convenience stores, supermarkets, shopping malls, pharmacies, ride-hailing or taxi payments, bus fares, tolling booths payments, vending machines, e-commerce sites, online businesses amongst many others.

To access the service, customers are expected to launch the FirstMobile App and select QR payment. Afterwards, NIBSS can be chosen as a payment provider, then the seller’s NQR barcode can be scanned.

The amount is inputted for the transaction would be followed by a request for personal identification number (PIN) validation to generate an instant confirmation of the transaction successfully.

On the other hand, merchants are to visit any First Bank branch closest to them for service enrollment.

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