Top 6 Digital Banks Disrupting Nigeria’s Financial Landscape
By Adedapo Adesanya
Before now, the only way to carry out a financial transaction was to visit the banking hall, stay in the queue and pray that the cashier is in a good mood.
But technology has changed the game. Someone does not have to leave his/her space to execute a financial transaction and in fact, some digital banks have sprung up in Nigeria in the last five years, offering not to only complement the traditional, brick and mortar banking structure but to disrupt its entire structure with its offerings.
Business Post takes a look at some digital banks and their performances towards challenging the status quo in an evolving financial landscape. The banks have been shortlisted to six based on metrics such as popularity, offerings, and growth in the last two years.
Regarded as the bank of the free, Kuda is modelled based on free offerings that regular traditional banks charge customers for. They offer free ATM cards and free transfers. For instance, Kuda does not charge card maintenance fees. It also offers customers up to 25 free transfers to other banks every month.
Kuda, according to the latest data, has processed at least $2.2 billion in transactions and has raised a total of $36.6 million in two years as it continues to position itself as Africa’s digital bank. Its customer base has also grown to over 600,000 customers.
Kuda came into the market in 2019 with a $1.6 million pre-seeding round and in November 2020, it raised a $10 million led by Target Global, Entrée Capital, SBI Investment among others and in March, it raised $25 million in a Series A round led by Valar Ventures and included Target Global.
The company has a microfinance banking license from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and at the moment, its flagship product is a digital-only savings account but with a primary plan of expansion, Kuda is set to drive the digital banking sector in Nigeria.
V by VFD Microfinance Bank (Vbank) is a fully digital bank that offers a wide range of financial products and services to professionals and entrepreneurs across all sectors.
The digital bank offers zero charges on transactions. Free account maintenance, monthly interest on savings, swift and secure transfers, withdrawals, and bill payments.
V is the digital banking app for VFD Microfinance Bank, a six-year-old financial institution.
In April 2021, the bank noted that it has more than 250,000 individuals and businesses on its mobile banking platform across Nigeria, and processed transactions worth billions. It, however, didn’t stipulate any figure to back up the assertion.
According to the Managing Director of the bank, Mr Azubike Emodi, “Launched March 25, 2021, the digital bank has onboarded more than 250,000 individuals and businesses on its mobile banking platform across Nigeria and processed transactions worth billions.
“The all-digital platform is most accessed in cities including Lagos, Anambra, Port-Harcourt, Abuja and Asaba.”
With a new app, Vbank’s Version 3.0 has features including card-less withdrawals, multiple funds transfers, recurring transactions, proximity payments, advance budgeting and intelligent airtime top-up.
Vbank offers between 8 per cent and 14 per cent interest on its savings.
Rubies is a digital bank that disrupts regular banking by providing 10 per cent digital top-notch services and technology at its peak. Its offerings include free debit cards which come with an option of free delivery; independent banking which enables users to refer people and earn every time they transact on Rubies.
It also gives users a customizable account, meaning they can decide what their account number will look like and they can transfer money easily to friends on Rubies around with a single tap.
Rubies claims that it offers a 21st-century banking experience and asides from the easy and convenient account opening process, the platform is packed with features like virtual dollar card, Rubies Rule Book (to manage recurring payments), savings and investments, money requests, and more.
It offers the lowest interest rate among its competitors with a 2 to 5 per cent interest on its savings and has a low N10 interbank transfer rate, one of the lowest in Nigeria.
ALAT is a self-acclaimed Nigeria’s first fully digital bank that is run by Wema Bank. It was the first among the first financial institutions to introduce mobile banking in Nigeria in 2011 and took it several notches higher in 2017 with the launch of ALAT.
With the service, users can take an instant loan, save with friends, create and make payments with virtual cards, and so on.
Interest rates on savings with ALAT can go as high as 10 per cent annually, which is higher than normal bank rates.
It is the only digital bank with an insurance offering and customers can get up to N200,000 in loans.
ALAT has contributed immensely to Wema Bank’s numbers with the company latest financial statement showing a year-on-year double-digit growth of 39.4 per cent in customer deposit of N804.9 billion in 2020 compared with the N577.3 billion recorded the previous year.
According to The Chief Financial Officer of the bank, Mr Tunde Mabawonku, “We have a clear strategy of becoming the Most Dominant Digital Bank in Nigeria by 2023. We have positioned ALAT as the go-to platform by both increasing customer acquisition and working with eco-system partners on payments and settlements.”
Eyowo is a very innovative digital bank with lots of amazing features. Something that stands out with Eyowo is its account opening process. The process is made very easy and stress-free and with just a phone number, users can create an account and send money. Another is the zero interest rate loans.
Eyowo, like some other digital banks in Nigeria, also lets you create virtual cards. Primarily established to bridge the financial inclusion gap, Eyowo, the service has proven to help Micro Small Medium Enterprises (MSMEs)
It offers interests in savings ranging from 5 per cent to 13 per cent with an interbank transfer between N10.50 to N52.50.
Eyowo as part of its efforts to deepen financial inclusion has an Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) code: *4255#.
Sparkle is a digital bank. It is a digital ecosystem providing financial, lifestyle, and business support services to Nigerians around the world. Licensed by the CBN, Sparkle is all about helping people achieve what they want, whether it’s entertainment, education, saving, or investing in the future.
Launched by former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the defunct Diamond Bank, Mr Uzoma Dozie, the startup claims to have more than 20,000 customers and processed $16 million in transactions.
Sparkle has its sights set on SMEs in Nigeria, by offering a suite of digital payments and business management services. It also plans to move into the digital distribution of general insurance products.
Initially, Sparkle was launched for users to be able to split payment, make utilities and bill payments and also save their money, but with its banking license, it also plans to start offering consumer and small business loans in 2021.
Recently, the bank announced Sparkle for Business to help entrepreneurs access the much-needed products and services to grow their enterprises digitally.
It will have four main components, according to the company; inventory and invoice management; payment gateway service; tax advisory; payroll and employee management.
Polaris Bank, Union Bank Restate Commitment to Environmental Sustainability
By Adedapo Adesanya
In commemoration of the 2023 World Environment Day, observed yearly on June 5, Polaris Bank, one of Nigeria’s leading digital financial institutions, has restated its commitment to environmental sustainability in the country.
The annual event is led by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which is observed globally to encourage awareness and action for the protection of the environment. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the event.
The theme of the 2023 World Environment Day was Solutions to plastic pollution, with the hashtag #BeatPlasticPollution.
Plastic pollution is a major environmental problem. Every year, millions of tons of plastic waste end up in our oceans, landfills, and waterways. This plastic can harm wildlife, pollute our air and water, and contribute to climate change.
Specifically, and in line with the theme of the 2023 World Environment Day, Polaris Bank said it is taking proactive measures to address challenges of waste management and plastic pollution while supporting the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Nigerian Sustainable Banking Principles (NSBPs) and United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI’s) Principles of Responsible Banking
Polaris Bank, as part of its environmental sustainability focus, said it has invested in waste management, plastic collection, renewable energy adoption, education, inclusivity, and carbon reduction. The Bank contributes to individuals’ needs and societal goals by implementing sustainable practices and guidelines while ensuring a responsible and environmentally conscious business strategy.
“In managing the environmental impact of its activities, Polaris Bank has made significant efforts to reduce carbon emissions and dependence on fossil fuels. Through using solar energy to power security lights, some ATMs and business locations, and implementing automated systems and digital alternatives to paper output, the bank actively mitigates waste generation and reduces its carbon footprint.
“Polaris Bank has streamlined its vehicle fleet to further minimise its carbon footprint, while most meetings and engagement are held virtually. By prioritizing sustainable energy sources and expanding its network of ATMs, including prestigious off-site locations, the bank ensures convenient and eco-friendly access to banking services.”
The lender took its commitment a step further by partnering with some organizations to help it provide clean water and sanitation in some communities. Its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) projects are clearly spelt out to reflect adherence to environmental sustainability.
“Additionally, through partnerships with organizations like the United Nations Association of Nigeria (UNAN), we contributed to providing clean water and enhanced sanitation to local communities in Lagos state.
“We also partnered with the non-profit organization Evolve to launch the Girl Child Education and the Environment CSR program. This initiative strives to keep the girl child in school and educated, thereby reducing early marriages and population explosion, which impacts the Climate.
“This empowers underprivileged girls through education, providing them with school supplies and personal development tools. By supporting over 3,000 female students from 12 secondary schools nationwide, Polaris Bank fosters individual growth and inspires positive contributions to society.
“Polaris Bank’s dedication to environmental sustainability is a key component of its broader vision to create a positive and lasting impact on society. As part of the commemoration of the 2023 World Environment Day, the Bank has established dedicated plastic collection hubs across its branches in Lagos. These hubs serve as convenient drop-off points for responsible disposal of plastic waste for onward recycling while empowering individuals and communities to actively participate in reducing plastic pollution.”
On its part, Union Bank of Nigeria partnered with the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) to celebrate the day.
To create awareness of environmental responsibility and encourage collective action, Union Bank employees, together with the Nigerian Conservation Foundation, volunteered to educate students at Aguda Junior Grammar School, Surulere, Greg Girls Junior High School, Surulere, and Okun Ajah Community Senior Secondary School, Okun Ajah.
The students were educated on the detrimental effects of plastic pollution on the environment, highlighting the importance of reducing plastic consumption, reusing plastic, and practical tips for sustainable recycling.
The bank also donated waste bins to each school to encourage recycling and make it easier for students to do their part in reducing plastic waste.
Speaking on the Bank’s activities to mark World Environment Day, Union Bank’s Chief Brand and Marketing, Ms Olufunmilola Aluko, said, “At Union Bank, we are resolute in our commitment to being a sustainability champion. This year’s focus on tackling the pervasive issue of plastic pollution resonates deeply with our commitment to environmental sustainability.
“We proudly partner with NCF to educate students on solutions to beat plastic pollution. By raising awareness and advocating for responsible plastic waste management, we can collectively and significantly preserve our planet for future generations.”
With its focus set on the future, Union Bank said it committed to leading the way in shaping a better, more sustainable future for generations to come.
Stanbic IBTC Strongly Advocates Financial Literacy Among Children
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
A member of Standard Bank Group, Stanbic IBTC Holdings, has strongly backed the promotion of financial literacy among children, emphasising its unwavering commitment to the upliftment and empowerment of the Nigerian child.
The Head of Client Experience at Stanbic IBTC Pensions, Ms Layo Ilori-Olaogun, while speaking recently at the company’s Blue Kids event to commemorate the 2023 Children’s Day, said that was why the financial institution designed various innovative initiatives for the nation’s future leaders.
She said one of these initiatives is the Children Educational Savings Scheme (CHESS) account, a special savings account developed to support parents in meeting the cash flow and timing needs of their children’s education.
Available for kids between ages zero (0) and 17 years, CHESS offers a low opening balance, a one per cent interest rate above the average savings account, a MasterCard debit card for easy access to funds, round-the-clock access to the customer care centre via phone, email and social media and full digital banking access – Internet, App and USSD, amongst other benefits.
In 2020, Stanbic IBTC kicked off the Stanbic IBTC Education Trust (SET) scheme, a convenient and flexible investment plan with long-term benefits designed to support parents and guardians striving to provide quality education for their children and wards.
One unique benefit of Stanbic IBTC Education Trust is that payments are effected directly to the institution of learning, ensuring no diversion of funds. Whether it is primary, secondary, tertiary, or post-graduate education, parents and guardians can now contribute to funding their children’s and wards’ education.
Ms Ilori-Olaogun described Stanbic IBTC’s Education Endowment Assurance as another remarkable initiative and a vehicle for saving that secures a child’s future education to a targeted amount. It is a policy that guarantees peace of mind on a child’s/ward’s education and benefits one’s dependents in case of death.
Also at the event, the Head of Personal Clients at Stanbic IBTC Bank, Mr Emmanuel Aihevba, expressed his heartfelt wishes to all Nigerian children, emphasising their importance to the nation’s progress.
“Children’s Day serves as a poignant reminder of the importance of nurturing and safeguarding the younger generation, who represent the future leaders and change-makers of the country.
“Stanbic IBTC recognises its critical role in promoting children’s wellbeing and educational development and remains steadfast in its efforts to provide support and resources that contribute to their growth,” he said.
At the Blue Kids programme, the participants were engaged in innovative and exciting activities such as a creative class, gaming activities, a financial fitness session and more.
Zenith Bank’s Ebenezer Onyeagwu Emerges Best Banking CEO in Africa
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
The International Banker has announced the Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Zenith Bank Plc, Dr Ebenezer Onyeagwu, as the Best Banking CEO of the Year in Africa.
Published by Finance Publishing Limited, the International Banker is a leading global source of authoritative analysis and opinion on banking, finance and world affairs. Its influence, integrity, accuracy and objective opinion have earned it global recognition.
In its International Banker 2023 Banking Awards, published in the Spring 2023 issue of the International Banker Magazine, Mr Onyeagwu was honoured alongside other individuals and banks from the Middle East and Africa.
The Nigerian banker, while commenting on the honour bestowed on him, said the award “reflects the bank’s position as a leading financial institution in Nigeria and the African continent.”
“It also attests to our commitment to principles of sustainability and high ethical standards, which have become integral to our overall strategy as an institution,” he added.
Mr Onyeagwu dedicated it to the founder and Chairman of Zenith Bank, Mr Jim Ovia, for his guidance and mentorship.
He also dedicated the award to the bank’s management team and staff for being the shoulder upon which his achievements and success as CEO rests, and the bank’s customers for making Zenith Bank their bank of choice.
This latest award is coming barely three months after he was conferred with a Doctorate Degree in Business Administration by the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
The degree was in recognition of his immense achievements as the head of Zenith Bank as well as his contributions to the growth of the financial services sector in Nigeria and across the African continent.
Mr Onyeagwu’s outstanding career has led to him receiving multiple awards, including Bank CEO of the Year (2019) by Champion Newspaper, Bank CEO of the Year (2020, 2021 & 2022) by BusinessDay Newspaper, CEO of the Year (2020 and 2021) – SERAS Awards, and CEO of the Year (2022) – Leadership Newspaper.
As the GMD of Zenith Bank, he has led the tier-one lender to achieve tremendous feats and milestones in financial performance, including 47 per cent growth in the bank’s market capitalisation in four years, financial inclusion, corporate governance and sustainability.
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