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Deepening financial inclusion – The Nation Nigeria

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Gone are the days when banking was boring and simple transactions took a day to one week or two to complete. With digital banking, commercial banks are finding new ways of providing efficient services and reaching the unbanked. The FirstBank’s FinTech Summit 4.0 virtual conference in Lagos presented an opportunity for experts, policy influencers and regulatory officials in the financial, banking and technological sectors to discuss the gains of bank-Fintech partnership in promoting financial inclusion, writes COLLINS NWEZE.

 

BANKS are also deepening their footprints on the sand of digital banking through partnerships and increased investment in technology.

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and commercial banks have also recognised the need to collaborate with fintechs to bring banking  closer to the people. There is also the increased need to get more bank customers to embrace digital banking.

The CBN has also, in line with its National Financial Inclusion Strategy (NFIS), included the fintechs in its targeted agencies to achieve 80 per cent of its objective by this year, from about 64 per cent.

Hence, the need for banks and Financial Technology (FinTech) firms to deepen the banking sector through better product and service offerings was a major highlight at the FirstBank FinTech Summit 4.0 virtual conference in Lagos.

FirstBank, a leading Tier-1 bank, also provided an opportunity for  regulators, banks and fintech firms to discuss the way forward for digital payments and financial inclusion, while looking for areas of collaboration.

The  event with the theme: “How blockchain and Artificial Intelligence will disrupt FinTech in Nigeria”, was an opportunity to get knotty issues around digital payment resolved and discuss opportunities digital payment presents to the financial sector and economy. The event was the fourth.

Deputy Managing Director, FirstBank of Nigeria Limited, Gbenga Shobo said: “At FirstBank, we have been at the forefront of employing technology in the delivery of financial services in the country exemplified by our various products and services such as FirstMobile, USSD Banking services, FirstMonie Wallet, FirstMonie Agent Banking, FirstAdvance loans provisions.

“The 2020 edition of our fintech summit was built on the successes achieved in the last three editions. We welcome the panelists as we look forward to the shared knowledge, which will be integral to deepening the continued growth of banking technology, especially its impact on the Gross Domestic Product of Nigeria and the continent at large.’’

Shobo said the summit leveraged  the successes achieved in the past editions. He said it was opportunity to share knowledge, which would be integral to deepening the growth of banking technology, especially its impact on the nation’s GDP and that of the continent.

“Technology continues to play a fundamental role in driving financial inclusion and strengthening the growth of SMEs that contribute significantly to the development of the country. We encourage members of the public, players in the fintech and financial climate to register, as there is knowledge for everyone,” he added.

CBN Director, Payment System Management, Musa Jimoh said the apex bank was implementing its open banking regime policy that would require banks to open their account base to fintechs to bring more people into the system.

He said such data exchange would also increase access to financial services and provide better services to customers. He said the directive was in line with the apex bank’s five- year vision and open banking regime policy.

Jimoh described fintechs as  technology-enabled innovation in financial services that could result in new business models, applications, processes or products with an effect on financial services.

Fintech firms like Quick-teller, MoniDey, Baxi, PocketMoni, Unified Payments, Paga, and Cellulant, are helping consumers in bill payments, retail payments, airtime purchases and use of Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) transactions. They also collect payments – whether from the banked or not.

Jimoh said the CBN is also boosting the use of artificial intelligence in banking, and promoting digital payment access. ”We have also released the quick response -QR Code framework, which is expected to help drive the ecosystem, and provide a central database that will promote financial inclusion,” he said.

Also, Group Executive, e-Business & Retail Products, Chuma Ezirim, said: ”We work closely with fintechs, and our relationship with them is mutually beneficial. If you are a fintech and you want to leverage our data to get more people into the financial system, we will oblige you and ensure that whatever agreement we reach with you on your business idea is protected.”

Chinedu Echeruo, founder, HopStop, which was sold to Apple for $1 billion, was the keynote speaker. He alongside other panelists – Musa Itopa Jimoh, Director, Payments System Management Department and Aminu Maida, Executive Director, Technology & Operations, Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System Plc (NIBSS).

Other stakeholders also said fintechs would boost credit access and promote growth.

He said the CBN was trying to finalise the incubation of some of these firms and also watch what they were doing. They said there was the need to expand access to finance, find new ways to raise capital, enhance financial inclusion and foster increased participation in the capital market through fintechs.

The CBN recently promoted the use of regulatory sandbox, which is a process for firms to conduct live tests of new, innovative products, services, delivery channels, or business models in a controlled environment, with regulatory oversight, subject to appropriate conditions and safeguards.

This would enable the bank stay abreast of innovations while promoting a safe, reliable and efficient payments system to foster innovation without compromising on the delivery of its mandate.

He said the CBN has released a framework that defines the rules of a Regulatory Sandbox for the Nigerian Payments System to promote competition, embrace new technology, encourage financial inclusion and improve customer experience, to engender public confidence in the financial system.

Other digital innovations

FirstBank is also doing interesting things in the digital payment space. The Tier-1 bank has unveiled card-less Point of Sale (PoS) platform to meet and even exceed customers’ expectation. The move has excited several e-payment users who see the bank’s move as a giant step in deepening e-payment market.

In an emailed note to customers, the FirstBank said: “These are interesting times and we have upgraded our PoS terminals to accept cardless payments.

FirstBank is not new in taking the lead in e-payment space. For First Bank of Nigeria Limited, achieving these milestones did not come by chance. It took several decades of investment in the right technology, product and quality leadership.

As the oldest financial institution in the country, founded in 1894, FirstBank has thousands of Automated Teller Machines (ATMs), launched the first cash deposit ATM in Nigeria in 2011. Also, the bank’s alternative channels were the first to launch WhatsApp banking, among other milestones.

First Bank of Nigeria is one of the financial institutions which have taken steps to deepen financial inclusion by deploying technology in its operations by way of Agent Banking Network.  FirstBank has expressed its commitment to continue to drive financial inclusion through its First-monie Agent Network in 99 per cent of the 774 local government areas.

The Firstmonie service provides financial/banking solutions to rural and semi-urban locations across the country. Such solutions include account opening, cash deposit, cash withdrawals, airtime purchase, and bill payments. Through this channel, the bank is committed to providing convenient services that engender and provides ease of access to banking products, thereby saving time and travel costs for users of the network.

Speaking at one of  the Firstmonie Agent Banking National Awards in Lagos, FirstBank’s Chief Executive Officer, Adesola Adeduntan said: “The initiative has witnessed several changes in the operating structure and value proposition of FirstBank

 

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