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Digital Banking – a catalyst for economic growth and financial empowerment

Think back to a time when the word ‘Bank’ came to mind. It conjures images of long queues, tally numbers, paperwork tocomplete, 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 forcustomers.

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 opportunitiesto 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 and 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 solutionsthat 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 a significant adoption of our digitalbanking services by customers as most of them continue to prioritize convenient banking over the need to visit any of ourphysical 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 BusinessStrategy.

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 empowerNigerians.

We have taken a ‘Capturing the Digital Initiative’ approach that ensures that over 70 per cent of the most common servicerequests 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 per cent of all interbank instant payments. With anestimated 60% of the Nigerian population setting the tone for adopting innovative technology, it is essential to welcome the latterwhile 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 at Standard Chartered Bank Nigeria.

 

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