BY EMEKA EJERE

Access Bank Plc last week went a step further in its commitment to advancing the frontiers of industry technological innovation across Africa, with the sponsorship of the Nigerian Fintech week 2020.

.According to a statement from the bank, the week-long event sought to highlight fintech as a solution to problems across different industries including health, agriculture and logistics.

The lender believes strongly that banks must continue to push the boundaries of innovation if citizens are to profit from the country’s transition to a digitalised financial system

Over the past decade, Nigeria’s banking landscape has transformed from one that relies heavily on cash transactions to one driven by mobile payments and artificial intelligence (AI). In March 2019, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), revealed its plans to accelerate the digitalisation of the financial system by reintroducing a nationwide cashless policy scheme.

The scheme, which has been trialed at a local level since 2012, aims to reduce the amount of physical cash circulating the market by encouraging citizens to engage in digital transactions. It was the apex bank’s hope that this policy would drive the modernisation of Nigeria’s payments systems, reduce the cost of banking services and boost financial inclusion.

For financial institutions operating across Africa, such developments have placed a greater emphasis on the digitalisation of products and services. With consumers increasingly on the lookout for easier and faster ways to send money and make payments, alternative banking channels are emerging in a bid to cash in on the implementation of digital policies.

Developments have shown that Access Bank is working in line with these broader industry trends to deliver technology-driven banking solutions to its customers. Its mobile application, for example, offers cross-border transfers to subsidiaries in other countries, eliminating the need to send cash via traditional means. The bank also offers unstructured supplementary service data (USSD) solutions that allow users to easily top up their mobiles and make utility payments without a smartphone.

Speaking at the Fintech Week, the Executive Director for Information Technology and Operations at Access Bank Plc, Ade Bajomo said: “Access Bank is committed to positively impacting lives and building the economy through technology. For years, the bank has invested in several initiatives geared towards improving access to tecnological innovations while providing platforms for tech enthusiasts to innovate and make massive impact on the society.

“One of such innovation is Facepay, which is a pioneer solution in Africa that captures the face of an individual and leverages same to grant access to financial services for the unbanked, make in-store payments seamlessly at merchant locations and subsequently build queless branches.”

Bajomo also commented on how various digital identity systems were leveraged across the world to provide economic inclusion for one billion people who are estimated to lack access to financial services because they do not have a form of legally recognised Identity.

A foremost example, according to him, was how India’s Aadhaar identity manangement programme which has 1.2 billion indians has been leveraged for financial inclusion, direct beneficiary programmes, humanitarian assistance, AML compliance and cost savings in government processes.

Bajomo said, “By partnering with the Africa Fintech Foundry and sponsoring a momentous occasion like the Nigerian FinTech Week, the bank is contributing to the strides that we are experiencing in the Fintech landscape and to the growth of the economy at large.

“This is done through thought leadership, acceleration and incubation of tech start-ups, hosting of hackathons and delivering digital products tailored to the African market. Through these interventions, other sectors of the economy would be able to experience a 360-degree growth as well.”

During the presentation by finalists in the software category of the Lagos Smart Metre Hackathon, which held in Lagos recently, Access Bank promised to sustain its support for technology innovation as part of efforts to solve Nigeria’s challenges and proffer solution to its digital transformation agenda.

Its Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Herbert Wigwe, noted that Access Bank is built on innovation and will always support innovations that can solve challenges for the people.

Wigwe, who was represented by Bajomo, said, “Innovation is part of us and we are forever looking for new things to do to solve real challenges in Africa and beyond Africa. We are always in support of innovations that will move the lives of our people forward and give them more opportunities to become financially independent.”

According to Wigwe, the bank had thrown its weight behind the Lagos Smart Metre Hackathon because it was crucial to solving the power problem in Nigeria, leveraging technology.

Convener of the Lagos Smart Metre Hackathon, and Commissioner for Energy and Mineral Resources, Lagos State, Mr. Olalere Odusote, thanked Access Bank for identifying with the state as the Diamond Sponsor of the Hackathon.

Innovative response to COVID-19

In the heat of the global COVID-19 pandemic and resultant restriction of movement, Access Bank introduced a Dual Transaction Service (DTS) to better serve its customers during this period.

DTS is an enhanced naira debit card service that provides access to credit at the same time. It is designed to allow pre-approved customers access a credit line through their existing debit card. It provides a seamless and exciting experience for on-boarding customers on all Access Bank credit card products.

Access Bank customers earning above N20,000 have full access to explore this service. Customers could also access 3 times the value of their salary during this period of restricted movement.

“The dual card service from Access Bank Plc is the first-of-its-kind on the continent. The features of the dual transaction service represent another milestone in our mission to transform banking and demonstrates how far we have come in such a short time,” said Victor Etuokwu, Director of Retail Banking at Access Bank, at the time.

Etuokwu assured that Access Bank will continue to promote digital transactions and discourage branch banking until the world is completely out of the pandemic times.

Also in the spirit of making life easier for its customers during the period of lockdown, the bank launched AccessMore app, a revolutionary mobile banking application. AccessMore facilitated customers’ easy access to their funds while helping them carry out seamless transactions as restriction of movement continued.

According to the bank, AccessMore app is an innovative mobile application that offers a ’more than banking’ experience; built on cutting-edge technology, offering tailored and personalized services, ease of use and excellent customer experience.

“In a period like this, when we need to be more present and relevant in the lives of our customers than ever, we have risen to the challenge to ensure our customers have access to their funds to carry out transactions while keeping safe at home by providing not just uninterrupted service but superior service”, Wigwe had explained.