Innocent Ike, Polaris Bank Acting MD
Innocent Ike, Acting MD, Polaris Bank

BY EMEKA EJERE

With the COVID-19 pandemic accelerating rising opportunities in the e-payment systems, one of Nigerias fast-growing retail financial services provider, Polaris Bank Limited has continued to strategically develop more capacities in the digital aspect of banking.

In a bid to increase its market share, the bank on Tuesday rolled out a digital banking platform called VULTe, an offering, the bank said,
will give customers a 24-hour service, providing them with greater control over their finances.
Feelers indicate that the new digital bank which has for some time been in test mode amongst Polaris Banks staff and customers, is set to grow the banks market share, targeting a new generation of digital natives and immigrants who are socially and financially aware of innovations in self-service and stress-free transactions.

According to industry players, the long wait before the launch was necessary to ensure that the platform is robust enough to meet prevailing global standards and support other existing entities in the digital banking ecosystem.

Polaris digital bank offers a suite of services not readily provided by competitors, the lender also said. Some of such bundled benefits include access to instant loans, accessing the platform service without being a prior customer of the Bank, and end-to-end account opening without entering a physical bank.

One of the competitive benefits of the bank is its creation of a collaborative ecosystem that enables Application Programming Interface (API) Banking. API banking refers to a system that makes a banks services available to other third-party companies via APIs.

API Banking helps both banks and third-party companies augment their complementary specialties and offerings more than they can provide to their customers by themselves.
Through its API, Polaris Bank is reported to have so far on-boarded new business start-ups, improved their market access, and ensured profit sharing with partners within the financial technology space. The Agro-businesses, educational institutions, e-commerce, are all set to benefit from the new platform.

We are therefore bringing VULTe to the market place today. And this is not another mobile App, but one with a world of difference, a mobile digital bank, Chairman of the bank, M.K Ahmad, said during the unveiling ceremony.

This is your bank in your hand, affording you total control of your financial service needs. With VULTe, you serve yourself, the way you want to be served.

Many youngsters and digital native enterprises constitute most of the population and the early adopters of digital innovation and lifestyle. Recent data released by the Nigeria Interbank Settlement System (NIBSS), revealed that the volume of electronic payment transactions increased by 80 percent year-on-year to N54.07 billion in the first quarter of 2021 from N30.04 billion in the same period of last year.

As a result of the rise in e-payment transactions, income generated by banks via electronic channel transactions also increased by around 52 percent to N53.4 billion in the period under review compared with N35.2 billion in the same period of last year.
The banks enterprise transformation initiatives have seen the retail lender overhaul its IT infrastructure within the last two years as well as upgrade its digital capability.

According to the managing director/CEO, Innocent Ike, this has seen the institution grow to earn the confidence of the banking publics, as it has been able to offer quality banking services at the cutting edge of technology.
The bank recently published its 2020 full-year financial performance that further proved that its digital transformation efforts are yielding fruits, with a Profit Before Tax (PBT) of N28.9 billion.

The results which show the lenders second year performance scorecard after two years of operation, is seen to have further consolidated its position as focused on the path of profitability, growth, and value creation.
Details of the results show that its year 2020 performance reflects a 4 per cent Year on Year (YoY) increase in Profit before Tax (PBT). The performance, according to the financial statements, is driven by the combination of the significant reduction in interest expense due to the banks pursuit of low interest-bearing deposits as well as lowering impairment charges on loans and other financial assets.

The bank recorded Return on Asset (ROA) and Return on Equity (ROE) of 2.4 per cent and 29.4 per cent respectively which favourably place it as a key player in the industry.

Its Total Assets stood at N1.18trillion, a 3 per cent growth on the previous year while Shareholders Funds grew by N14billion (17 per cent), largely attributable to internally generated profits.

It increased its Customer Deposits by N56 billion, predominantly low-cost deposits in spite of difficult economic and industry conditions, and increased gross loan book by N38 biilion reflecting its modest and prudent risk strategy to grow its Portfolio of Quality loans for optimal interest income generation.

Polaris Bank has achieved significant milestones since its inception in September 21, 2018 when we started this journey. We have since grown to earn the confidence of the banking publics, offering quality banking services at the cutting edge of technology, Ike had noted.

2020 was arguably the most challenging year that the world has faced in decades owing to the negative impact of COVID-19 on businesses and the economy.

Yet, the current result demonstrates the importance of the deployment of appropriate strategies, and effectively validates our recent investment in technology solutions and digitization of our products and processes, he added.