Tony Elumelu, Chairman, UBA

By YUSUF MOHAMMED

United Bank of Africa (UBA) Plc is one of the old generation banks in Nigeria. Literally, the banking halls of UBA do not look old. They look brand new, apparently to erase any distinction in image and service delivery on account of age.

BusinessHallmark visited a few of UBA branches in Lagos and found that the maintenance culture is top-notch especially in some of the older branches. Almost everything seems to be new and in top conditions.

Prior to 2005, most of the banking halls of UBA did not look pleasant. The banks were over-crowded and staff were not youthful. In fact, it had a dull atmosphere, as it still carried its old public service tradition when it was part of government. But all this seems to have changed. As soon as Tony Elumelu and his team acquired the bank in 2005, things started to look up for the bank.

UBA was transformed from a single-country bank to a pan-African institution with more than seven million customers in 19 African countries. This transformation has been a gradual process and as soon as they reached the standard set for the bank, they have not gone below it.

The branch at Oba Akran in Ikeja is one of the oldest branches of UBA in the area. From the look of the bankers in all the branches that were visited, they should be in their 20s and early 30s. It is one of the reasons for the vibrancy associated with it.

As usual, there were many customers in the banking hall. Although a few of them complained of delay, most of them said the bankers were quick to attend to customers.

Mrs. Rabi Mohammed who has been a customer of UBA for two decades spoke glowingly about the bank. In a chat with BusinessHallmark, she said “I have been a customer of UBA for 20 years, so I am in a good position to talk about the changes. The bank is really competing with the new generation banks. In fact, it has been able to be up to date with everything the new banks are doing.

“If you were here before, you would be frustrated. But the situation is far better now. I started noticing huge difference from 2006 upwards.”

When asked why she has been with them for many years, she replied. “My money has been safe with them. I have not had any case of fraud.”

At Adeniyi Jones, there is a UBA branch which is adjacent Access Bank and faces EcoBank. Although, this branch is not as big as many of the UBA branches in Lagos, it has the same ambience.

It has no gate, as the compound is small. Parking space is a bit of a problem here.

While security is tight at the entrance, there is no hassle before gaining entrance. In this hall, it looked like the walls were painted recently as the place was sparkling. As soon as a customer walks in, there are two ladies seated to the left of the bank who are customer care representatives. They look like youth in their 20s,and welcomed enthusiastically.

It was observed that they answered every question posed to them by customers irrespective of the manner in which those questions were asked. They attended to everyone the same way. Cool, calm and collected.

The clock on the wall was working fine, while the flat screen television on the wall was silent in order not to distract bankers and customers. However, its purpose may be defeated if the television is for mere pictures and no sound.

Customers who were thirsty were free to make use of the water dispenser which was in good condition.

A lady in her mid 40s who simply identified herself as Abimbola said she was pleased with the way and manner they attended to her.

“One of the reasons I like this bank is the customer service. It is very good,” she said.

As for the air conditioner, it was working fine. The temperature of the banking hall was not too cold, neither was the room warm. It was cool in such a way that everyone seemed comfortable.

After making some enquiries from the customer care representatives, they tried to convince anyone coming for the first time to open an account with them.

They spoke highly of their online banking which was corroborated by one the customers in the bank.

A young man named Steve, who eavesdropped on the conversation between this reporter and the Customer care representatives, said;

“There could be some problems once in a while with the mobile banking which is something common with technology. But generally speaking, I would score them high in terms of online banking.”

Mr. Nasir Ramon, Head of external communications, UBA in a chat with Business Hallmark, said that putting customers first is the topmost priority of the bank.

“UBA in the last three years has deliberately focused on its customer first philosophy leveraging on a three pronged-lever of People, Process and Technology. Large scale transformations have been engendered with clear focus on serving the needs of the customers while laying emphasis on creating a holistic end to end customer journey and with our ecosystem revolving around our customers.

“Consequently, the singular mission of our consistent and superior customer experience has been imbibed into the DNA of each and every staff of the bank. The principle that everyone in the bank, from the CEO through every strata, to even the security guards and hygiene officers, have all been enlisted in the business of serving customers.

“In this way, there is no gainsaying that service has been institutionalized at UBA. The mantra of our customers being our employers has been ingrained into the psyche of each and every staff.

“Understanding customer preference has helped in driving digital adoption and leveraging Artificial Intelligence like our best in Class LEO Chatbot has moved us well above other in facilitating a new era of proactive customer service. This is a deliberate strategy of the bank that has cut across all our channels and products.”

“UBA is thus, at the forefront of giving 24/7 seamless and unrivalled ease and convenience to our customers at large. Making our virtual channels simple, functional, reliable and available has helped to meet the demands of our teeming customers at all times” he concluded.

UBA is a leading pan-African financial services group headquartered in Nigeria. It is one of Africa’s largest financial institutions with operations in 19 African countries and three global financial centres: New York, London and Paris. The bank has more than 14 million customers and over 1,000 business offices and customer touch points globally.

UBA has been operating in Africa since 1949, referred to then as the British and French Bank Limited (BFB). It took over the assets and liabilities of BFB and was incorporated as a limited liability company on 23 February 1961 under the Compliance Ordinance (Cap 37) 1922.

In 2005, it completed one of the biggest mergers in the history of Nigeria’s financial markets with the business combination with Standard Trust Bank (STB) Plc.

In 2006 the bank pioneered the interconnection of its then 428 African branches making it the largest online real time branch network in Africa.

Africans are able to withdraw or deposit money in any of these branches regardless of where their accounts are domiciled. Since then, the bank has remained in the forefront of technology innovation in the African banking space, launching the first artificial intelligence Virtual Banking Robot in the African market early 2018.

Business Hallmark also gathered that people can open a savings or current account with zero naira. A corporate account however, is N6, 050. That is relatively cheap.