By Chinyere Joel-Nwokeoma News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)
The unprecedented impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has continued to compel everyone to stretch possibilities and adopt new ways of performing functions.
It has made individuals, groups, organisations and societies to re-examine the ways they do things.
Indeed, it created the need for financial institutions and strategists to keep asking themselves if their operational resilience is keeping up with the fast pace of digital developments.
A survey conducted by the McKinsey Financial Insight Pulse in October 2020 found that most consumers expect to increase their use of digital and mobile banking services even after the COVID-19 crisis, with 53 per cent of the consumers wanting their banks to make it easy for them to get a line of credit and 36 per cent desiring improved bank websites to facilitate online transactions.
The survey showed that Nigeria recorded a surge in agent-banking transactions during the crisis, opening up new possibilities for delivering services to more people at lower costs.
It also revealed that the shifts may reverse unless steps are taken to hardwire new behaviours and attitudes.
Analysts note that the demographic age groups of the Nigerian population fuel the demand presented by the pandemic for more digitisation of banking processes.
According to a recent United Nations population projection for 2020, Nigeria’s largest population is under 30 years of age.
It said 62 per cent of Nigerians were under the age of 25, representing a large market of innovative young people who lived fast-paced and were constantly on the lookout for institutions that would meet the demands of their 21st century lifestyle.
Some banks have begun to capitalise on these enormous opportunities.
Access Bank, Fidelity Bank and United Bank for Africa, for example, have developed a number of user-friendly digital products, services and platforms to boost financial inclusion.
First Bank of Nigeria Ltd., a subsidiary of FBN Holdings Plc., has also done much in this regard, leveraging its 127 years of existence.
The bank has been bridging the financial exclusion gap with introduction of digital channels to enable customers to transact banking services with ease.
With over 750 business locations and over 130,620 banking agents spread across 99 per cent of the 774 local government areas of Nigeria, FirstBank provides retail and corporate financial services to serve its over 30 million customers.
With international presence through its subsidiaries – FBN Bank (UK) Limited in London and Paris, FBNBank in the Republic of Congo, Ghana, The Gambia, Guinea, Sierra-Leone and Senegal, as well as a Representative Office in Beijing – analysts believe that the bank has made a significant impact.
According to its Chief Executive Officer, Dr Adesola Adeduntan, the bank has been handy at promoting digital payment in Nigeria and has issued over 10 million cards.
Adeduntan says FirstBank has over 10 million people on its USSD Quick Banking service through the *894# banking code and over 4.5 million people on FirstMobile platform.
He says the bank’s development and introduction of FirstMobile was to put its customers ahead in enjoying digital banking services.
Adeduntan notes that due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, FirstBank launched a FastTrack ATM designed to enhance more financial operations without the need to physically interact with the machine.
The chief executive officer pledges that the bank’s digital channels will remain committed to providing seamless financial solutions.
“We are driven to provide seamless financial solutions to ensure our customers are able to timely carry out their transactions in safe, secure and efficient ways, thereby putting them ahead in digital banking, not just in Nigeria but Africa.
According to him, FirstBank introduced an annual FinTech summit four years ago to lead conversations and practices that have impacted the financial technology and electronic banking ecosystem.
He is convinced that the electronic banking ecosystem has been integral to bridging gaps in modern banking in today’s global village.
Adeduntan says the 2021 edition of the summit, the fifth in its series, slated for Oct. 7, has the theme: “Open Banking and its Derivative Opportunities for the Financial Ecosystem”.
“Participants at our summits have been enlightened on ways to optimally carry out their digital transactions and business activities in safe and seamless ways.
“Financial services have continually evolved in Nigeria and the world over, and we intend, as in previous years, to use our FinTech summit this year to discuss different views on open banking and its associated opportunities with the goal of building on the successes achieved in the past,’’ he explains.
Mr Moses Igbrude, Chairman, Issuers and Investors Alternative Dispute Resolution, lauds banks’ initiatives in digitisation to ensure effective service delivery.
“The services, during the lockdowns, were efficient and effective.
He urges banks to sustain the tempo, adding that they should encourage their customer service units to do more by motivating them through training and other incentives.
The Chief Operating Officer of InvestData Ltd., Mr Ambrose Omordion, describes the initiatives as helpful, saying that they will improve services in banks and the financial sector at large.
Omordion calls on banks to invest more in technology and infrastructure which, he says, drive financial services.