One of the greatest examples of the empowering nature of technology has been the meteoric rise of mobile banking across Africa. It is no exaggeration to say that mobile banking has revolutionized the way financial transactions are made across the continent and that for millions of people it has positively transformed their ability to conduct business and their everyday lives. But this is only the tip of the iceberg.
Looking specifically at Nigeria and its ever-growing population of over 182 million people, we still have huge numbers of people who have limited or no access to convenient banking. If you think a bricks and mortar branch-led strategy is going to be the way to bring these people into the formal economy, then, in my view, you will fail.
Instead, it is only by creating digital infrastructure that the banking industry can scale rapidly enough to support the needs of those currently left out. Moreover, following changing lifestyles, Nigerians are some of the most digitally advanced consumers on the planet.
Therefore, when financial service firms think about the Nigerian market, they absolutely must provide a fully integrated, seamless digital offering. Failure to do so will only jar with the prevailing zeitgeist.
What is exciting is the potential ecosystem the digital infrastructure can help create. Through an integrated digital platform, consumers can access bundled services and products from multiple partners best suited to facilitating their lifestyle.
For example, through Diamond Mobile, our customers can manage their finances, search and book international and local flights, as well as purchase movie tickets, and this is only the start of what can become an even more integrated and far-reaching platform. It’s also the start of a concept that I call ‘Beyond Banking’.
China’s Wechat – an instant messaging service which allows online banking – is a powerful example of what the possibilities are when it comes to an integrated ecosystem. It is also a sign of the times that the ceo of a bank should be talking about the business model of a company that is seen as far removed from the traditional banking model, but I think this is the future and the start of a new category altogether.
Of course, a key element to making sure the most valuable and consumer-centric proposition is developed and brought to market, is through the use of data. By analysing the behaviour of consumers’ digital interactions and their financial transactions, banks can build a detailed picture.
This valuable insight can then help banks build the most appropriate infrastructure required to best support consumers’ needs. Clearly, as the digital revolution unfolds there will be legitimate questions about data security and privacy that will need to be answered, but I don’t see these risks, as real as they are, as insurmountable.
Additionally, the digitisation of banking also provides much greater transparency and an audit trail throughout more of the economy, from individuals through to the largest international institutions. Any measures that improve financial transparency must surely be a good thing.
Ultimately, notwithstanding the obvious short-term economic challenges, as a country thriving with innovation and opportunity, these are hugely exciting times for everyone in Nigeria. Similarly, whilst Nigerian banks are facing their own pressures in the short term, I believe the future success of Nigerian banking will be built upon the twin foundations of technology and innovation.
As many of you will know, I am a huge believer in the power of technology and innovation to drive improvement and positive changes. From greater efficiency for business operations, through to a better consumer experience; when harnessed effectively, technology has the ability make a material difference to everyone’s daily life. This notion is no more accurate than in the world of banking.
. Dozie is the Managing Director of Diamond Bank.
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