Leveraging technology to promote financial inclusion

Nume Ekeghe written about efforts by key stakeholders in the economy to improve financial inclusion

Over the years, Nigeria has been able to improve the level of financial inclusion in the country, although it still has a long way to go if it is to achieve its new vision of 95% inclusion. % by 2024. The drive for financial inclusion is based on the fact that access to financial services is essential to the inclusive economic growth of any nation.

Thus, access making financial services accessible is rapidly becoming a major area of ​​concern for policymakers for the well-known reason that it has far-reaching economic implications. To achieve this, Nigeria launched the National Financial Inclusion Strategy (NFIS) in 2012, which aims to increase the level of inclusion from 36.3% to 80% by 2020.

According to 2018 data from Enhancing Financial Innovation and Access (EFInA), 38.1 million of Nigeria’s 106 million adults (18+), or 36% of Nigerians, remain completely financially excluded.

While the 80% target by 2020 may have been missed, a recent Augusto & Co survey of Consumer Digital Banking, only 34% of respondents said they had experienced the service of digital banks . Only 17% of respondents over the age of 55 are aware of their services, while for those aged 41 to 54, the awareness rate is 31%.

With the current level of 64%, as the Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Aisha Ahmad recently stated, there is a better chance that the country will reach its desired target of 95% by 2024, this which is only two years away. , if the financial sector takes advantage of the advantages of technology.

Technology has been a major driver of innovation and growth in most industries and the financial sector is no exception. Financial sector actors have argued that to achieve the NFIS goal of inclusive economic growth, the financial sector must strongly leverage technology (mobile and digital channels) to promote financial inclusion and improve access. financial services for unbanked and underserved segments of the population. .

Managing Director/CEO of Heritage Bank, Ifie Sekibo, while saying that banks cannot push financial inclusion unless they also push the inclusion of secure technologies, noted that the bank has continued to pull leveraged technology to revitalize the industry by deploying its enormous resources and vast networks. deepen financial inclusion in the country for inclusive economic growth

According to him, Heritage Bank has continued to strengthen financial inclusion at all levels by creating access to accounts and other financial products, savings, mobile money systems and payment systems that offer opportunities to Nigerians and financially excluded micro, small and medium enterprises.

Sandbox API for innovation

One of the ways banks have been able to use technology to improve service is through the application programming interface (API) sandbox, which helps accelerate the ideas of technology entrepreneurs to create innovative products and commercially viable. Sekibo said Heritage Bank has provided a suite of financial and non-financial APIs targeted to meet the needs of FinTechs, tech SMBs and communities through its HB Sandbox & Banking API as a Service through One Pipe.

“Our APIs allow technology companies, third-party developers and non-Fintech companies to access the multiple payments and financial services required by their customers. Following the launch of HB’s API Sandbox, the Bank has partnered with companies API aggregators to extend the Bank’s API services to a wider audience, layering their value-added services to deliver our BaaS platform.

“Banking as a Service (BaaS/Open Banking) is an end-to-end business process that enables FinTechs and other third-party service providers to offer basic financial services to their customers by integrating with Bank through our readily available APIs This is a billable service that also provides relevant data insights needed to pursue aggressive retail account acquisition by leveraging the strong pipeline of sales leads at the aggregator detail, he said.

Popularize the digital banking space

Promoting financial inclusion through a robust, innovative and advanced digital banking solution, Sekibo said the bank recently launched “Octiplus”, which is a bank-independent all-in-one digital banking application, which allows users to access a bouquet of financial, lifestyle and social networking features with the added convenience of card payment convergence in a single app, regardless of the issuing Nigerian bank.

Sekibo said that “with Octiplus, we are redefining the concept of digital banking for the discerning mobile user, as the app is equipped with several exciting features that reiterate the bank’s commitment to expanding its digital architecture and modernizing its interactions with the banking public, regardless of your preferred financial institution.

Catering for the unbanked

One of the challenges in achieving financial inclusion is the inability of some to achieve the required level of identification. As the CBN had lowered entry requirements to allow new entrants into the system, Sekibo said the bank had introduced its flagship CBN KYC Tier 1 savings account to cater to the needs of the unbanked. According to him, it is a Tier 1 entry into the category of savings accounts in Nigeria, wherein an individual can open without having the mandatory requirements/documents to open a standard or regular account in Nigeria.

“It is a way of ensuring that all Nigerian citizens are financially included since the account can be opened with or without a smartphone at the bank or online. Essentially, this type of savings account does not require any utility bills, nor even an ID to open.

“Most people who fall into this category usually don’t see the need to open an account because they find it easier to save the money they have at home. This category of people wants to avoid cumbersome manual account opening processes and have better time management. This product is highly accurate and requires minimal account opening documentation; it can also be done from the comfort of your home,” he said.

Payment Gateway, Virtual Accounts to Meet Online Lifestyle

Additionally, as more people live in the virtual world, the bank said it created Heritage To verifywhich is a fully integrated payment processing platform with infrastructure for digital payments across Africa.

Olusola Longe-Okenimkpe, Division Head, E-Business & Collections, revealed that the platform provides an underlying technology platform that allows businesses to receive and issue payments from anywhere in the world. world, with robust integrated fraud, compliance and security applications.

It also defined notional accounts as a series of off-balance accounts whose total balance mirrors the balance of the pool account. According to Olusola, the pool account is linked to all virtual accounts and the balance of the pool account reflects the total balance of virtual accounts.

In addition to this, she said that the bank ensures a seamless transaction using the HB transfer code. “Heritage Bank’s *745# transfer code guarantees smooth usage and reduces the stress associated with going to a Heritage Bank branch to make the payment. Just like other banks, you can use Heritage bank mobile banking code which is *745# to check your account balance, transfer money to Heritage bank or other banks, pay bills from utilities and cable TV subscription, pay for church services wherever you use your cell phone.”

Catch them young

The bank has also introduced the HB Bud account, which is a savings account for children and young people, aimed at promoting financial literacy and inclusion. The account can be opened in trust for a child by the parent/guardian who will be the primary account holder with the responsibility to manage this account until their child reaches adulthood and can only manage their own accounts or eventually switch to other age-appropriate products. .

This product was initially launched in 2014 as a unique proposition to primarily meet the educational needs of children and young adults who are preparing and saving for further education and thereby deepen brand visibility and increase market share of the bank. However, certain operational requirements and the regulatory framework necessitated the modification and adjustment of this product to optimally serve customers. Children and teenagers from 0 to 18 years old are the target market.

The features are unique as shown: Access to a parent/guardian/sponsor guaranteed cash loan for tuition/education loan. You can access up to 70% of your balance held with the Bank as a secured cash loan. The client must have managed the BUD account for at least six months to access the secured cash loan; ease of savings through standing order instructions; access to exclusive events; free participation in the BUD MINI mentoring and career coaching sessions once a year and the opportunity to act as a member of the Heritage Bank executive committee for one day.

Creative industry inclusion

The YNSPYRE account is a product aimed specifically at the creative economy populated not only by young people in video, film and music. It goes way beyond that because it involves people in technology, the creative industry, and gaming as part of the creative industry.

Speaking to the press about the in-game initiative as a creative endeavour, Dike Dimiri, Regional Manager of Heritage Bank, Lagos and South West, explained that the bank’s involvement is to identify income-generating opportunities for some people in the economy.

According to him, “HB has designed a product that identifies and finds a mechanism that guides Nigerians in gaming or esports. The bank is poised to revolutionize esports by bringing it to an acceptable level reached by football, lawn tennis and other crowd games.

Heritage Bank is rapidly changing the narratives of the banking landscape through the adoption of more secure technology (product and channels) for seamless services that ensure more of the population is engaged in economic activities while being included financially.

For this to be effective, Sekibo asserted that the population must have access to financial services and products that ensure that households and businesses, regardless of their income level, have access to and can effectively use the appropriate financial facilities available to them. need to improve their lives and develop their savings and investments. .

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