OLUSEGUN ADENIYI, CDO, WEMA BANK: “BANKS NOW VIEW FINTECHS AS PARTNERS FOR GROWTH”

Wema Bank is one of the first fully digital banks in Africa and with 219 million inhabitants, Nigeria is the most  populous country in Africa. 

a. How does a digital bank facilitate financial inclusion in Africa? Are there any specificities to  take into account? 

The World Bank, in its definition of Financial inclusion, implies that Financial  inclusion is the availability of a bouquet of financial products in an affordable and  sustainable manner.  

The digitization of these financial products by the creation of digital banks has  reduced the cost-to-serve, while shortening the steps required to access these  services. While the digital penetration in Africa (39.3%) is still below the global  average (58.8%), there has been significant growth in the adoption of digitized  financial products which has recently been bolstered by the COVID-19 pandemic.  In the past, a major concern that undermined the efforts of digital adoption was that of interacting with mobile/digital devices rather than people or physical structures,  however, as broadband connectivity is being extended to rural areas, banks have  been able to offer not just ease, but increased reliability of services, allaying these  fears.  

On the side of banks that have digitized their services, regulatory issues such as  know-your-customer (KYC) have also been taken care of, with the use of data  obtained from smartphones and government issued identity numbers. These data  have also provided banks with the opportunity to extend micro forms of credit to  hitherto ineligible individuals, as digital banks through the aid of plugins and  algorithms can now ascertain and evaluate credit risk in real time. 

In conclusion, digital banks facilitate financial inclusion in Africa by increasing  access to financial services through lowering costs and increasing efficiency;  solving KYC concerns; and allowing for the disbursement of micro-credit facilities. 

b. What is the typical profile of a Wema Bank client? How do you reach and attract new  customers? 

The ideal Wema Bank customer profile has been identified as one that is eccentric,  adventurous, has strong negotiation power, an eye for opportunities, is aspirational  and open to career and personal development & Business opportunities, deals and  discounts, always looks for the easiest and fastest way to do things (works smartly). 

We meet these customers at their various conveniences, largely through social  interactions via social media, visiting schools to have direct contacts with students  that fall under the identified persona. We also look to engage via adverts on the  various websites that have been proven to engage these client types directly.  

c. What are the strengths and weaknesses of Nigeria on the road to digital transformation, for  the development of a tech ecosystem? 

Nigeria’s strength is and always has been its people, we are a nation that has  always been innovative at heart. According to a report by fDi Intelligence, Nigeria  has the largest number of tech startups in Africa. However, headwinds such as the  heterodox policy climate has resulted in the perceived low values in the ‘EASE OF  DOING BUSINESS MATRIX’, slow pace of infrastructural development which has  invariable resulted in the high cost to serve. Also, currency devaluations have  negatively affected the funding of opportunities required to achieve a total  transformation 

d. Mobile payments have revolutionized financial services in Africa. What will be, according  to you, the next disrupter for the banking industry? 

Well, for me, the next big thing will be the adoption of Open Banking, which is in  many ways similar but not the same as Banking as a Service (BaaS). This is borne  out of the wide scale adoption of digital services and certain market and regulatory  overtures in that direction. Banks have gradually disregarded the notion of 

FinTechs being their competition and now view them as partners for growth, this  is given credence by the willingness of banks to open up their APIs to these  FinTechs to plug in and deliver value. 

e. Wema Bank is one of the pioneers in the banking market in Africa. What will be its next  move? How do you see Wema Bank in 5 years? 

We have taken the first step of becoming an industry first in the digital space with  the creation of ALAT. The digital bank has continued to grow and garner new  capabilities and it will be pivotal in Wema Bank’s strategy of achieving digital dominance. The bank’s 3-year strategic vision culminates with us becoming the dominant digital bank in Nigeria. Our aspiration is to go beyond being viewed as  just a payment channel to becoming a lifestyle partner endearing ourselves in all  the facets of our customers’ (in Nigeria and in Africa as a whole) lives. 

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