Access Bank’s journey to becoming the gateway to Nigeria’s banking sector


By Momodou Camara

Nigerian banks must continue to push the boundaries of innovation if citizens are to profit from the country’s transition to a digitalised financial system. Access Bank is committed to changing the face of the country’s banking landscape, which is currently heavily cash-reliant. To do so, it is primarily focusing on digital banking solutions. Over the past decade, Nigeria’s banking landscape has transformed from one that relies heavily on cash transactions to one that is driven by mobile payments and artificial intelligence (AI). In March 2019, the Central Bank of Nigeria revealed its plans to accelerate the digitalisation of the financial system by reintroducing a nationwide cashless policy scheme. The scheme, which has been trialled at a local level since 2012, aims to reduce the amount of physical cash circulating the market by encouraging citizens to engage in digital transactions. It was the bank’s hope that this policy would drive the modernisation of Nigeria’s payments systems, reduce the cost of banking services and boost financial inclusion. So far, it has done just that. For financial institutions operating across Africa, such developments have placed a greater emphasis on the digitalisation of products and services. With consumers increasingly on the lookout for easier and faster ways to send money and make payments, alternative banking channels are emerging in a bid to cash in on the implementation of digital policies. Alternative banking channels are emerging in a bid to cash in on the implementation of digital policies

Smart solutions
Access Bank is working in line with these broader industry trends to deliver technology-driven banking solutions to its customers. Our mobile application, for example, offers cross-border transfers to subsidiaries in other countries, eliminating the need to send cash via traditional means. We also offer unstructured supplementary service data solutions that allow users to easily top up their mobiles and make utility payments without a smartphone. The introduction of new technologies is allowing us to continually push the boundaries of innovation. Take our AI-powered chatbot, Tamada, for example: it offers customers online banking services in real time, no matter where they are or when they need them. It also provides an array of services, including investment advice, requests for instant loans and even the latest sports updates. Through Tamada, we are helping to change the perception of the banking industry, providing utilities that extend far beyond the services offered by conventional chatbots. What’s more, with the use of social media on the rise across the country, Access Bank is taking measures to adapt its operations to new platforms. Through the recent introduction of WhatsApp banking, for example, customers can carry out basic transactions through the popular messaging platform.


Disrupt and conquer
The banking sector will face further disruption in the coming years, as digital-first companies create and adopt new technologies. This development will only be accelerated by the efforts of the Africa Fintech Foundry (AFF), which aims to invest in more than 50 start-ups over the next five years. With support from Access Bank, this pan-African tech hub works to provide solutions in sectors such as agritech, fintech, insurtech and edutech. Access Bank intends to support the AFF as much as possible, providing state-of-the-art technological solutions and bringing together different sectors to chart the course of Africa’s digital future. As part of these efforts to boost innovation across the continent, the AFF hosts the AFF Disrupt Conference, Africa’s biggest fintech-orientated event. This annual gathering brings together investors, tech enthusiasts and start-ups from across the continent to provide tech-based solutions to problems that span a number of sectors. Despite the ongoing digital transformation, there are several issues that still need to be addressed, including data privacy and confidentiality. This is especially important to financial institutions, as the onus in now on them to protect customers’ data from unauthorised entities. As such, Access Bank has created a security operations centre to detect, analyse and counter cybersecurity threats through the use of cutting-edge solutions and processes.

From strength to strength
Access Bank’s recent merger with Diamond Bank has bolstered these efforts, creating Africa’s largest bank by customer base and serving in excess of 29 million customers. By combining Access Bank’s strong treasury, risk management framework and corporate banking expertise with Diamond Bank’s robust retail and digital banking capabilities, we have created a financial institution that offers a full suite of tailor-made products and services. Having made such strides in spite of economic headwinds, we have come to realise that our people are our greatest strength. They provide us with a competitive edge in a saturated market and, as such, we remain committed to their continued development. We provide a host of educational programmes to this end. We believe that creating a bigger, more diverse organisation will help us boost financial inclusion in Africa, giving us the freedom to introduce products that meet the needs of the underbanked, while also delivering innovative solutions for individuals and corporations. By integrating the best of both banks’ systems, we have created a more extensive and efficient structure – one that will continue to support the bank in its aim to become Africa’s gateway to the world.

*** These are indicative figures as per the 6th. October, 2019.

*** Market prices are as at 05th. November, 2019

Top 5 tips for retailers looking to sell in China in 2019
If you want to be successful in China’s booming retail market, you have to be flexible in your approach and decisive when entering the market. Everybody’s talking about China. And everyone wants to quickly enter the largest e-commerce market in the world these days. This is the right attitude, because if you want to be successful in China, you have to be flexible and often very fast. The country offers great potential, especially for international retailers and brands. But one thing should be clear to everyone who wants to expand their business to China: what works in Europe or in the US can fall flat in China. If you want to be successful in China, you have to be flexible and often very fast. For international retailers, there are still good opportunities to enter the Chinese market as there are many products from abroad that are very popular among Chinese consumers. Chinese people, especially in large cities, are now more than ever looking for individuality – also in products and brands. But how can international brands and retailers get to Chinese consumers? A few years ago, the answer to this question would have most likely been TMall or JD.Com. But these large marketplaces have cost many retailers and brands a lot of money as they not only bring together a huge number of consumers on their platforms, but at the same time also millions of sellers and billions of products. Furthermore, today there are many channels that Chinese consumers use to get inspiration and information, and as many channels where they purchase the products they covet. Let’s take a look at five tips for international retailers and brands to successfully sell to Chinese consumers.

1 – Design your strategy around localisation
China is far from homogeneous. It is, in fact, incredibly diverse, encompassing many ethnicities, a vast land mass, and cultural and societal differences between its regions. Approaching China as one single market is a great mistake. When looking at the Chinese market you rather need to consider that it is divided into tier one, two, and three cities – with Tier one at the top, based on each city’s GDP, size of the population, and ongoing economic growth and development. Tier one cities are basically richer, coastal cities like Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai, where the business infrastructure is the most developed, and the standard of living and consumer pricing are highest. Tiers two and three do not yet share this per capita affluence, but China is committed to further developing these cities and regions, and this is where the greatest growth potential lies. This circumstance means one size or price does not fit all. This applies to other regions of the world, but it does even more in China where income and social gaps are wide, and pricing and assortment reflect that fact. A consumer in Beijing or Shanghai will likely be more affluent than a consumer in a tier three city and will expect (and be willing) to pay higher prices. For instance, in 2012, the average family in Shanghai had an annual income that was more than twice as much as the average family in Gansu Province, which is far inland. But in every market, regardless of income, competition is fierce, and prices change frequently. Furthermore, Chinese consumers are particularly sensitive to pricing.

2 – Be aware that Chinese consumers actively use social media
As widespread as the use of social media has become worldwide, it is nowhere as popular as in China. Forrester Research describes the Chinese as “hyper social”, and it’s also a reason why Chinese consumers so eagerly share information on social media on their shopping experiences, buyer satisfaction, and where to find the best deals. It is vital to be able to track what consumers are always saying about your product – not only across social media outlets, but across all eCommerce channels. You need the total visibility that enables you to easily access and analyse data from myriad platforms and sources 24 hours a day, to receive alerts when poor reviews are detected, and to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s trending with buyer opinion. By gaining this type of visibility and building instantaneous response into your business model, you can directly impact your B2C sales – and ultimately, the success of your brand.