From its headquarters in Nigeria’s largest city of Lagos, Access Bank has grown exceptionally, following on from the merger with Diamond Bank in 2019 it has become the largest retail bank in Africa. As one of the first banks in Africa to dedicate lines of credit to finance women-owned businesses, Access Bank has always prided itself on financial innovation. With the growth of digital banking it has been imperative that the traditional banks have been able to make the transition, as younger generations put their trust into tech, Herbert Wigwe explains how Access Bank have been able to deliver what’s expected while helping customers access even more.
Globally, banking has moved from the traditional method of physical branches to performing banking transactions from the comfort of our living rooms. Payment methods are becoming more advanced as innovative payment methods such as contactless and biometric payments are on the rise. This transformation has increased financial inclusion, making it easier for customers to access banking services even during uncertain times like we are witnessing with the recent COVID-19 pandemic.
The pandemic threw the global socio-economic environment into turmoil. Social distancing and significant restrictions to movement have also hampered social and economic activities. It is now certain that the world, post COVID-19, will be significantly different. As such, one of the enduring responses to the pandemic is going digital.
A digital bank is a bank with no physical infrastructure, yet, offers similar services as bricks and mortar banks. Digital banking has a number of attractions. It is based on more flexible and cheaper intelligent terminals, and cloud computing enabled by super-fast mobile network and internet technologies.
These technologies reduce the investment threshold for banks and help to create new services. These services have lighter terminals, a smarter network and the capacity for various intelligent sensors, from 3D structured light cameras and NFC readers to fingerprint scanners and GPS.
The COVID-19 pandemic brought a drastic and dynamic change to banking, introducing a rapid uptake in digital banking. According to the World Economic Forum, as a result of the pandemic, user sign up on digital platforms increased by 70%, usage of mobile pay applications went up by over 80%, and usage of contactless payments went up by over 30%.
Being a digital banker entails accepting and adapting to the changes coming into the banking industry. Over the years, Access Bank has embraced these changes and made the most out of them. The bank has been a leader in the digitisation of banking and building technology-based strategies with a clear-cut vision for the future of banking.
The bank’s merger with Diamond Bank PLC in 2019 birthed the largest retail bank in Africa with over 40 million customers. The majority of these customers were acquired through our digital platforms. We have also delivered an omni-channel experience across all platforms to enhance customer experience. Access Bank has migrated customers to self-service channels on its digital platforms such as USSD (*901#), Chatbot (Tamada), Access More mobile application and Quick Bucks amongst others.
Access Bank has continued to lead financial innovation in the banking industry from the rate of digitisation of banking products and channels, to the promotion of financial inclusion and technology. The bank has firmly established innovation and digital transformation at the core of its five-year strategy from 2018-2022.
We have seized and utilised external innovation through our accelerator hub known as Africa Fintech Foundry. The Foundry is a Pan-African accelerator that finds and invests in start-ups with a global outlook but with a focus on Africa.
Our customers have chosen Access Bank on the basis of smooth and user-friendly digital experiences. The one thing that is constantly on our minds is our customers and how we can ensure we give them an unmatched end-to-end digital experience. We are aware that a compromise in the quality of service will result in significant business loss.
In line with our strategy to provide an all-inclusive platform that delivers value to the smartphone users in Africa, we launched a revamped super mobile banking application called Access More in March 2020. Access More is focused on delivering experiences beyond traditional mobile banking and this requires understanding and integrating customers’ needs and lifestyle to banking.
This next generation mobile app delivers an unparalleled mobile banking experience to our 40 million plus customers, with deep integration to lifestyle features, advanced analytics and future proof technologies. As the name implies, the platform provides ‘more’ than regular mobile banking services.
The features include but are not limited to:
- Nearby payments (QR, FacePay and contactless).
- Instant loans (no documentation, no collateral)
- Access Africa – transfer to our African subsidiaries
- Account services including instant account opening, bill payments, funds transfer, investments, cheque management, etc
With the aim of providing a contactless payment avenue, FacePay was created. It is the first of its kind face recognition payment solution in Africa. It leverages artificial intelligence and machine learning, to enable users consummate transactions across our branches. Additionally, users can make payments at merchant locations such as supermarkets, hotels, restaurants etc. As at the end of November, we have achieved over 5,000,000,000 naira in transaction value. This novel solution digitally automates in-branch transactions and allows customers to carry out transactions within banking halls as a self-service function.
As a digitally-led bank, we created Africa’s Payment Gateway – Access Africa which is a funds transfer product designed to simplify global payments by Person-to-Person (P2P), Business-to-Business (B2B), Person–to–Business (P2B), Government–to–Person (G2P) and any other payment activities/flows. Alongside instant transfer to countries where we have subsidiaries, we have leveraged our extensive partner network to reach about 15 countries including UK, France, Germany, China, Benin etc. This makes Africa look like a country by rapidly enabling instant Pan-African payments. Also inter-continent transfers can be made using Access Africa.
Payday Loan is a digital loan product of the Bank that avails loans to employees that are Access Bank and non-Access Bank customers for a maximum of 30 days or salary payment day (whichever comes first). Loan eligibility is based on a percentage of the applicant’s average monthly salary. The payday loan product can be accessed through various digital channels such as USSD, mobile banking, internet banking, ATM and QuickBucks loan app. We have also partnered with salary processors to extend the solution to over 2 million employees.
Also, there is PrimusPlus, a web-based enterprise suite of payment and collection solutions that offers organisations a secure, simple and cost-effective alternative to cash and cheque payments across multiple banks. The platform grants corporate users access to view and initiate transactions on their account online real-time. Users also have access to customs duty payments, FX bidding, local and foreign payments (both single and bulk), account statements, cheque services and payroll amongst others.
Lastly, our Artificial Intelligence Personal Banker ‘Tamada’ offers an extended set of features, ranging from standard banking services (opening accounts, paying bills, performing intra and inter-bank transfers etc) to weather forecasts, sports updates, traffic updates, investment advice, cash out services, news updates, live chat with customer care etc.
We constantly seek to build on our achievements of previous years, by providing world-class innovative solutions to meet our customers’ dynamic needs. We consolidate our winnings by expanding the scale of our products and platforms and heavily leveraging various technologies such as Data Analytics, Cloud Computing, Artificial Intelligence and Robotics Process Automation, to deliver unparalleled value to our customers and stakeholders.