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New Vista to Deepen Financial Inclusion Beckons with COVID-19

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The Covid-19 pandemic is forcing companies, especially those in the financial services sector to rethink their strategies. This is because during the Covid-19 complete lockdown of some parts of the country, financial transactions and payments were largely carried out through Digital finance services platforms. Now, some banks are considering focusing more on delivery services much more through the platforms.

However, in spite of its positive impacts on moving the economy while the lockdown lasted, it opened opportunity to develop other aspects of the ecosystem such as reducing the number of financially excluded in the country as well as providing robust digital financial tools.

According to Fasasi Sarafadeen Atanda, managing director, Ecosystem Hybrid Network – a banking agent, “the pandemic provided good opportunity for digital financial services initiatives to achieve its goal as it encourages social distancing as well as discourages the use of cash in transactions which are some of the things DFS guarantee. Unfortunately, we did not optimize that opportunity because we didn’t plan for it.

“What we should have done was to prepare for expansion of digital financial services to serve more people. The crowd witnessed at bank branches immediately the lockdown order was eased means that great number of Nigerians still rely on conventional banking.

“We expected federal government and other stakeholders to have capitalised on the opportunity to open more accounts for unbanked population thereby reducing the number of financial excluded rate.

“When giving financial palliative, instead of giving cash directly to people, they would have been advised to open account at banking agents’ locations that were operating during the lockdown and root the payment through their account. Brazil did it and it worked.

For Emmanuel Okoegwale of Mobilemoney Africa: “In most parts of Africa, millions of people do not have access to basic financial services due to many factors such as low literacy, low mobile device ownership, lack of acceptable identification, limited  bank branches, low economic activities which presents a compelling opportunity for government interventions (emergence, short or long term) as a leverage for payment digitization and financial inclusion which can address all the issues militating against the access to formal financial services since governments can provide or waive some requirements and address the low economic activity of intended beneficiaries through the government grants payment.

“Digitization will help governments to scale their coverage and reach, in an effective and efficient manner such that millions can be reached instantaneously and simultaneously.

“It will save governments enormous cost, improve citizen’s trust, improve accountability, transparency of interventions, reduce physical barriers especially in many parts of Africa with significant infrastructural deficiencies across urban and rural areas”.

Atanda however, noted some of the flaws experienced with digital financial services during the lockdown which need to be improved upon, among them were long turnaround time for complaints arising from transactions not consummated and poor telecom network. “Except for NIBSS gateway that was itch free with absolutely zero downtimes, telcos had poor network arising from congestion.

“More so, during the period of lockdown customer care service attendants were working remotely and they faced connectivity issues due to congestion as well as power failure at their homes making it difficult for some of them to respond to calls and resolve transaction issues within a record time.”

He decried incessant harassment by law enforcement agents who are not aware of exemption of banking agents from the lockdown as essential service.

On liquidity issue faced by banking agents, he attributed it to the fact that banks and central bank of Nigeria did not make adequate arrangement for designated bank branches to support Agents’ outlets with liquidity.


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Customers at the Heart of Everything @ Nova Merchant Bank-  MD

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Nova Merchant Bank Limited has a sound risk management structure, good understanding of the business environment and customer base, according to Anya Duroha, its managing director/chief executive officer (CEO).

Customers Are at the Heart of Everything @ Nova Merchant Bank-  MD

Anya Duroha

Duroha  also said that the bank’s clients are at the heart of everything they do at Nova, adding that “this is enshrined in our promise to our customers. We provide end to end financial services solutions covering corporate banking, investment banking”

According to Duroha the bank’s Non-Performing Loan (NPL) ratio has remained at zero per cent and that the bank did not take any forbearance from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to restructure its loans.

Speaking at virtual interactive session with reporters in Lagos, he said that despite the economic crisis triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare businesses and their value-chain were  thriving.

He advised financial institutions to embrace innovation, while understanding the businesses they are funding.

He added: “The traditional ways of doing business cannot suffice. Therefore, every bank or financial institution needs to get very creative about the products they sell and how they offer these services in the market.”

He pointed out, however, that despite the pandemic, there are sectors that are doing in the market. He listed these to include information technology, fintechs and healthcare.

“Therefore, banks would need to refocus and support those industries clearly, even while fulfilling their role of working with the sectors that are not performing very well, to bring them back on stream. It is something we take very seriously. One of the things we do at the advisory side of our business is also to work with industries we had identified that are struggling to see how we can work with them,” he said.

According to him, since inception, Nova Merchant Bank has been an information technology-driven bank. This, he said has placed the bank above its peers in the industry.

 


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Expert Urges Fresh Focus to Fight Cyber-fraud

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Aribidesi Lawal, risk manager, Visa West Africa, has cautioned that the change in consumer habit that has led to increased online shopping among consumers also comes with the attendant risk from fraudsters who are beginning to trail shoppers online, with the intent to defraud them.

Expert Urges Fresh Focus to Fight Cyber-fraud

He said as the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic impact were likely to extend into 2021 and beyond, consumers and merchants must begin to adapt to safe and reliable digital commerce, which he said would address the threat from online fraudsters who seek to defraud shoppers that have found online shopping as a convenient channel to trade on goods services.

According to him, nearly every part of daily life of consumers has changed as the world continues to fight back against COVID-19.

Most observers agree that the increased focus on digital commerce by consumers and merchants will likely remain even after a vaccine is found and the economy rebounds, he said.

“It is therefore important for merchants and financial institutions to adapt now to support consumer behavior through safe, reliable digital commerce, Lawal said.

He explained that the pandemic had forced more consumers to shop online, but cautioned that the shift to online channels by consumers has also triggered a shift by the fraudsters.

Citing the global increase in the number of consumers that shop online Lawal said: “In Nigeria, more consumers turned to online shopping for the first time with 42 per cent of shoppers starting to purchase food via e-Commerce platforms.

“In South Africa, in-store physical activity greatly dwindled, with 63 per cent consumers visiting physical grocery stores less often. In Kenya, consumers’ preference for digital solutions is fast increasing as customers turned online for shopping. About 43 per cent of consumers started purchasing from pharmacies online.

“In the United States, Visa credentials active in spending on e-Commerce channels, excluding travel, were over 12 per cent higher in June than in January. Moreover, when you examine the active credentials who tend to be more significantly engaged in e-Commerce, the spend per active credential increased by over 25 per cent. In the United Kingdom, active e-Commerce credentials increased 16 per cent, while spend per active credential increased 3 per cent.”

He, however, said where consumers go, fraudsters follow and Visa’s Payment Fraud Disruption (PFD) team had seen a similar shift in fraudulent activities/fraud attempts from in-store to online.

According to him, “Between March and April 2020, there was a rise in fraudsters establishing short-term “COVID”-named merchants and using these fraudulent merchants to perform account testing and enumeration.

“This is where fraudsters use merchants or financial institutions to guess account numbers, expiration dates and CVV2/security codes through automated testing. This activity is often marked by high volumes of low-dollar declines.

“Our Visa team also saw an increase in ecommerce skimming attacks, where fraudsters inject malicious JavaScript code into the websites of merchants and service providers to digitally harvest payment information such as billing address, account number, expiration date, and CVV2 from the checkout forms on ecommerce pages.

“In April 2020 alone, PFD identified 90 merchant websites compromised by multiple variants of eCommerce skimmers.”

Fortunately, fraud prevention capabilities such as Visa Account Attack Intelligence, which prevents account testing, and Visa eCommerce Threat Disruption, which prevents online skimming, are free of charge and are among the many fraud prevention layers and security benefits available to Visa clients, Lawal said.

 


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Ecobank’s Omni Lite App to Enhance Business Accounts Management

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Ecobank Nigeria has launched the Omni Lite App, an application designed to enhance account management.

The Omni Lite App, is targeted at enhancing the banking experience of its large pool of Commercial Banking customers.

The App is a highly secure, world-class and integrated electronic banking platform designed to help Clients manage their Business accounts online in a secure, flexible, efficient and convenient manner.

It is a fully integrated multi-geography, multi-lingual and multi-currency online, web-based cash management platform. The App is being launched by the Ecobank Group across 33 countries in Africa where the Bank operates.

Speaking in Lagos,  Carol Oyedeji, Executive Director, Commercial Banking, Ecobank Nigeria, said the new App is in line with Ecobank’s policy direction to meet and surpass customers’ expectations, noting that it will bring flexibility, safer and convenient banking to the users. She disclosed that it is available to existing Omni Lite users, urging them to download it from the Apple Store (IOS) or the Play Store (Android).

“With the new Omni Lite App, users can view their accounts and transactions in one place, make payments and pay bills with ease, set up multiple users with different access launch, make and manage loan payment, book time deposits and view exchange rates.

This electronic portal also allows customers manage all their online business, banking transactions and information 24/7.  With easier navigation and experience that is perfectly suited to smartphones, clients can enjoy features similar to the desktop version.” She stated

The Ecobank Omni Lite App enables faster processing of instructions with loading option or file import for mass payments. It also features a customizable environment with choice of language, time zone and comprehensive user-friendly navigation menu.

Its state-of-the-art architecture meets international safety standards and it is designed to enhance productivity and manage cash flow. These largely enhance the cash management capabilities of Businesses which include account services, payments, collections, liquidity management, detailed and customisable reports, amongst others.


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