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Revolutionising Digital Banking For Financial Inclusion In Nigeria



BUKOLA IDOWU writes that as banks all over the world are introducing innovative services through technology to bring financial services closer to their customers, Nigerian banks like United Bank for Africa have also taken the forefront in providing tech savvy services for the benefit of their customers.

Technology is taking over the world and the financial industry is following suit as it now drives innovation and strive for customer satisfaction. These days, customers have better access to financial services with the aid of technology which has brought banking nearer for their comfort.
Globally, financial institutions are driving innovation to provide services to customers, removing constraints such as time and places that could impact effective services and financial institutions in Nigeria are not left behind in this.
Banks in the country are not just playing catch-up with financial technology they are at the forefront in providing tech savvy services that will make life easier for customers. Founder of Computer Warehouse Plc, Mr. Austin Okere, said this was necessary.
According to him, any financial institution that would survive the fintech disruptions in the next decade must be at the forefront of innovation and customer satisfaction.

Banks, knowing this, are investing more in technology that would ensure ease of transactions for customers. One of the Nigerian banks leading in this sphere is United Bank For Africa (UBA), recently named Africa’s best bank in the digital category at the prestigious Euromoney Awards in London.
UBA, a Pan-African financial institution, recently expanded its approach to revolutionised banking channel with the introduction of Leo.
According to the bank, this was part of efforts aimed at getting closer to its customers, satisfying them promptly and wooing the unbanked populace, as well as others outside its network.

The bank said in a statement that ‘‘the new app is the face of UBA Chat Banker that enables customers make use of their social media accounts to carry out key banking transactions. At the official launch of Leo, customers were given a step by step demonstration on the novel way of delivering lifestyle and quality banking through the Facebook Messenger chat platform.
‘‘Leo also came with assurance to address any type of banking concerns raised by customers through the Facebook Messenger chat platform. The solution has already emerged the first that a financial institution in Africa has come up with app to simplify the way customers transact something that has become necessary in today’s fast-paced world with demands for quicktime transactions and response.’’
The bank revealed that specifically, with the launch of the chat banking, customers would be able to open new accounts, receive instant transaction notifications, check their balances on the go, transfer funds and airtime top up. They would also be able to confirm cheques, pay bills, apply for loans, freeze accounts, request for mini statements, among other things.

The bank also said that Leo, an artificial intelligence personality bringing banking through a simple conversation, was a major contributor its latest laurels.
The bank was named Africa’s best bank in the digital category at the prestigious Euromoney awards in London recently. The Euromoney awards covers more than 20 global product categories, best-in-class and the best banks in over 100 countries around the world, recognising institutions that have demonstrated leadership, innovation, and momentum in the markets in which they operate.
In selecting its recipients, Euromoney’s principle is hinged both on quantitative and qualitative data to honor institutions that have brought the highest levels of service, innovation and expertise to their customers.

In a statement, the bank said, “In a bid to be the undisputed leading financial services institution in Africa in the area of innovation and technology, UBA has steadily included new and emerging trends to its range of solutions in-branches, across subsidiaries and on digital platforms.
“The emergence of Leo, has been a continuous directive to push the banking sector beyond financial services and to show that the bank truly comprehends the shift in operations and the movement of the global world with technology today.”

Receiving the award in London, group managing director/CEO, UBA, Kennedy Uzoka, who appreciated the organisers for the recognition, noted that UBA’s dedication to hard work and particular emphasis to offering quality services to customers were being acknowledged.
According to Uzoka, the award affirmed the bank’s strong management and unmatched commitment to service excellence.
He said, “This only goes to show that our resolve in continuing to deploy innovative solutions that place customers first, using cutting edge technology for their collective satisfaction and excellent banking experience is important to us. This recognition will further spur us to do more in meeting the needs of our customers with unrivalled services.”
“For us at UBA, the award is quite an accomplishment, considering Mark Zuckerberg, CEO Facebook and President Emmanuel Macron of France’s recent endorsement both of which centred around highlighting the distinguishing value of UBA’s leading digital opportunities.
“Also, our recent launch of Leo in 15 African countries is evidence that UBA has on its agenda, the objective of digital creativity especially in service for our trusted customer base across the African continent. This award reminds us as an institution not to relent in our pursuit of excellence and to continue to lead the new digital age in Africa, within the financial services industry.”
Clive Horwood, Euromoney Magazine’s editor explained that, “Despite fierce competition, one bank stood out in the last year for the inventiveness of its efforts in digital banking: United Bank for Africa. One of its signature launches in Nigeria was Leo, an e-chat service using artificial intelligence to help customers execute transactions on Facebook.”
Also, the bank said that Leo, which has been very active in Nigeria as well as other parts of the African continent where it has been introduced to such as Cameroon, Zambia, Cote D’Ivoire, Senegal and Congo, delivers lifestyle and quality banking through the Facebook Messenger chat platform.
The product, according to the bank, was incorporated with certain features such as artificial intelligence personality which include addressing any type of banking concerns raised by customers.
“The formulation of this product, is consistent with the bank’s customer 1st philosophy, where we are doing things not the way we like, but focusing on what the customers want, where they want it, and in the exact platform they want it.
“The birthing of Leo, ensures that customers can do any banking transaction, make complaints correct errors without leaving the comfort of their homes or office.
“Recently, Mark Zuckerberg gave a nod to the service, during a talk at a recent developers’ conference – a sign of its recognition at the highest levels of digital technology.
“The bank also recently added retina and fingerprint recognition and technology to reduce business travel greenhouse emissions. If it fulfils its ambitious plans to partner with fintech companies, UBA could continue to lead African banks in the area of digitilisation,’’ Uzoka said.
Asides Leo, UBA is also one of the first financial institutions on the continent to deploy Finacle 10x, a new information technology platform that boosts its services and electronic banking channels.