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BANKING AND FINANCE

FirstBank Is Re-Engineering Banking With Digitised Services

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Globally, a new wave of technology is revolutionising the way banks do business to deliver better customer experience and remain competitive.

This evolving global operating environment of digitisation of banking services needs a bank with digital wherewithal that can transform itself into truly effective digital organisation and embrace changes in digital technologies.

These changes in digital technologies are targeted at ensuring that customers’ time are well spent and their satisfaction guaranteed.

Digitisation is the conversion of data into a digital format with the adoption of technology which when embraced can provide enhanced customer services and provide convenience to customers to help in saving time.

Its adoption transforms manual processes, transactions and activities into digital services.

It provides the ability for users to access financial data through desktop, mobile and Automated Teller Machine services which enable one to have more information and allow you to make better decisions.

When used intelligently, the digitisation of a business can lead to significant increase in productivity and can reduce some costs.

For banks to succeed and satisfy customers as well as reduce time spent on banking transactions, digitisation of the banking system is of essence.

FirstBank, in ensuring that its customers utilise their time effectively and are satisfied while performing their transactions, has pushed out numerous innovative platforms to ensure that.

The First Bank’s Chief Executive, Dr Adesola Adeduntan, said that the bank’s digital journey, which started in the last few years, had seen it launched a couple of innovative products.

Adeduntan said that Firstbank embarked on an aggressive digitisation of its business covering both front-end and back-end operations which included setting up a transaction processing centre to centralise all the transactions across FirstBank’s extensive branch network.

He said that Firstbank wanted to migrate its customers away from branches and onto a digital platform and as at today more than 80 per cent of all customer transactions were being conducted via digital platforms which was yielding positive benefits.

He listed some of these products as FirstMobile, FirstCheckOut, Soft Token, Agent Banking, Emerging Channels (USSD Collections, mCash, mVisa), FirstBillsPay and others.

According to him, in September 2015, FirstMobile was launched because the bank wanted a truly branchless experience for her customers and thus enhanced the app to deliver an instant, remote, self-enrolment feature.

“Like every other mobile banking app in the market at the time, customers were required to visit a branch to complete the onboarding process.

“Hence, in December 2015, onboarding process on FirstMobile was improved with self-service feature, empowering customers to remotely complete their onboarding process on the App without visiting a branch.

“Also the soft token was launched in 2015 to satisfy the needs of customers who did not want to carry the hard token about. It serves the same purpose as the hard token, but with added ease and convenience.

“FirstBillsPay is a Biller Aggregator platform launched in 2018 and aggregates various billers through a secured connection to the bank, to avail customers a single payment point for all bills from their accounts.

“FirstCheckOut, launched in 2015, is an additional payment option that can be integrated to merchant website that will allow customers pay bills directly from their bank accounts as substitute to cards.

“First Bank launched the 894 USSD Quick Banking service in 2016 as part of its financial inclusion drive.

“The *894# USSD service makes banking services available across all GSM networks, on any type of device, anywhere and at any time, this gives it a unique selling point,” he said.

He said that Firstbank was taking advantage of WhatsApp, being the most popular data-driven application in the world, with over one billion daily active users world-wide and most commonly used mobile application in the world.

“FirstBank aims to fill a vital gap in the retail customer base landscape by bringing the bank to where majority of its customers can be found.

“This unique value-proposition is also the first of its kind in the Nigerian digital banking arena, therefore pioneering this project gives FirstBank a leading edge in the market.

“With the high penetration rate of Internet and Data Access amongst the majority of the populace, coupled with the adoption of messaging apps over traditional SMS, First Bank of Nigeria Limited is aware of this technological shift.

“We are latching on to WhatsApp being the most popular messaging application to provide an innovative product that avails seamless conversational payment to her customers whilst generating revenue,” he said.

He listed the benefits to customers as convenient way to make payment, increased security of payment, reliable network connection, ease of use/simple payment experience and 24/7 service availability.

Adeduntan said that the First Bank’s WhatsApp, which is enabled by innovative digital and data technologies such as digital security protocols, Chatbots, artificial intelligence and big data analytics, is to drive improved customer and user experience.

He said that the future of customer and user experience in the African banking sector would be driven by specific trends that would ultimately lead to unlocking enormous potential in the African finance service sector.

“The bank customers of now, as well as future, are seeking realtime interactions and pin-point accurate, personalised engagement.

“The banks that are winning and will win in the future are those that are able to deliver on both fronts for the customers through unique capabilities.

“The unique capabilities are mobile and digital advantage, action driven, Omni channel experience, while and nimble, connected network advantage and big data analytics.”

Adeduntan said that emerging channels like the mCash, USSD collections and MVISA were launched in 2017 and targeted at manufacturing/FMCGs/ value chain businesses, energy (petrol stations), network marketing companies, transporting companies, churches, schools and others.

He said that for communities with large population of unbanked and underbanked individuals, Firstbank also at the end of 2017 launched the ”Agent Banking” and recruited agents who carried out basic financial services within their vicinity.

Adeduntan said that Firstbank, due to its resilience in pushing for customer satisfaction, had received several awards such as “Digital Bank of Distinction, Nigeria” award in the Global Finance Best Digital Banks Awards for two consecutive years, 2016 and 2017.

“In Q1 2017, First bank won the Cashless Champion Award of MasterCard International on POS International transactions acquiring.

“In September 2017 Interswitch awards on the Fastest Mobile Penetration in Africa, Highest Card Transacting Bank in Nigeria, Highest Verve Issuing Bank.

“In Q4 2015, the Bank won two awards in the eBusiness category.

They are the MasterCard Cardless Champion award for International acceptance across all POS channels, MasterCard Cardless Champion award for Mobile POS (MPOS) merchant acquisition.

“FirstBank was named the first financial institution in the country to achieve sustained alternative channels transaction volumes of 100 million transactions in December 2015 and May 2016,” he said.

The ability to deliver services the way customers want, including through digital channels, is increasingly important to banks’ establishing and maintaining long-term relationships with its customers.

In the continuous execution of strategy focused on customer satisfaction, the utilisation of customer data available to banks should enable them to identify and deliver the right products and services to customers.

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