Digital Retail in the Age of Technology

Digital Retail in the Age of Technology

Source: Feranmi Ajuwon

As businesses shift from the traditional brick and mortar approach of engaging customers to e-commerce, it has become more evident that financial institutions, especially banks’ business models must change. Banks cannot afford to carry on business as usual, hence the need to evolve from building more banking halls to creating technological solutions which allow customers to conduct seamless transactions online to aid financial inclusion.

According to the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the number of active mobile phone lines recorded in the country rose from 142million in November 2017 to 144 million in December 2017. Statistics from the Nigeria Interbank Settlement System (NIBSS) also showed that the total value of transactions for four major electronic payment channels namely NIBSS Instant Payment (NIP), NIBSS Electronic Funds Transfer (NEFT), Point of Sale (PoS), and Mobile (Inter-scheme) transactions rose by 35% to N69.7 trillion in 2017 from N51.6 trillion in 2016. This reflects the market potentials within the country and the growing need for digital solutions through which every Nigerian, both in the rural and urban area, can easily make transactions without joining banking hall queues for long hours.

The emergence of Financial Technology (FinTech) companies in the Nigerian financial ecosystem has also changed the dynamics within the landscape, thereby challenging financial services’ players especially deposit money banks to be more innovative in creating digital solutions required to meet customers’ needs and improve customer experience.

On the other hand, “digital retailing” has seen customers embrace the Do-It-Yourself (DIY)[self-service] approach of conducting banking transactions—from account opening within minutes to making payments online anywhere, and at any time through banks’ mobile applications. This has largely been facilitated by massive technology investment in the banking industry in a fast-changing business world. Besides the seamless transactions on secure platforms, digital retailing makes access to customer’s data easy; this enhances the improvement of the customers experience by personalizing services for every customer.

Most Nigerian financial institutions are taking giant strides to ensure they remain in sync with today’s digital customer behavioural and expectation patterns. A cursory look at Nigeria’s largest bank by tier 1 capital, which hither to the last couple of years was seen as a majorly corporate banking focused player provides deep insight into the future directional path of the nation’s banking sector.

Zenith Bank Plc has introduced a myriad of digital solutions in the last year and a half that cuts across the Nigerian retail spectrum and addresses the peculiarities of today’s audiences; focusing majorly on transaction safety, speed, convenience and user experience. An example in this regard is the extension of its account opening options to several channels that include its mobile banking app, *966# Eazybanking, its website (www.zenithbank.com) and its Facebook page, all in a bid to enable people open accounts without having to visit its branches.

Zenith Bank has also published 3 free for download apps on the Android and IOS app stores to facilitate customer transactions. The Bank has a dynamic mobile banking app, that is adjourned by users to be one of the most friendly and easy to use bank applications available today. It also has a Scan to Pay app that reduces in store merchant payments to seconds through quick response (QR) code scanning on any internet enabled phone and is one of only a few apps in Nigeria to support MasterPass and Visa payments. Third in its mobile app genre is an e-token app that allows customers authenticate alternative channel (Mobile, POS and Online) transactions without needing to have a hardware token.

Like other Nigerian deposit money banks, Zenith Bank has also introduced a USSD banking solution tagged *966# Eazybanking that allows its audiences perform transactions on any phone type by simple dialling short codes.

As Nigerian banks continue to re-evolve retail banking to deepen financial inclusion, digital retailing in banking will continue to rise given consumers’ choice for convenience, speed, security and efficiency in banking transactions.

Thus, it is essential for banks to focus on providing a more frictionless digital experience to their customers, especially in a highly competitive market. Beyond retail savings, more can be done in small-scale loans to the retail sector of the Nigerian economy. For Zenith Bank, the quest to continue to act in the “best interest of its customers” has just begun.

*Feranmi Ajuwon is a freelance content writer and can be reached via feranmiajuwon@gmail.com

References

  1. Digital banking users to reach 3bn by 2021
  2. Digital banking holds the key to financial inclusion in Nigeria
  3. Fintech to disrupt retail banking by 92% in Nigeria
  4. The next phase of fintech evolution

Digital transformation in retail: transforming for the new commerce reality

Seventh NASS: N17bn wasn’t a bribe, says Okonjo-Iweala

A former Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, on Sunday, said that she never claimed in her book that the increase in the 2015 budget by the National Assembly was used to bribe the lawmakers.

The former minister said this in a statement on Sunday by her Media Adviser, Mr. Paul Nwabuikwu.

There have been reports that the minister in her book, ‘Fighting Corruption is Dangerous: The Story Behind the Headlines,’ revealed the blackmail and arm-twisting that characterized budget passage by the National Assembly during the Goodluck Jonathan administration.

The minister, according to the report, had cited an instance in 2015 when the National Assembly leadership forced the executive arm to part with N17bn for the federal lawmakers before passing that year’s budget.

The N17bn alleged bribe, according to the reports, was beside the National Assembly’s N150bn annual budget.

Reacting to the reports, the Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, told reporters that he was not aware that lawmakers took a bribe.

Gbajabiamila, who was the Minority Leader in the 7th Assembly, admitted that lawmakers had a running battle with Okonjo-Iweala and her aides over the budget because they fused in their own projects to the detriment of some lawmakers.

He had said, “My hunch is that being an election year, members might have wanted several projects sited in their constituencies so that they could have something to campaign on. It is wrong to portray that members were given money for the passage of the budget.”

But in the statement issued on Sunday, Okonjo-Iweala said that the book didn’t talk about bribes, adding that it indicated that lawmakers increased the budget by N17bn and such practice needed to be changed.

She said, “One more time, it is important that people read the book for themselves. In the case of the N17bn, the book does not talk of bribe.

“It indicates that lawmakers increased the budget by N17bn and we had to accept that to move on; hence, the term ‘price to pay’.

“The reason for discussing what happened is that this approach needs to change. The country must clear up and clarify its budget process for the future to improve.”

She said in the statement that the claim by Gbajabiamila that she and her aides inserted their own projects in the budget was untrue.

“Those like honourable Gbajabiamila trying to introduce lies that myself and my aides put in our own projects and lawmakers were fighting with me on that basis are playing their usual cynical games and Nigerians are tired of that!”

 

Financial Management Nigeria : The backbone of successful project delivery.

Financial Management Nigeria : The backbone of successful project delivery.

According to the World Bank Financial Management Manual, project financial management combines the activities of planning, budgeting, accounting, financial reporting, internal control, auditing, procurement, disbursement and the physical performance of a project with the aim of managing project resources properly, to achieve project’s development objectives.

Sound financial management together with accurate and timely financial data are critical prerequisites for successful project implementation as they aid in effective decision making to guarantee project completion per timelines, scope of deliverables and budget. In addition, these help project management team to take decisive corrective actions on factors that threaten to derail the project.

Most projects are financed by either the government or donors for economic and social development purposes. Sound financial management not only provides assurance of prudent use of donor funds, but it also builds assertion that the project will have sustainable outcomes and benefits to the intended community and the country’s economy. Therefore, recipients of donor funding should endeavour to invest, account and accurately report all funds allocated to projects as well as institute above board corporate governance structures;which will ensure successful project implementation and earn donor and partners’ confidence.

It is important to note that continuous monitoring of organisation’s capacity to complete the project is critical as it helps identify and address gaps before it is too late. This also ensures that the project stays on course and within budget. During monitoring, project implementers are able to keep tabs on planned project tasks and determine if the project is performing and achieving results as intended during the project design phase. As such, these monitoring reports play a major role during final evaluation and also in enhancing the effectiveness of development and donor funded projects.

Project managers entrusted with management of project funds need to maintain secure information technology systems, complete with internal control frameworks. These should be compliant with donor prescribed internal and external audit processes and standards. The World Bank, for instance, has a standard, which ensures that financial management techniques are applied for effective use of such funds. Organisations that have own financial management, policies and accountability standards tend to earn the donor confidence especially if they consistently deliver desired results. Consequently, this also gives them a competitive edge over others seeking funds from the same donor for new projects or to scale up existing ones.

Organisations are able to negotiate effectively with donors if they can demonstrate that they have sound project finance management systems in place. This should be showcased together with other capacities such as data tracking and analysis, impact assessment skills among others, available in the organisation during proposal development stage. It is critical that at this stage the organisation also points out possible project risks and mitigation measures. Organisations should also clearly state whether they will require to outsource some services especially where such services are crucial to project delivery and there is no in-house capacity. This will inform the donor of the total project costs earlier on and help them plan to accommodate such instances.

Finally, financial reports which are outcomes of good financial management systems are vital during final evaluation and completion stages of the project. It is at this stage that donors compare these reports with similar reports from other projects to determine if the project was implemented as budgeted. If there are notable discrepancies, the donor can request the implementing team for further clarity before releasing further funds to complete the project. Such instances should be avoided at all times as they raise integrity and credibility issues about the project implementation team and this may jeopardise future donor relations and funds. Therefore it is important that the project team keeps updated financial records at all times that can be scrutinised anytime by the monitoring team and most importantly, the donor.

 

What is mVisa? What are its features?

Q1. What is mVisa? What are its features?

  1. mVisa is a new, hassle-free and secure way to receive payments from your customers with just a smart phone and an mobile app. It transforms the way you do business.
  2. Consumers are able to access their funds (either from a card or from an account) from the
    mobile app on their own phones and make payments to your merchant account using the
    information displayed on your mVisa merchant information panel (QR code). You get notified
    immediately when your merchant account receives a customer’s payment.

 

Q2. How do I benefit from accepting mVisa? mVisa brings you the following benefits:

  • Increased sales: Customers can access their money to make payments anytime and anywhere, even if they are not carrying their wallets or sufficient cash. You can accept payments anytime and anywhere using just your mobile app.
  • Faster transactions: You complete your customer transactions easily and with speed.
  • Quick set-up: You can start accepting payments through mVisa without any set-up time or cost.
  • Increases your efficiency: mVisa decreases the frequency with which you have to make trips to your bank to deposit cash.
  • Improves your safety: Since the payments go straight into your account you have decreased risk of theft or pilferage of your money.
  • Helps you track your cashflow: mVisa enables you to access your sales and transaction history at the tap of a few buttons on your own mobile app.

 

Q3. What steps do I need to take to start accepting mVisa for my business?

To accept mVisa payments for your business, all you need is a smartphone with a data connection (2G, 3G or 4G). The following few simple steps are involved for setup:

Step 1: Register for mVisa by contacting us at <> on <>. Accept the terms and conditions of the service.

Step 2: We will assign an mVisa merchant ID (numeric) to you and also generate your mVisa QR code. Both of these along with your merchant name will be displayed by you on your mVisa merchant information panel for consumers to make payments to you. (Other options for display are available as explained in question 12)

Step 3: You will download the app from the app store (Google Play or Apple App Store) onto your smartphone.

Q5. How many customers are able to make payments using mVisa?

  • Although mVisa is a new service, customers enabled for mVisa is rapidly growing. Most large banks will be enabling the service as part of their mobile banking offering through an update to their existing mobile app. Activation of the service by customers is also easy and completed in a few simple steps.

Q6. How will customers make payments to ME using mVisa?

  • Your customer will open the mVisa app on their smart phone to access their account. Customer will then scan the mVisa QR code displayed by you using their smart phone. The customer then key enters the amount and completes the transaction.
  • You will receive a confirmation on your app of the payment received into your merchant account. You should check this confirmation and complete the transaction.

 

Q7. Do customers have to necessarily scan the QR code?

No. Customers could instead select to key enter your mVisa merchant ID as displayed by you. The transaction process will be the same as by scanning the QR code.

Q8. What should I do if I do not receive a payment notification? In case you do not receive the payment notification (while your customer claims that the transaction was completed by them) you should check the transaction history using your app. In case the transaction record does not appear their after some time, you should contact us at . You can visit Diamond Bank and First Bank of Nigeria for more information on mVisa.

Dr Oby Ezekwesili have reiterated the impo​rtance of financial literacy in lifting Nigeria and indeed Africa out of poverty.

The Chief Executive Officer of The Nigerian Sto​ck Exchange (NSE), Mr. Oscar N. Onyema, OON and a former Minister of Education, Dr Oby Ezekwesili have reiterated the impo​rtance of financial literacy in lifting Nigeria and indeed Africa out of poverty. Their positions were articulated at the awards ceremony of the 2017 NSE Essay Competition for Senior Secondary Schools Students in Nigeria, held on Wednesday, November 29, 2017, at the Civic Center in Lagos.

At the awards ceremony, Miss Gbenjo Olasubomi of Good Shepherd Comprehensive High School, Lagos State, emerged winner of the 2017 edition of the NSE Essay Competition after coming third in the 2016 edition. She clinched the first position ahead of over 10,100 participants across the country, winning N500,000 scholarship fund for university education, N250,000 equity investment and a laptop. Her school was also rewarded with a trophy, three desktop computers and a printer.
Olanipekun Opeyeoluwa of Oritamefa Baptist Model School, Ibadan, Oyo State and Chukwuemeka Oluchi of Notre Dame Girls College, Ilorin, Kwara State, emerged first and second runners up respectively. Each of them also got a laptop, equity investment and cash rewards. Their schools got varying number of computers and trophy. Seven laptops were given as consolation prizes to seven other winners.
In his welcome remarks, Mr. Onyema noted that financial literacy is very important because of the positive direct impact it can have on promoting livelihoods, economic growth, sound financial systems, and poverty reduction. “Contemporary society requires everyone to understand the principles of money management and to develop personal financial management skills that will enable them manage their finances effectively to achieve financial freedom”.
“Realizing this, we have implemented and continue to support a number of programmes to promote financial literacy among young Nigerians, by encouraging them to learn how good financial decisions can better their lives now and in the future and ultimately grow the economy, Onyema added. He further stated, through the NSE Essay Competition, the Exchange has, since inception, inspired over 60,000 young people in more than 7,000 schools across Nigeria to showcase what they have learnt about the financial market.
In her keynote address, Ezekwesili observed that we must eradicate the dynasty of poverty in our country through education. “Every country that has climbed out of poverty has done it on the back of improvement in the quality of education and the human capital”. She called on teachers, parents and other stakeholders to be inclusive in inculcating financial literacy to the younger children, so as to raise a generation that will participate more in private sector and trades that will create wealth.
According to Ezekwesili, private sector must be more interested in the state of the schools in our nation. “The private sector does not need anybody begging it to be interested in education. You need the top talent hence the need to get involved. So get involved”.
She also charged the students to think differently as they are the generation that will participate in the disruptive revolution.
The NSE Essay Competition initiative is aimed at bridging the gap between classroom learning and practical knowledge required for long-term personal financial planning. It serves as an essential platform to get the perspectives of our young ones on key challenges relating to financial literacy and inclusion in Nigeria. The competition’s overall goal is to develop a culture of wealth creation amongst our youth towards “Building a Financially Savvy Generation”.
This year’s competition was sponsored by Access Bank Plc, Zenith Bank, Prime Atlantic Ltd and Cordros Capital Ltd.

TECHNOLOGY-POWERED BANKS AS TRUSTED PARTNERS FOR PEOPLE

Banks would do well to use technology as a catalyst to empower and motivate people to lead the way to their digital future. Artificial intelligence, digital ecosystems, on-demand labor platforms, design thinking and other key technologies can help banks respond to people based on their wants and needs, even as the bank evolves to a digital-first business model.

In doing so, banks will become true and trusted partners—helping customers and employees achieve their goals. The more goals a bank helps people achieve, the more confident people will be in the partnership, yielding an ever-stronger relationship with each interaction. When bank customers and employees succeed, so does the bank.

READYING FOR BANKING’S SHIFT FROM MOBILEFIRST TO AI-FIRST

Artificial intelligence (AI) in banking is not new. Banks are already using AI in heavilymanual processes for accuracy, efficiency, speed and cost benefits. What is new, however, is the move of AI beyond process to interaction. By automating the interaction between all of the different tools and people in an IT environment, for example, a New York-based investment bank achieved a 93 percent reduction in average resolution and fix time (from 47 minutes to 4 minutes).15 Thirty percent of bankers are currently using intelligent virtual assistants on large scale projects or broadly across the organization. The next stage of AI in banking will be toward simpler, smarter interfaces: machine learning to reengineer back-office processes, and AI tools that allow better interaction with customers.

Banks can use advanced machine-learning— systems that gain knowledge from data as “experience” and adapt to apply what is learned in upcoming situations—to streamline back-end processes and support networks. For example, text-mining algorithms pointed at data from internal text, voice, social media and other data sources can help identify unusual and potentially risky or illicit trading patterns. Machines can learn from that data analysis to help banks better detect fraud. A prominent global bank intent on seizing first-mover advantage in its digital strategy successfully tested the IPsoft Amelia AI platform’s ability to support its network of mortgage brokers by providing guidance on policy details.

Tapping AI-enabled tools (like centralized platforms/assistants or messaging bots) to enhance front-end services is a gamechanger. For example, Capital One® Bank developed a “skill” for the Amazon Echo’s® Alexa, allowing people to check their accounts and pay credit card bills via the Echo device.17 Customers of HSBC® can connect with the bank’s virtual assistant, Olivia, to get answers about their credit cards or current accounts.18 “Collette” is one of Accenture’s premier virtual mortgage advisers that uses cognitive science, AI and user-centered design to provide tailored advice on complex mortgage applications— articulating its own thoughts, understanding the intentions and emotions of the customer, making recommendations, and, if necessary, referring the customer to a human assistant.

Most banks get it: 79 percent agree that AI will revolutionize the way they gain information from and interact with customers; 29 percent believe it is extremely important to offer their products/services through centralized platforms/assistants or messaging bots; 76 percent believe that in the next three years, the majority of organizations in the banking industry will deploy AI interfaces as their primary point for interacting with customers; and 71 percent believe that AI is capable of becoming the face of their organization or brand. Basically, AI is creating a new era of computing, rapidly moving from mobile-first to AI-first in the customer experience and moving staff to more judgment-based and higher value added roles.

For both front- and back-office applications, banks are focusing on several AI-related technologies to progress forward. They expect to invest in the following capabilities extensively over the next three years:

• Embedded AI solutions (40%).

• Computer Vision (40%).

• Machine Learning (38%).

• Natural Language Processing (37%).

• Robotic Process Automation (34%).

Bankers do expect high returns on such investments. Their top three reasons for embedding AI into user interfaces: data analysis and insight (60 percent), productivity (59 percent) and cost benefits/ savings (54 percent). Interestingly, 67 percent of US bankers place cost benefits/savings at the top of their reasons to invest in AI. Bankers also expect AI to accelerate technology adoption throughout their organization (80 percent) and ease use of and simplicity in the user interface to ensure a more humanlike experience (78 percent). Seventy-six percent believe organizations will increasingly compete on the ability to make technology fade, or appear invisible to the customer. Reaping such benefits will require banks to tackle privacy issues in embedding AI into user interfaces (38 percent), integration/ capability issues between AI and current IT (36 percent), and data quality (36 percent).

PLATFORMS ARE THE TIES THAT BIND BANK PEOPLE, PARTNERS AND TECHNOLOGY

Like companies in other industries, banks are increasingly integrating their core business functions with digital ecosystem platforms as they seek to manage broadbased customer relationships in a fragmented value chain. In fact, banking executives are more likely than average (36 percent of bankers, versus 31 percent of all respondents) to believe that it is very critical to adopt a platform-based business model and engage in ecosystems with digital partners. The Digital Relationship Manager, for example, will make money from financial products delivered through their own personalized customer-centric ecosystems (such as for home buying or retirement planning) as well as from financial transactions like payments that are embedded in other non-bank transactions.

Seventy-six percent of bankers agree that competitive advantage will not be determined by their organization alone, but by the strength of their chosen partners and ecosystems. Platforms, like Uber, WeChat and Amazon’s Alexa®, are where much of the transaction banking of the future will take place. However, being a platform player does not necessitate being the platform owner. Consumers expect banks to be there, regardless of who owns the platform.

Bankers understand and are responding. Twenty-three percent indicate their organization is leading one or more digital ecosystem(s). For example, BBVA in Spain is opening up its core platform and services upon which others may build their companies and services which, in turn, will help the bank build new businesses. It is already giving authorized third parties access to account data and aggregated card profiles to benefit customers, for example by enabling intelligent consumer lifestyle choices like timing of restaurant visits and recommendations.13 Its US bank, BBVA Compass, opened its payments API to digital payments startup Dwolla to allow real-time money transfer between bank accounts in the United States—a process that typically take a few days.14 This mirrors our survey findings. Bankers cited the top three benefits of participating in digital ecosystems: improved customer satisfaction (53 percent), increased speed and agility in developing solutions (52 percent), and access to a new customer base (47 percent).

Effectively leading or participating in a digital ecosystem means new challenges. Along with cybersecurity (36 percent) and uncertainty as to how industries will be disrupted (21 percent), banks will need a strategy for protecting their brand positioning and deepening their influence in the customer’s life. Seventy-six percent of bankers agree that ecosystem participation involved giving up control in favor of an overall better outcome (such as speed, agility, access, lower costs) while 69 percent agree that ecosystems are creating an environment for unlikely partners. Slightly more than 70 percent agree that their organization’s API strategy is instrumental to their brand and 73 percent believe that in five years’ time ecosystems will have shared responsibility for a brand.

Of course, being an Open Platform Player is not the only way for banks to play in the digital economy. As banks are experiencing signs—from open banking regulation and fintech explosion to low market valuations and digital native competitors—that the traditional banking model is coming to the end of its growth curve, most are looking to jump to the next curve to survive. Some banks may seek to create platforms that offer predominantly third-party products; others will choose to become Digital Relationship Managers that manage most of the value chain while enabling transactions on other platforms. Some may only serve a narrow set of needs as a Digital Category Killer, or as a Utility Provider that provides product solutions or regulated entity services to other players. In any case, banks must evolve to digitally-fit business models.