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Review: First Bank’s USSD Banking and the quest to reach the bottom million

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In mid 2016, First Bank revamped her USSD banking service in a bid to further drive financial services to the financially excluded and underbanked.

USSD is a GSM Mobile Technology trend that is redefining the way we make payments and other value added services as an emerging economy.

It enables users to conduct specific banking transactions with any kind of mobile device, as long as it can access a GSM network and without need for internet connectivity.

FirstBank’s USSD banking platform, which can be assessed by dialing *894# on a mobile phone was designed to execute basic transactions. In developing it, the bank is aiming to provide digital products that would be appropriate for different markets or segments of users. Its greatest advantage over other banking channels is its ability to reach what we can term the bottom million market – that is, users of financial services who reside at the base of the banking access pyramid due to the fact that they are often low-income earners who are unable to access technology.

USSD is able to easily take financial services to them because its usage flexibility enables it to be functional on both the simplest / cheapest mobile devices, and the higher technology smart phones and tablets. It also tackles the problem of accessibility, where these users cannot visit a bank because they live far from the cities where the banks are located. It further gives them the convenience advantage. Because of this capability, USSD is being touted as the most effective communication technology available to provide financial services to low-income individuals.

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By deploying this technology, First Bank is expanding the frontiers of financial inclusion even further. Smartphone apps, which attempted to drive inclusion have seen limited success because it requires an internet connection, which is still expensive and excludes a vast majority of low-income users.

Another segment of users that First Bank is aiming to reach are the underbanked. These are customers who already have access to banking services and technology. For this group, the bank’s offering takes convenience and reliability even further. Although the use of smartphone apps and debit/credit cards to pay for shopping, food, petrol, bills, mobile and data top-up is now widespread, there are times when internet connection is weak or spotty to the point where banking applications become unstable. USSD comes in handy here as well because it uses GSM network channels to transmit data.

In other words, as long as you can make and receive phone calls and text messages, you can make a bank transaction.

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What can you currently do on the *894# platform?

The service requires you to have a FirstBank account with a linked debit card, and the phone number with which you receive SMS alerts. You will also need to dial 8940# to get started. Some of the transactions you can execute on the platform include transferring money to any bank in Nigeria; airtime recharge for self and for others; Check your account balance and Get a mini-statement.

According to the bank, the bouquet of offerings on the platform is huge. So beyond the aforementioned services currently being offered, the Bank is at the point of deploying Bill Payment, Retail/Merchant payment, Account opening, BVN linking/BVN enquiry and a host of other services. These services put together will cater for all customers. Given that variety is the spice of life, we believe that as Bank of first choice, our customers should be able to transact with ease using the 894 Quick codes.

The USSD service is expected to become a product that will also complement the mobile app platform when customers don’t have access to the internet. The product will also see more exposure, especially towards customers in the areas where internet penetration is low, and to customers who don’t use smartphones or purchase internet access at all.

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The fast-paced application of technology to consumerism is revolutionizing the way people consume goods and services, and how they pay for it. Banking halls are becoming empty in the face of growing use of banking apps. The offices of Cable TV providers like DSTV and utilities like EKEDC and IKEDC are also becoming less crowded due to the proliferation of payment solutions. Everything gets sorted out with the click of a button. It goes without saying that customers want their payment technology to be able to provide all these services. There’s absolutely no need to settle for less.

 

 

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Nairametrics is Nigeria's top business news and financial analysis website. We focus on providing resources that help small businesses and retail investors make better investing decisions. Nairametrics is updated daily by a team of professionals. Post updated as "Nairametrics" are published by our Editorial Board.

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Companies

UACN’s major shareholder sells substantial shares

This is coming a few days after UAC Nigeria Plc announced a deal to divest 51% of its shares in UPDC.

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UACN, UAC Nigeria’s Dividend Payment Might Not Be Worth The Struggle

One of the 3 major shareholders of UAC Nigeria Plc (UACN), Blakeney LLP, has substantially reduced its stakes in the conglomerate with the sale of 80 million additional shares.

This was disclosed in a notification that was sent to the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) by UAC Nigeria Plc. The notification was signed by the Company Secretary/Legal Adviser, Godwin Samuel.

Note that this is coming a few days after UAC Nigeria Plc announced a deal to divest 51% of its shares in UACN Petroleum Development Company (UPDC) to Custodian Investment Plc.

READ MORE: Berger Paints declares dividend of 25k per share, announces 6% increase in revenue

An analysis of this current sales and reduction of its stake shows that Blakeney LLP reduced its shareholding in the conglomerate through a deal on August 5, at a price of N5.75 per share. A further breakdown of the transactions shows that the 80,000,000 units were sold at N5.75 amounting to N460 million in purchase consideration.

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Back Story: It can be recalled that UACN had earlier sent notifications to the NSE announcing sales of 75 million shares by Blakeney between the months of April and June

READ MORE: Covid-19: Guinness Nigeria warns investors its results will be bad

  • In an earlier notification sent to the Nigerian Stock Exchange and other stakeholders in February 2019, UAC of Nigeria Plc announced the emergence of three major shareholders with more than 5% stake in the company. The three major shareholders include Themis Capital Management (8.08%), Stanbic IBTC Nominees Limited (7.27%), Blakeney GP 111 Ltd (7.55%).
  • Nigeria’s oldest conglomerate has gone through some major restructuring in recent times following investments by these core investors and other major shareholders. In September 2019, UACN announced the outright dissolution of its interest and restructuring of UAC Property Development Company (UPDC) with the transfer of its interest directly to the shareholders.
  • Over the years, UACN has transformed from a very large conglomerate with footprints in different sectors of the economy to a leaner organization with interest in Manufacturing, Food & Beverage, Logistics, Agro-allied Industry, Paints and Chemicals.
  • Blakeney Management is one of the oldest and largest institutional investors in Africa and the Middle East. They are based in London and have been managing funds since 1995 for some of the largest institutions in the world.

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AXA Mansard insurance divests from AXA Mansard pension as new owner emerges

This disclosure was made in a notification that was sent to the Nigerian Stock Exchange.

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AXA Mansard Insurance Plc

AXA Mansard Insurance Plc has announced its divestment from its subsidiary, AXA Mansard Pension Limited, after agreeing to sell its stake to Eustacia Limited, a member of the Verod Group.

This is part of the insurance firm’s plan to focus on and grow its insurance businesses across all parts of the country.

This disclosure was made in a notification that was sent to the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) on August 8, 2020, by AXA Mansard Insurance Plc and signed by its Company Secretary, Mrs Omowunmi Mabel Adewusi.

AXA Mansard Insurance disclosed that Eustacia Limited was selected as the preferred bidder, after the completion of a bid process. AXA Mansard along with the minority shareholder agreed to sell the entire issued ordinary share capital of AXA Mansard Pensions comprising of 60% shareholding (2,067,672,000 shares) held by AXA Mansard Insurance Plc and 40% shareholding (1,378,448,000 shares) held by the minority shareholder.

READ MORE: Corporate Actions: Half a billion ‘frozen’, retirements and a New ED

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The statement from AXA Mansard Insurance reads, ‘’AXA Mansard Insurance Plc announces the divestment from its subsidiary, AXA Mansard Pensions Limited. After obtaining the Shareholder’s approval at the Company’s Extra-Ordinary General Meeting held on the 13th of February 2020, the Company commenced the process of divestment by appointing Messer Rand Merchant Bank as the Financial Advisers while Aluko & Oyebode acted as the Legal Advisers on the transaction.’’

‘’Upon completion of a bid process, Eustacia Limited (a member of the Verod Group) was selected as the preferred bidder. The Company along with the minority Shareholder entered into a sale and purchase agreement with Eustacia Limited to divest the entire issued ordinary share capital of AXA Mansard Pensions comprising of 60% shareholding (2,067,672,000 shares) held by AXA Mansard Insurance Plc and 40% shareholding (1,378,448,000 shares) held by the minority shareholder.’’

The insurance firm, also in its statement said that the divestment has received letters of no objection from the National Insurance Commission (NAICOM), National Pension Commission (PENCOM) and the Federal Competition & Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC).

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READ ALSO: Forte Oil Plc hits fresh year to date low on the NSE

It should be noted that the completion of the divestment is, however, subject to the receipt of the final approval of the National Pension Commission.

In his reaction, the CEO of AXA Mansard Insurance Plc, Kunle Ahmed, said that this transaction marks a new step in the insurance firm’s broader strategy to focus on and grow their life, property & casualty and health businesses across all its geographies. He said that the AXA Group sees great potential in the Nigerian insurance market and believes they are ideally placed to capture these opportunities due to its market leadership position.

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On his part, the CEO of AXA Mansard Pension Limited said that they are confident about Verod’s strong commitment to providing the company with the requisite support to actualize their promise to its clients and stakeholders.

A partner at Verod Group, the new owners, Eric Idiahi, said, ‘’We strongly believe that this is the ideal time to enter the market and that AXA Mansard Pensions provides an excellent beachhead from which to establish a consolidated position and gain market share.’’

Nairametrics reported early this year that AXA Mansard Insurance Plc announced that its shareholders have approved the company’s plan to sell its pension management subsidiary, AXA Mansard Pensions Ltd and some undisclosed real estate investments.

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Africa’s largest telecoms firm, MTN, to divest from its Middle East operations

The MTN Group is in advanced talks to sell its stake in MTN Syria to the minority shareholder.

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MTN $2 billion tax case

Africa’s largest telecoms firm, the MTN Group, has announced its plans to exit the Middle East. This is part of the wireless carrier’s strategic plan to shift focus entirely to its home continent, Africa.

The mobile operator said that as part of its medium-term strategy, it will be leaving the Middle East, starting with the sales of its 75% stake in MTN Syria. Overly reduced revenue from war-torn Syria and the complex nature of the operating environment in the country are part of the reasons MTN is divesting.

READ MORE: MTN seeking to sell stake in Jumia Technologies AG

MTN’s Chief Executive Officer, Rob Shuter, noted during a conference call with reporters, that “the Middle East environment is becoming increasingly complex and it contributes less to the group’s earnings.’’

Shuter disclosed that the disposals in the Middle East region will be done in a phased manner, with its 3 consolidated subsidiaries in Yemen, Afghanistan, and Syria earmarked to be sold first. These markets only contribute about 4% to the group’s earnings before interest, depreciation, taxation, and amortization.

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READ ALSO: Why MTN is being dragged to court by families of American soldiers 

The MTN Group is in advanced talks to sell its stake in MTN Syria to the minority shareholder, TeleInvest, who has 25% stake in the firm, according to the CEO. He believes that the telecoms firm is better served to focus on its Pan-African strategy and simplify its portfolio by leaving the Middle East region in an orderly manner.

In the medium term, the group will also dispose of its 49% stake in MTN Irancell, one of its largest markets.

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The South African firm plans to exit the entire portfolio in time, which will then leave it with 17 subsidiaries in Africa.

Just yesterday, Nairametrics reported about MTN’s plan to sell its stake in Jumia Technologies. MTN will also be divesting from telecommunications infrastructure firm, IHS Towers. The divestments from Jumia and IHS Towers were informed by the decision to raise funds in order to reduce MTN’s debts. It will also help the company to refocus its operations.

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