Recently, Parthian Partners, a pan-African inter-brokerage services firm collaborated with one of Nigeria’s leading commercial banks, Sterling Bank Plc, to deliver an innovative solution that makes it easy for all and sundry to invest in treasury bills (T-Bills) directly from their mobile devices.
The fintech solution, a multi-platform software application known as I-invest, was purposely designed to promote investment culture among members of Nigeria’s middle-class who have a history of saving sparingly. Essentially, I-invest will enable Nigerians to invest in T-Bills from any location at their convenience.
Chief Executive Officer of Parthian Partners, Mr. Seye Olusoga says the savings opportunity availed by I-invest can serve as a safeguard in cases of temporary job loss, sickness or early retirement. According to him, treasury bills are safe investments that guarantee healthy returns on investments and allow members of the public to invest in the development of Nigeria at little to no risk.
He points out that investment in T-Bills is all about convenience. Currently, in order to invest in T-Bills, the potential investor must visit a bank of his choice, speak to an account officer, fill forms and deal with all sorts of verification requirements. But with I-invest, all that the investor needs is a smart phone and access to the internet, says Olusoga.
He adds that “Armed with these, the potential investor simply downloads the I-invest app from Google Play Store or App Store on IOS. He then follows the prompts on the I-invest app to complete the registration process at the end of which a personal account and unique customer identification are created for him.
“He can then load a minimum of N100, 000 into his wallet to start investing. Once the wallet is loaded, the app makes it easy to select a tenor and pay the amount which the customer wants to invest in T-bills at the prevailing rate at the time of purchase.”
The Parthian Partners CEO explains that the app makes investments easy by giving multiple options, from direct transfer to the use of a debit card. “Users can also pay via the e-bills platform on the internet banking portals of their respective banks. The e-bills mode of payment is efficient and quick and should be used more often than it is currently being used.”
According to Olusoga, on I-invest, treasury bills will be supplied by Sterling Bank and will be kept with a duly regulated custodian to ensure that customers’ investments are safe and secured. The I-invest app merely makes the process simple by cutting through the red tape, he says.
He advises users to update their Know Your Customer (KYC) requirements on the app to avoid any delays in accessing their funds. He dispels the notion that the Nigerian market may not be ready for I-invest, saying Nigerians should never be underrated when it comes to the adoption of innovation and technology.
“More and more people in the country have smart phones as well as access to the internet and we are seeing an increase in the use of apps and smart codes for accessing traditional banking services, I-invest merely builds on that foundation.”
He assures that I-invest will make investing more accessible to the average Nigerian unlike in the past when access to treasury bills and certain banking services were reserved for the elite or sophisticated investor. He explains that the expanded market for T-Bills has always existed, but it remained untapped because the innovation was missing.
He says I-invest has buffers against the menace of identity theft and payment fraud because the app only allows transfers into accounts linked to users’ Bank Verification Number (BVN). This means that any money invested, or any gains made cannot be transferred to any unrelated account or third party.
Despite the peculiar challenge of requisite infrastructure in Nigeria, Olusoga says Nigeria currently provides an enabling environment that grants a fair amount of latitude to innovators in the Fintech space. He adds that if it is sustained, new and innovative ways to circumvent challenges would be introduced by operators in the sector.
According to him, the use of technology in banking and finance in Nigeria is quite advanced and in tandem with more developed countries. Consequently, he says, players in fintech will thrive and continue to make a difference despite the challenges.
He says Parthian Partners is fully equipped to exploit this unique window of opportunity due to its wealth of knowledge in the industry as well as relationships established in the banking sector, such as its collaboration with Sterling Bank. He explains that the partnership with Sterling Bank is a collaborative one with the customer in mind.
“The two institutions came together to take fintech in Nigeria a step further than the traditional airtime purchase and money transfer services.”
Olusoga asserts that the app will deepen the Nigerian money market and ultimately the economy because the more people invest in the app the bigger the money market will become. According to him, “T-bills are a means of lending to the government for infrastructure development, among other needs. With more money available to the government, the cost of funding projects will crash and become lower. So, with I-invest, more Nigerians are set to play their part in building the economy.”
Explaining that customers of other banks are at liberty to use the I-invest app because it was not created for Sterling Bank customers alone, the CEO emphasises that I-invest was built for every Nigerian with a smart phone and internet access. The focus at this time, he says, is to get Nigerians to embrace the app first before introducing it to other African countries in the future.
On the future of I-invest, Olusoga says, “We are entering unchartered waters and that is always exciting. Most importantly, we are changing the way things are done and putting the customer’s interest at the forefront.
“Due to its convenient and secure nature, it will possibly herald Nigeria’s evolution into a high-savings society where the government will have access to low-cost funds to develop infrastructure and citizens having enough for the type of retirement they desire. I-invest is just about creating a future of shared prosperity for Nigeria and Nigerians.”