Over and over, we emphasize the importance of tech-based companies doing everything they can to align with regulators and policymakers, not just to be agreeable, but to avoid being misunderstood by lawmakers.
As a matter of fact, fintechs and other startups must foster public sector engagement to be ahead of disruptive regulation. Change is always going be a slow concept to accept for many people and so the need to always follow the rules, especially as it pertains to the government, is crucial.
The just-concluded annual general meeting and forum of Finance Correspondents Association of Nigeria (FICAN) held in Abuja had Dr Ibrahim Alley of the Research Department of NDIC announce that there will no longer be the issuance of licenses to fintech operators; this will have direct implications on fintechs whose business models involve money deposits, and loan issuance.
The reasons stated included, lack of consumer understanding, miss-selling of products and services, financial exclusion, data privacy among others, but most importantly, he emphasized that fintech operators are required to fully disclose information before they can be licensed.
The benefits of companies offering technology solutions to everyday existence is very evident and cannot be ignored. Dr Alley acknowledged this as well, highlighting how the industry has helped small and medium enterprises, with the ease of access to credits, enhance competition and an all-round increase in the resilience of the financial sector, but only when things are done right.
However, as Dr Alley noted, the concealment of information about operations slows down the pace of licensing in the country.
There are processes to everything, and the earlier tech companies start embracing that and adhering to them, the sooner all stakeholders can co-exist and be productive. Alley also said the financial regulators in Nigeria, which are the CBN and NDIC, need to fully understand the space before issuing these licenses.
If understanding the process is what is required to facilitate the process of licensing, fintechs must engage, collaborate and create channels to educate and carry regulators along across the happenings in the sector in Nigeria and global best practices.
7 female executives under 40 in FinTech
This article will be looking at seven female executives who are way ahead of the game in the Nigerian fintech sector; more interestingly, most of these women are under 40.
Banking and financial activities in the 80s were characterised by paperwork and file cabinets. But by the end of the twentieth century, the story changed with the introduction of technology to speed and ease the financial process. This was the birth of financial technologies, now commonly known as Fin-Techs.
Whether by intent or by accident, the industry turned out to be dominated by the male folk– founders, co-founders, chief operating officers, managing directors, etc. However, considering that the American Bureau of Statistics estimates that females only make up 22% of Engineering and Technology graduates, and we could as well infer it could even be worse here in Nigeria.
Nevertheless, there are still women holding their own in the industry, and this article will be looking at seven female executives who are way ahead of the game in the Nigerian fintech sector; more interestingly, most of these women are under 40.
The list includes founders, co-founders, business leads, heads of operations, and other management staff.
Abiola Showemimo, HR and Admin Lead, Paystack
Abiola is an experienced human resources practitioner, with her work history mostly in the tech industry. She currently works as the Human Resource/Admin Lead at Paystack Payments limited.
Her skills range from negotiation, business planning, analytical skills, operations management, and people operations, giving her just the right combination as a HR lead.
Before Paystack, she worked as a business analyst and political commentator with Klein Devort Ltd, and as a marketing and sales coordinator at Playzone Nigeria, both tech companies.
She describes herself as committed to building “a non-conventional yet highly productive workspace and workforce.”
Abiola studied Economics at Lagos State University and is certified with the Professional Human Resources Institute.
Opeyemi Fowler, Head of Growth, Flutterwave
Opeyemi joined Flutterwave in 2018 as Senior Executive Growth – Leading Tier-1 Bank Partnerships, before she became the Head of Growth; helping the company to expand further in its goal of building Africa’s payment infrastructure.
She had, before then, spent over a decade in Zenith Bank as an E-business consultant, working in the customer service and marketing departments.
She has proven expertise in electronic sales, e-products, business solutions, business advisory, product conceptualization and development, and market exploration.
She bagged a first degree in computer science from the University of Ibadan, did the Venture in Management Programme, and got a Masters in Business Administration degree from Lagos Business School, years later.
Jacqueline Jumah, Head DFS, EFInA
Jacqueline is currently Head, Digital Financial Services at Enhancing Financial Innovation and Access (EFInA), where she is focused on deepening the digital financial services in Nigeria through capacity building and stakeholder engagement.
She doubled as the Digital Financial Services Market Specialist and Managing Director at Intermarc Consulting until February 2020.
She has over a decade’s experience in digital financial services, having worked in both the banking and telecommunications industries, across several African and Asian countries. She is experienced in Development for Sustainability (DFS) product development, deploying technology and financial instruments which will promote the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in emerging markets.
She is also knowledgeable in Strategic Operations in Agent Network Deployment and Scale-up, DFS Business Strategy Development, Market Research, DFS Policy Advisory, Risk Management, and Marketing and Communications.
Her previous work experience includes her time at MicroSave Consulting Africa as a Senior Analyst within the Digital Financial Services (DFS) department, and as a lead faculty member at The Helix Institute of Digital Finance based in Kenya.
Odunayo Eweniyi, Co-founder and COO, Piggyvest
Odunayo is the Chief Operating Officer and co-founder of Piggybank, now known as Piggyvest. This is an automated savings platform that helps customers invest spare money, with promises of higher interest rates than a regular savings account.
Fresh from school, Odunayo decided to pursue her tech career by starting with PushCv to help job applicants write their CVs and link them to employers.
Piggybank focused on millennials, encouraging them to save with specific financial goals, and it was later renamed Piggyvest when they branched out to investments to help users grow their funds.
This little fintech disrupted the finance space in Nigeria, encouraging and enabling users to use the tools to manage and grow their funds.
Odunayo is one of the key females in fintech in Nigeria. She was listed in the World Women in FinTech Power list 2017, and the Naija Most Influential People in Technology list in 2017 and 2018.
Adebunmi Wellington Ogunlewe, eTranzact
Adebunmi is the Head of Product at eTranzact international Plc, Nigeria’s first multi-application, multi-channel electronic transaction switching and payment processing platform.
eTranzact handles billions of dollars yearly, supporting millions of forward-thinking businesses and individuals who trust that their financial transactions will be taken care of by it daily.
Her almost 16 years of experience spans across several industries, multinationals and government entities, including the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
She holds an advanced degree in Information Systems from the University of Maryland, with years of experience in Information Technology and Payments.
Ndifreke Nkose, Head, Strategy and Business Transformation, Interswitch Group
Though a chartered accountant, Ndifreke has earned her stripes in the tech space. As the head of Strategy and Business Transformation, Ndifreke ensures that Interswitch remains ahead of the game in the fintech space.
She initiates, implements, and tracks strategies targeted at earning a place for the company, in the minds of the consumers.
She got her first degree in pure and applied chemistry from the University of Ibadan in 2004, then switched when she started working with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) till 2018. This was where she started and mastered Strategy Formulation & Implementation, Performance Tracking, Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E system implementation), Business Transformation, Project Management, Process Reviews, and Redesign.
Oluwaseun Runsewe, Director of Product, Opay
At age 28, Oluwaseun Runsewe founded and became CEO of an entrepreneurial fintech, Switch. The purpose of Switch was to offer middle-class Nigerians varied financial solutions, where they could hold a number of savings accounts on the app, with different currencies. Ultimately, the target was to reignite the trust which some people had lost in the banking system and processes. Lending, borrowing, and investments were made possible on the app, with a promise of zero-transaction fees.
She started her career at KPMG as a Business Analyst in the management consulting division, and later Project Coordinator. After KPMG, she spent 2 years at Paystack as Business Lead before starting Switch.
Runsewe had her first degree in Business Administration and Management from Covenant University; this was where she picked interest in Technology. She is SAP, COMPTIA and DMI certified.
Oluwaseun is now Director of Product at Opay.
Note: Is there any amazing lady who should be on this list that is not captured? Kindly send an email to email@example.com.
Digital financial services amid COVID-19
Mobile money accounts on the continent had surpassed $1 billion, with West Africa leading the charge. During the same period, in Nigeria, Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) recorded a rise in e-payment earnings, which was also predicted to grow
The world is in an unprecedented state. With more than 2.9 million people infected with coronavirus across 185 countries and over 207,000 deaths, with no clear end in sight, entire nations and industries are at a standstill, the sort that the world has only seen a few times.
Our global village is now reordering its approach to remaining connected – leveraging digital technology. While many industries have taken major hits – from tourism to retail to manufacturing, the digital sector has experienced something of an acceleration. Stocks for the video conferencing organisation, Zoom, went up by nearly 100%, as well as a 78% revenue surge. This same ‘boom’ has been experienced by companies like Amazon, Netflix, Roku, as well as EdTech companies.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, where many countries and major business hubs are also on lockdown, the story is no different – an increase in the usage of mobile money and digital financial services has resulted in major growth projections for many of the key industry players in the region. Prior to this, as the GSM Association’s (GSMA) 2019 report shows mobile money usage in Africa was already displaying major growth indices.
Mobile money accounts on the continent had surpassed $1 billion, with West Africa leading the charge. During the same period, in Nigeria, Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) recorded a rise in e-payment earnings, which was also predicted to grow. All these are indicative of significant industry growth potential.
Now, in this COVID-19 era, the continued need to access funds—coupled with an increased need for physical distancing—has created a gap that non-physical methods of payment are primed to fill. In Nigeria, Deposit Money Banks are now intensifying digital operations in lieu of traditional channels and rapidly increasing their stake in FinTech even as financial technology companies form partnerships of the sort that SystemSpecs recently announced with Paga and Cellulant to extend financial services through digital channels to the nooks and crannies of Nigeria.
Amidst growing social distancing measures, the need for digital financial options including contactless payment systems and mobile money services is even more expedient. Digital financial service operators, keying into various government efforts, are increasingly playing an appreciable role in reducing entry barriers that previously gave rise to financial exclusion. For example, peer-to-peer (P2P) services like KiaKia and FINT enable individuals to pay and reimburse each other without exchanging cash.
MTN’s Y’ello Digital Financial Services waived user fees for Cash2Cash – a local money transfer service offered by its MoMo Agent Network. In other parts, Safaricom has implemented a fee waiver on M-Pesa to reduce face-to-face transactions in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. These laudable steps by financial service providers will be even more effective if supported by appropriate regulation.
Nevertheless, certain questions remain: amidst a global health pandemic spread by human contact, what policy tools need to be put in place to encourage digital on a wider scale through financial transactions in Nigeria? And how can we capitalise on the entry of these new adopters to create a consistent culture of usage and an increased familiarity for digital financial service platforms beyond the pandemic?
The Enablers of a Digital Economy
Digital financial services and the economic activity they enable have consistently had positive economic and social impacts on the global economy as well as on individual countries. Electronic transfers have emerged as a proven catalyst for financial sector development and the push for digital products may persist long after COVID-19. So, it is important that governments embrace the private sector in the development and implementation of financial inclusion policies, especially as the cashless policy comes into effect. Though the opportunities are evident, the extent to which they can be leveraged is largely dependent on policy, as well as tailored products and services.
South Korea saw the potential of telecommunications technologies in the financial sector, with operators investing heavily in the expansion of their 5G capacity as well as an increase in machine-to-machine connections. The country has quickly become the world’s most advanced mobile economy since the government eased regulatory policies for the FinTech industry and adopted digital strategies for the country. The government designated the FinTech industry as a priority sector to drive economic growth.
Consequently, South Korea has benefitted from a more business-friendly environment and increased investment in mobile payment systems. Closer to home, with conducive regulations and the development of a regulatory sandbox, the Central Bank of Kenya also did not disregard the potential of telecommunications operators in the financial space. As a result, Kenya’s M-Pesa has become East Africa’s leading mobile money operator and has completely transformed Kenya’s economy.
While appreciating that the experiences of different markets around the world vary and so would the model adopted, the earlier examples of South Korea and Kenya show that to realise the benefits of digital technology, a few basic factors need to be in place. One key factor is a forward-looking government that embraces digital advancement and policies to promote coverage, usage and innovation. Another significant factor is the reliable and well-protected broadband infrastructure. But just as important are consumers with the requisite digital skills, well-functioning cybersecurity systems, and targeted communication and services to various consumer needs.
Building digital economies require that stakeholders address regulatory and sustainability issues. However, beyond policy and regulation, we need well-designed, properly governed, accountable and impactful collaborations between the government and private sector players.
This enables policymakers to integrate learnings from the collaborations to align with key policy developments that not only incentivise investments but also maximise the development of a digital economy that encourages greater uptake and usage of digital services. This is a principle that has contributed to the growth and innovation of our solutions at SystemSpecs; we listen to client feedback – to understand their preferences, channel usage, their needs and satisfaction – while re-engineering our products to meet their needs, thus inclining people to be more willing to use our solutions and services.
Enhancing sustainable financial inclusion
In order to capitalise on the opportunity to deepen the impact of these solutions, and their ability to truly lift people out of poverty, we must ensure that we truly understand the barriers to adoption. 2017 data from GSMA shows that reasons for limited adoption—beyond a lack of perceived need and lack of money to transact—was a lack of trust and education, which innately are often interlinked.
This predominantly applies to underserved and excluded low-income user groups at the bottom-of-the-pyramid, with lower levels of education and limited experiences with financial services in general. While the current circumstances have created a necessity-based usage, the ability of service providers to create an affinity rests on these two pillars.
The current circumstances in Nigeria have presented providers with a means to better understand the customer groups they cater for and tailor their services to encourage use on a consistent basis, even after the pandemic. Late last year, at the Lagos Business School Financial Inclusion Conference, much of the discussion centred around encouraging prolonged adoption; that is, the continued adoption and use of products and services is dependent on the continued relevance to an individual’s evolving needs and state of being, which ultimately determines the effectiveness of their inclusion.
“Finclusivity”, as it were, does not end at the ‘sign-up’; rather, it carries on to the point at which an individual has been able to leverage the financial resources at their disposal to increase and improve their economic outcomes. Ultimately, a well-rounded financial sector is characterised by the vast availability of payment and other financial services, offered by traditional and non-traditional players including as banks and non-banks. National financial inclusion strategies should, therefore, strive to create and sustain an environment that protects and benefits consumers, without prohibiting growth.
Article was written by John Obaro, Founder, Chief Executive Officer, SystemSpecs Nigeria Ltd.
Renmoney goes digital, downsizes workforce
Workers of Renmoney Microfinance Bank Limited are the latest victims of digital banking, as the bank sacked employees in sales department
When the President of Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN), Uche Olowu, said that 30% of bank jobs would be handled by technology years to come, some critics thought that would only happen in decade(s).
According to the CIBN boss, the increasing acceptance of digital banking would make some departments redundant and that may force some financial institutions would lay off staff in departments like sales and teller. As at 2019, when he made the disclosure, many had thought the development would take a longer period than expected.
Olowu’s projection was confirmed when Renmoney Microfinance Bank issued a statement notifying its stakeholders of its decision to reduce the workforce of the financial institution and affected largely the sales department of the bank. While the bank was silenced on the number of the affected staff, there are reports that over 300 employees were relieved of their duties.
The affected staff of Renmoney were the latest victims of digital banking, as it downsized its workforce after stating that it would no longer conduct direct service for customers.
The Fintech company plans to go fully digital, hence, making its direct sales workers redundant. Operations like loan applications, opening savings or fixed deposit accounts will now be done through digital platforms like mobile apps.
In a statement, Renmoney’s Chief Executive Officer, Kieran Donnelly, stated that, “Over the past 24 months, we have significantly increased our technology capacity and adopted best-in-class data science for credit.”
According to him, Renmoney now possesses technology that can fast-track loan applications and credit disbursements within 24hours.
Donnelly said, “We will have to let go of our direct sales employees and some supporting functions.”
He further stated that Renmoney would roll out a new mobile app for customers to manage their deposits, savings and loan. The sack of these workers is part of the projections made following the rise of digital banking within the country.
Digital Banking affecting jobs: Aside from Renmoney downsizing its workforce, Standard Chartered Bank had also stated that it would not be expanding its branches, as it prefers to focus on digital banking. Nairametrics had reported last year that the future of banks’ staff was being threatened by digitalisation.