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NIBSS: Deepening financial inclusion in Nigeria ‘sharp sharp’

The NQR has the potential to override customer suspicion of the financial services industry.

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When the issue is money, Nigerians are quite impatient. Forget the talk of our being the happiest people on earth, which, ordinarily, should have made us a bit more open and trusting of others. If in doubt, consider this: banking halls are largely filled by angry and fearful customers most Monday mornings, why? These are people who generally believe they had been dealt a bad hand by technology and a system they intensely distrust. Often, the problem is one of ‘dispense error’ by ATM’s, point-of-sale (POS) terminals, or failed transfers during transactions over the weekend. Few of these customers are in any good mood to listen to rational explanations by customer service staff that the errors are usually self-correcting or that the money is not lost. From any distance, you could almost hear their heavy sigh of relief when the errors are eventually ‘reversed’.

Owing to these problems, the financial services community in Nigeria has perpetually been kept on its toes by customers who are most unwilling to avail the system any benefit of the doubt. On the upside, however, operators have never quite rested on their laurels as they continually seek to re-invent and innovate. This has in turn occasioned the need for global benchmarks to deepen the system, ensure stability in the financial ecosystem and engender financial inclusion, especially amongst those who would otherwise have been left out.

Perhaps, the best evidence yet of a revolution in service delivery in the financial system was the birth of the Nigeria Interbank Settlement System (NIBSS) in 1993. In 38 years, NIBSS has positively impacted the financial services sector to the extent that customers appear to have easily forgotten how far they have travelled to get good delivery of services. Take, for example, the settlement of payments for transactions between individuals or merchants. Hitherto, the clearing of upcountry cheques took a minimum of 21 days. By 2002, the clearing cycle had significantly reduced to T+5, that is, transaction day plus five days for upcountry transactions and T+3 for local transactions. By 2013, the clearing cycle had further reduced to T+1 nationwide. In the present time, customers even enjoy instant bank transfers.

Though faster than existing payment systems, NQR was designed essentially as a complementary, not exclusionary payment platform. This is a good development, as it offers customers an additional digital payment option to consummate financial transactions. For this latter reason, NIBSS has assured users that NQR will “unify available closed QR code schemes in the country for consistent user experience and acceleration of digital adoption.”

For me, the beauty of the introduction of the NQR is that it has the potential to override customer suspicion of the financial services industry. In a nation where everyone wants things to happen ‘sharp, sharp’ because everyone is perpetually in a hurry, the solution makes it much easier to affirm the confidence-building notion of ‘seeing is believing.’ This is because the solution, as it were, is in everyone’s hands. All that is required is for a merchant to register with their bank of choice and to display the QR code generated to receive payments in their outlet. The Payer/customer, on the other hand, only needs to select the NQR option on their bank’s mobile application and scan the displayed NQR Codes to make payment to the merchant. Merchants and payers get instant notification of payment made. Problem solved.

In this age of social distancing brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, one cannot but appreciate the thinking that went into the conception of the NQR, which helps to ensure minimal contact between the customers and merchants because it is cashless, card-less, and seamless. The process is made possible by the fact that QR codes, by design, capture a high quantum of information that could easily be accessed via various mobile devices. Since the process is transparent and acknowledged to be free of known security flaws, the basis of suspicion in financial transactions is virtually removed so, as it were, everyone can sleep easy.

On Monday, 15 March 2021, NIBSS upped the ante with the launch of the ‘Quick Response (QR) Payment Solution,’ which is a robust platform that delivers instant cash value for person-to-business or person-to-person transactions. This is done by simply scanning the machine-readable code to effect instant payment and receipt between customers and merchants. With the launch of the solution, NIBSS demonstrated, in the words of its Chief Executive, Mr Premier Oiwoh, that the financial services industry follows innovation, not tradition. This, to me, is good news for customers granting the ease of use any time commercial transactions on a globally accepted platform.

However, for all the acknowledged benefits of the NQR, the project owners still have work to do. First is the need to create wide awareness of the solution, the more so as Nigerians are not known to be early adopters of global trends, except perhaps in fashion and entertainment. It also stands to reason that cost per transaction will be a key factor in the quick adoption of the NQR payment solution, especially if customers find the solution to be cheaper than what obtains on existing transaction platforms. All said, NIBSS needs to be commended for its never-ending quest at developing solutions that engender peace of mind for customers.

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Dotun Adekambi, a marketing consultant and author, writes from Lagos.

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Content Partners

AXA Mansard records 56% growth in profits after taxes audited

According to the company, investment and other income of N7.09 billion, up 25 per cent from5.67 billion.

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AXA Mansard to downsize business activities, awaits shareholders’ approval 

AXA Mansard Insurance Plc, a member of the AXA Group, has recorded 56 percent growth in profit after taxes audited of N4.54bn, up 56% from N2.91bn in December 2019

In a statement by the company, gross written premium of N47.58 billion, up 9 per cent from N43.62 billion while Net Premium Income of N31.72 billion, up 21 per cent from N26.29bn in December 2019

According to the company, investment and other income of N7.09 billion, up 25 per cent from5.67 billion; operating expenses of N7.7 billion, up 3 per cent N7.51billion, while profit before tax of N6.04 billion, up58 per cent from N3.83 billion recorded in December 2019.

Commenting on the results, Mrs. Ngozi Ola-Israel, the Chief Financial Officer said. “It was a challenging year, but we achieved strong growth in PAT (56%) and Underwriting profits (22%). We managed operating costs at a low level of growth of3% despite COVID headwinds and inflation. We remain committed to delivering excellent underwriting, investment and operating performance while focusing on the satisfaction of our customers and stakeholders.

Speaking on the financial development of the firm at the end of December 2020, the Chief Executive Officer, AXA Mansard Insurance, Kunle Ahmed, said “The 2020 full Year financial record is a proof of our ability to continually support customers to achieve their goals even in the midst of difficult and challenging times.

“With the support of our partners and through the harnessing of our distribution network, we achieved remarkable growth on our Health and P & C lines throughout the year. We are pleased that our continued effort to build a resilient non-bank financial services institution is yielding positive results”

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FirstBank launches a new corporate website, reiterates its commitment to service delivery excellence

The new website is upgraded with features that are streamlined to reinforce its role in delivering seamless banking and technology solutions.

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First bank, Dr. Adesola Adeduntan, CEO, FirstBank

FirstBank, Nigeria and indeed West Africa’s premier financial inclusion services provider has announced the launch of its newly designed website at https://www.firstbanknigeria.com/.  The new website is upgraded with features that are streamlined to reinforce its role in delivering seamless banking and technology solutions to its customers across the world.

The website is configured with modern design and improved functionality that eases customer experience whilst carrying out various activities on the site, including electronic banking. Non-customers are also able to open an account, putting them at an edge in the industry as they establish a relationship with the Bank that puts YOU, its customers, First.

The new website seamlessly adopts a fresh, magazine-style look and feel for easy navigation in order to promote the access to essential information for its customers, FirstMonie agents, prospective agents and the public. This upgrade also guides one to make well-informed decisions about one’s personal, business and private financial needs.

Dr. Adesola Adeduntan, CEO of FirstBank Group, while speaking on the launch of the New Corporate Website, said that “as one of the key contact points to existing and potential customers, the Bank’s website remains a gateway to our business, supporting our unique value propositions and financial services solutions. As such, we are committed to continuously improve the overall user experience through intriguing content quality, exciting features and ease of navigation’’.

He further noted that “the Bank’s new website will be updated on a regular basis with exciting features that will continue to reinforce the Bank’s resolve to promote digital customer interactions and transactions across our virtual touchpoints and platforms’’.

Concluding, he remarked that ‘’the website will also serve as a financial services library that will keep customers and the public abreast of various financial services solutions and offerings, thereby helping them to improve their economic and social wellbeing’’. He encouraged everyone to explore the website and follow the Bank’s social media pages for updates.

FirstBank has continued to evolve over the years, successfully adopting the latest technology and embracing innovation in its quest to be African’s bank of first choice.

About FirstBank

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First Bank of Nigeria Limited (FirstBank) is the premier Bank in West Africa and the leading financial inclusion services provider in Nigeria for over 126 years.

With over 750 business locations and over 86,300 Banking Agents spread across 99% of the 774 Local Government Areas in Nigeria, FirstBank provides a comprehensive range of retail and corporate financial services to serve its over 30 million customers. The Bank has international presence through its subsidiaries, FBN Bank (UK) Limited in London and Paris, FBNBank in the Republic of Congo, Ghana, The Gambia, Guinea, Sierra-Leone and Senegal, as well as a Representative Office in Beijing.

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The Bank has been handy at promoting digital payment in the country and has issued over 10million cards, the first bank to achieve such a milestone in the country. FirstBank’s cashless transaction drive extends to having more than 10million people on its USSD Quick Banking service through the nationally renowned *894# Banking code and over 4.5 million people on FirstMobile platform.

Since its establishment in 1894, FirstBank has consistently built relationships with customers focusing on the fundamentals of good corporate governance, strong liquidity, optimised risk management and leadership. Over the years, the Bank has led the financing of private investment in infrastructure development in the Nigerian economy by playing key roles in the Federal Government’s privatisation and commercialisation schemes. With its global reach, FirstBank provides prospective investors wishing to explore the vast business opportunities that are available in Nigeria, an internationally competitive world-class brand and a credible financial partner.

FirstBank has been named “Most Valuable Bank Brand in Nigeria” six times in a row (2011 – 2016) by the globally renowned “The Banker Magazine” of the Financial Times Group; “Best Retail Bank in Nigeria” for seven consecutive years (2011 – 2017) by the Asian Banker International Excellence in Retail Financial Services Awards and “Best Bank in Nigeria” by Global Finance for 15 years. Our brand purpose is always to put customers, partners and stakeholders at the heart of our business, even as we standardise customer experience and excellence in financial solutions across sub-Saharan Africa, in consonance with our brand vision “To be the partner of the first choice in building your future”.

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Our brand promise is always to deliver the ultimate “gold standard” of value and excellence. This commitment is anchored on our inherent values of passion, partnership and people, to position You First in every respect.

www.firstbanknigeria.com

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