Usually, when you think about banking, you begin to picture some of the barriers such as queuing, passport submission, ID verification and all sort of complicated processes. However, the rise of digital banking is making all of these a thing of the past as these platforms are helping to ease the process of banking for individuals and businesses.
Allawee, a corporate card company based in Nigeria, is one of such that lets businesses handle their spending in a very streamlined process and manner. The fintech is a short term credit card that is offered to businesses to pay for anything – from Uber trips to fuel payments and others, anywhere payments are accepted in Nigeria.
Speaking during Nairametrics Business Half Hour Programme, Ikenna Enenwali, co-founder and CEO, Allawee, explained that the business was started on the foundation of wanting to help solve problems of inefficiencies and leakages – as it is done abroad – that businesses have to suffer, which adds extra headache for the finance team in terms of reconciling and tagging up expenses.
He said, “Corporate card is a thing that existed in the UK and America, and that’s something we experienced being there, and so we said this is something that Nigerian companies need. The need was really amplified when we began to talk to business owners and see where we can come in. The fact is that there is a massive gap that banks and fintechs are not currently offering, and we decided to block that leakage.”
Unlike a traditional debit cards, the corporate card comes with a variety of things such as the spend control that limits companies to a specific spend set by the finance team. For instance, cards issued to drivers could be programmed in a way that it is used only in fuel stations. In addition to this unique feature, Allawee leverages innovation when it comes to offering products and services. Its app also gives access to visibilities of all spending whilst allowing the businesses to be in control.
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He noted, “This is a breath of fresh air for finance teams where, as they are able to see expenses cleared because Allawee is integrated into the payment network, we get that payment levy data so they can’t really lie. This is something that is actually going to help both the employee and the employers because nobody really likes filling out expense report, and finance teams don’t Iike chasing people for expense report. Building an all in one solution is really the answer and our platform also enables the simplest reimbursement.”
He explained how the software is the main product when it comes to expense management. According to him, “Once a card is swiped, we have automatically categorized and tagged that transaction and so the finance team doesn’t have to spend hours tagging that. That software update is really what brings us together and also the fact that we offer a very different type of credit service. It is called a 24hour pay tomorrow; we offer that to businesses because there are several scenarios where you may not actually need credit because you don’t have money, you just need credit because your bank might be down and you need to make a very critical transfer, so we stand in the gap in times like this for our customers.”
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The beauty of all these, however, is that there is a real time dashboard where clients can login and track transactions – even on their mobile app. The mobile app also allows clients to approve or deny transactions, and get reimbursed. “Nobody likes carrying a pocket full of receipt around, it’s very stressful. Once you’ve made a company payment, all you need to do is take a picture of it, we automatically tag that receipt to the transactions and it’s good to go, he noted.”
Ikenna gave credit to the fintech regulators for pushing Nigeria’s fintech sector to be among the best globally. “When you look at our payment systems, we are probably 6 or 7 now in terms of our real time payment system around the world in terms of volume of transactions. One of the greatest things that happened to us was, the CBN putting together the Real Time Gross Payment Settlement System. What that means is that, you send money from one bank and it gets to the other bank instantly, and that actually is a milestone not available in some advance countries.”
Meanwhile, he noted that there is still a lot that needs to be done to further make the financial sector attractive in terms of penetration. He said, “There is still a lot that needs to be done because having a bank account is only one bit of financial inclusion. Financial inclusion has to do with a whole lot more like investment loans, which is also very big partners deposits, but we focus too much on deposits, opening service accounts for people in the markets. We forget that is not the only product when it comes to financial inclusion, there’s insurance and a whole bunch of other things.”
While Nigeria is a massive market for the Allawee, in the coming months, it wants to look into other African countries like Ghana and Kenya because it sees that there are a lot of similarities in the problems, amounting to a large opportunity for the fintech.
On challenges that Allawee faces as a business, he said, “The challenges are related to what most businesses face in Urban Nigerian, one of which is team. You need to be able to get really great people who have done it before – 0f course your team does not need to be filled with people who have done it before, but a good deal amount. It is harder to find some of those people in Nigeria, but easier to find them in advanced countries.
“Putting together a really great team is a massive challenge for every Nigerian business owner. I’ve been definitely lucky to be able to put together a great team so far but definitely know that that is one of the main challenges and it certainly doesn’t stop. It is all about having the right people that will make you win.”