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THE TOP 4 EMERGING DIGITAL BANKS IN NIGERIA by Celestine Achi



       Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future

Digital is changing the world as well as the way banking is perceived by today’s digital consumer - the Generation Y.  By far, the most frequent touch point between financial institutions and their digital consumers today is online. We believe the banking industry is on the verge of a huge leap forward and that a tremendous opportunity exists in designing a better online banking experience. 


To stay profitable and grow in the new digital economy, banks need to adopt a customer-centric business model, diversify online delivery of products and services channels, and begin making meaning from valuable trails of digital information. There is no question that banking is quickly becoming a digital business, supported by enhanced online and mobile experiences from traditional financial institutions as well as new market entrants. But how ready is the banking community for this transformation?


We also cannot over emphasize the rapid rise in the use of the internet and mobile devices, and the accompanying expansion of social media and data analytics, that is increasingly changing the way businesses operate. According to Mary Meeker who delivers an annual Internet Trends Report each year, there are now 2.8 billion Internet users globally, up 8% in 2014, and 2.1 billion smartphone users, up 23 percent in 2014.




More than ever, one cannot but notice the increasingly on-demand nature of the digital consumer today with the orientation that they can get what they want whenever they want it, an orientation that fundamentally changes the underpinnings of business. These digital experiences and the way consumers interact digitally have the potential to impact the financial services industry more than any other.


The digital Nigerian customers of today now expects and look forward to an integrated, on demand, quality experience and convenient real-time banking services via a combination of digital and personal assets. While many Nigerian banks have focused their digital investments on digitizing transactions or what I choose to call transactional engagement as a means of reducing their brick and mortar cost, less has been done to make the Nigerian digital consumers’ banking experience more convenient, easy and engaging through a seamless integration of channels and engagement. 



In fact, many of the comments made by a selected number of social influencers in the discussion revolved around the lack of focus on consumer engagement and the ability to improve the customer experience by Nigerian Banks



“It is a sad development, especially considering that online real time banking was rolled out almost at the same time across the financial services ecosystem, A lot of us would have expected a swifter adoption of technology to deep banking experience but what we have had are cherry-picking of modules that serve today's transactional needs,” stated Ikem Okuhu, the publisher of Brandish.com, a PR consultant and seasoned journalist.


Ikem Okuhu (Publisher, Brandish.com)


According to Ikem, there have been a few developments on the upside at the level of some of the banks but it all ends mostly in PR leverage of a platform to reach any meaningful touchpoint. The bulk of the bankers are taking the digital revolution for granted but they fail to realise the clear and present danger. For instance, when Mobile Money birthed, the banks had to cry to protectionist CBN which gave them a buffer, otherwise the telcos would have taken over banking. But this is still a dangerous bend because in the area of experience and excitement, telcos are in pole position to deliver. The banks are lost in yesterday and are losing badly. Some are getting better. Others are standing at a point watching the world disappear into the distance”



While lower acquisition costs and lower distribution costs are key metrics for telcos and neo-banks such as mobile money, their ability to generate business purely through digital is the biggest single threat to the existing model of retail financial services in Nigeria.


The impact of not being able to provide the digital capabilities customers desire is difficulty in defending against more nimble, low-cost, digital-only entrants that are increasingly grabbing market share. The cost of losing these digital natives can be high.


The 4 Emerging Digital Banks of Tomorrow in Nigeria


In fact, in a an independent survey of 8,112 digital banking consumers across Facebook and Twitter, I found out that the three emerging digital banks of tomorrow to watch and commend for their effort in focusing on consumer engagement as against the notorious transactional engagement in Nigeria are:


Guaranty Trust Bank: Guaranty Trust Bank is number one having carved a niche across the social enterprise and mobile, offering that personal touch and experience to digital natives.



Access Bank: Access Bank funny enough is increasingly registering its presence as a digital bank of tomorrow to watch; although the excitement around the brand is still very shallow out there.



DiamondBank: Diamond Bank is also one to remember having revolutionized their mobile banking experience to digital natives and to digital entrepreneurs.



First Bank: First Bank of recent has also stepped up and transformed their digitization to a more consumer-centric approach. Moving away from the transactional form of engagement they have been known for over the years.




The Bank of the Future


In a recent industry report by Accenture, the adoption of digital technologies is the key to restoring profitability and shaping new business models. Most mainstream banks simply aren’t using technology smartly enough to deliver the transformation they need. At the same time, some of their pioneering peers have recognized that every business is now (or should be) a digital business and they are starting to position themselves as digital winners.


Nigerian Banks should answer the clarion call to focus more on consumer engagement as a critical step towards meeting the needs of today’s digital natives and specifically the needs of today’s digital Consumer. The current digital consumer no longer sets their expectations based on just digital tools alone but their expectations today are being formed by the experiences the banks offer at the different digital touchpoints.



The digital banks of tomorrow in Nigeria should be banks for the individual offering a broad range of services and products, but focusses on gaining an in-depth knowledge of individual customers in order to be more able to meet their specific needs and encourages interaction between cus­tomers through online platforms, private messaging, chats and fo­rums. The characteristics of the “Bank of the Future” are twofold. It promotes open archi­tecture and interactivity between clients. The combination of both elements is a guarantee the bank’s objectivity.

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