Assessing Firstbank’s Role in Promoting Digitalisation of Banking Services

The future Banking Tech West African was held in Lagos recently with speaker from tech companies and users of tech products. First Bank of Nigeria was a leading sponsor of the event where Dr. Sola Adeduntan, Managing Director and CEO, made a case for the banks’ digitalisation efforts as survival strategies. David Audu reports.

As the reality dawns that the future of profitable banking and seamless customer experience lies in the ability of commercial banks to embrace innovation, digital and technological offerings, some banks have now  taken the bull by the horns by adopting options that will enhance banking experiences.

This has become apt as the customers of today have become increasingly savvy in making choices, especially, with the convenience which technology offers in banking transactions.

Today, the digitalisation of banking services aimed at reducing risk, improve efficiency and better customers service now allows customers to withdraw money, apply for loans, make payments online or on their smartphone and much more. Looking to the future of banking, experts believe digital is no longer an option for firms who wish to survive – it has become a must.

A brand expert once says that bank management that becomes lethargic in embracing innovation, implying digital technology is destined for extinction.

Rightly so, we have seen quite a few banks kissing the dust in recent times for lack of, or not taking the right steps at the right time by being pragmatic towards innovation.

Some big companies and known brand names are now dead and have become reference point of yesterday’s achievement for failing to sail by the winds of the time. Today, technology in all of its ramifications is the soul of business.

When it comes to retail banks going digital, according to Simon Paris, Chief Executive Officer of Finastra, a FinTech company, there are two elements of description: digitisation and digitalisation.

Paris defines digitisation to mean converting into digital format anything which is currently manual or paper-based whereas digitalizing to mean a whole new way of thinking.

While security and cost-efficiency are among strong motivators for banks, the true value of digitalisation is what it can do for the customer.

“Digital banking makes life easier for consumers,” says Ian Bradbury, Chief Technology Officer for financial services at Fujitsu.

“People are increasingly enjoying the simplicity of managing all their finances in one place, setting up automatic payments or making deposits, anytime and anywhere, without the need to queue in a bank.

“Once digitisation is complete, banks can start exploring revolutionary business processes which were not available to them before, from iris recognition to artificial intelligence to offer superior banking services”.

Digital transformation looks different in every industry and every company.

In general terms, it is the integration of digital technology into all areas of a business. That integration leads to fundamental changes in how the business operates and delivers value to its customers.

Banks running on a digital core can see reduced costs and streamlined processes.

This end-to-end integration also helps provide a more seamless, engaging customer experience. And it makes room for further business transformation with new digital technologies like blockchain and artificial intelligence.

Today, machine-learning is disrupting many organisations by enhancing their experience in smart ways and efficiently resolving their problems.

As one observer noted, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine-learning will now allow banks to spot patterns and solve customer problems at a fraction of the current speed in a very cost-efficient manner. “It’s about making informed assumptions about the future that will drive customer value.”

This second wave of disruption will have a powerful impact, transforming the banking industry and with it the customer journey.

Now is the time for banks to seize the opportunities technology presents to shift to the next gear. Because if there is one thing we can bet on, it is that time waits for no bank.

Therefore, banks globally are now leveraging technology to reinvent the banking business model and Nigerian banks are not left behind.

Indeed, First Bank, whose reinvention and rejuvenation has become Africa’s brand success story has in recent times not failed to tell whoever cares to listen that digitalisation has been at the core of the flying elephant.

Presenting a paper during the Future Banking Tech West Africa in Lagos, Dr Sola Adeduntan, Group Managing Director and CEO of First Bank of Nigeria, said the banking behaviour of customers has changed as well as their attitude towards banks and their expectations over the years.

Adeduntan, who was speaking on the ‘Future of Customer Experience and User Experience in West Africa’s Banking Sector’, while zeroing in on ‘Whatsapp Banking’ said trust and loyalty, which are critical elements in banks and customer relationships, have change as today’s customers have become less loyal, switching their main banks very often due to decline in satisfaction and trust less as customers’ confidence in banks have decreased over the years.

deduntan also noted that today’s bank customers are hyper-connected, highly informed, emotional, value-driven with ready-to-share personal information mindset as well as place higher emphasis on improved experience, and are therefore, ready to pay more for services.

Describing further the characteristics of bank customers in this age, he said today’s bank customers have elevated expectations for personalised banking products and services suited to specific needs, noting that at any place, at any time banking service must be available for them with greater flexibility and more options on banking channels.

As such the bank customers of now as well as of the future are therefore seeking for real-time interactions and pin-point accuracy of personalised engagements.

“The Banks that are winning and that will continue to win in the future are those that are able to deliver on both fronts for the customers through unique capabilities”.

Adeduntan noted that having realised that Africa with an expected population of 1.6 billion by 2025 Population and a ‘hotbed’ of innovation, First Bank has therefore, zeroed in with breath taking innovative reforms expected to align with present demand and customer expectations.

He said that the new era of digital transformation in African banking space will be defined by customer and user experience, noting that this will entail a shift from the old mindset to an experience mindset. 

“The future of customer and user experience (CX/UX) in the African banking sector will be driven by specific trends that will ultimately lead to the unlocking of enormous potential in the African financial services sector.

Explaining further the strides of The First Bank Case Experience using the WhatsApp Banking, Adedutan said the bank is delivering ‘contextual personalized insights at the right time by leveraging analytics.

“WhatsApp has over 1.5 billion users, and records over 65 billion messages daily. As a forward-looking and innovation-driven organization, First Bank is one of the few Banks that are already using WhatsApp Banking solution to deliver unique customer and user experiences.

“First Bank’s Chat Banking offering delivers improved customer experience by enabling customers seamlessly and securely perform banking transactions via the everyday WhtasApp messaging platform.

“Customers can buy airtime and data; check balance and make basic enquiry. The customer can also make bank transfers and pay bills. It also enables customers to make both intra and interbank transfers in a secured manner via the WhatsApp messaging platform.

The bank during the flag off of its 125th anniversary earlier in the year reiterated its efforts in integrating the digital features of modern banking services. 

“We are reimagining and re-engineering how we work. We have started to aggressively leverage technology, disruptive cerebral thinking and internet of things to improve our internal processes and make service delivery seamless.

“We are aware that to compete in this age, we need to lean heavily on technology, hence, our aspiration to digitise the way we work. It’s not enough to develop new and exciting products for our customers; we believe it’s also critical to innovate around how we work”, Adeduntan stated.

He said building a digital bank for this generation and the next requires re-engineering the bank’s core IT infrastructure to improve on overall service delivery levels across all key infrastructure parameters in terms of speed, performance, availability, security, scalability.

“This will enable us to deliver great customer experiences, take advantage of new digital technologies to reduce costs, improve quality, ensure transparency, and create value. We are building the next-generation digital bank”

Culled from Independent

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