News Column

'Nigerian Banks Ready for E-Commerce Business'

June 30, 2014

In the estimation of Executive Director, Shared Services, Fidelity Bank Plc, Mrs. Chijioke Ugochukwu, who spoke with Festus Akanbi last week, the teething problems to e-payment mode of banking notwithstanding, Nigerian banks are better positioned to avail Nigerians the opportunity to participate in e-commerce

As the regulatory authorities and other stakeholders in the financial sector move to perfect e-payment mode of banking in a way to keep cybercriminals at bay, some operators believe time has come for Nigeria to join other members of the international community to reap the gains of e-commerce.

To this school of thought, Nigeria, a member of the global market cannot fully maximise its full potentials unless it avails itself of the opportunity provided by e-commerce which has removed boundaries in international businesses.

One of such incurable optimists is the Executive Director, Shared Services, Fidelity Bank Plc, Mrs. Chijioke Ugochukwu. Beating her chest that the future of internet banking is bright in Nigeria, Ugochukwu recalled that in 2012, 32.9 per cent of Nigerians used the internet up from 0.1 per cent in 2001. She believed that a lot of progress had been made with Internet use in other e-commerce areas, for example online shopping sites.

She said: "The same is now applicable to banking. Every banking service from account balance inquiry, funds transfer (domestic and international), cheque book request, cheque confirmation, card requests, card hot-listing, payment of subscriptions, fees, account opening, etc., can now be done online, anywhere and with any device."

According to her, "An in-depth review of customer satisfaction feedback reveals a clear correlation between the superiority of e-channels and customer satisfaction. "When the customer talks, the bank walks. In a nutshell, the future of Internet banking in Nigeria is very bright. The freedom and convenience it provides are major selling points."

Leading by Example Since charity, they say, begins at home, Ugochukwu said her financial institution, Fidelity Bank considers Information Technology (IT) a critical business enabler. "We invest in innovative IT solutions and techniques to reduce the cost of operations and improve the quality of services to customers.

"Some of our achievements from our IT investments include optimisation of our network links and bandwidth, and very successful automation of our business processes. The quality of our services has become uniform across the bank, chiefly due to less human intervention in our automated processes. Also, enhanced security for customer data and stakeholders' assets is another major investment area. We also spoke at length about availability of multiple electronic banking channels for our customers and, highlight too our enhanced online market segmentation and marketing," she said.

Cashless Policy Speaking on the extent to which Fidelity Bank has keyed into the cashless policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria in terms of the volume of infrastructure deployed so far, Ugochukwu said: "Fidelity Bank appreciates the importance and has embraced the cashless policy of the CBN. Fidelity has swiftly implemented the policy through massive deployment of payment infrastructure and sustained awareness campaigns to ensure the buy-in of all stakeholders starting internally with staff of the bank."

She added that "the investments made by the bank towards the transformation of the payment systems in Nigeria include the 100 per cent increase in the number of our Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) over the past two years to almost 640 today. Over 10 per cent of national ATM cash withdrawals pass through Fidelity Bank. Our ATM's consistently exceed 95 per cent availability, while 78 per cent of our customers use the ATMs and usage is consistently on the increase.

"We have significantly upgraded technology and security measures including upgrade of our Internet Banking platform with additional features such as NIP and Tokens (Hard and Soft) for customer's convenience and security. "All payment cards are available to our customers (MasterCard, Visa and Verve) and we have deployed 6000 additional Point of Sale (POS) machines since 2012.

"In the very important area of awareness, the bank recognises the need to win over the hearts and minds of all to ensure we appreciate and enjoy the immense benefits of the cashless era. A fresh nationwide cashless awareness campaign will be kicked off shortly with the launch of the Fidelity movie titled "Five Fingers of Money". This is a down-to-earth, fun and light hearted depiction of the policy's benefits for all.

"We have over time held customer fora and in-branch briefing sessions. We have also put out several online and print media adverts as well as FAQs on our website, e-mails, regular texts, in branch notices, one on one discussions etc. It is a continuous exercise being a major change program."

Driving Mobile Payment The director explained that in keeping with its mission of making financial services easy and accessible, Fidelity Bank was working on expanding its electronic banking platform to include all categories of customers especially at the grassroots to ensure they can access and transact from their accounts (or wallets) anywhere, anytime. Fidelity has obtained a mobile payment license from the CBN to include members of this important customer segment in the financial services space.

She said the bank would shortly deploy agents nationwide with emphasis on a few areas where it does not currently have branch presence to cater for all Nigerians including the unbanked or financially excluded.

Partnership with Telecom Firms Ugochukwu said the mobile payment project rides on mobile network technology making the telecommunication operators strategic and integral to the success of the scheme.

She said: "To assure effective coverage across all locations and to give our customers freedom of choice, we are working with all the major telecom companies to ensure that everyone, no matter where they are or which network they subscribe to, can access our service."

E-Banking Products She said Fidelity offered a wide range of electronic banking products and services. "To mention a few, we have ATM and Card Services partnering with the major names (NCR, Hysong) and (VISA, Interswitch and Master Card) respectively. "Telephone Banking is available 24/7/365 through our contact centre, Fidelity Trueserve (01-448-5252). On-line banking is available on the Fidelity Internet Banking Service. Point of Sale Machines (POS) is deployed nationwide for convenience. Electronic transaction alerts and statement services are available while our funds transfer platforms are truly robust with Fidelity E-Pay, Quick Pay etc. amongst, many other platforms working seamless fully.

"We are PCI-DSS Version 2.0 and ISO 27001 compliant and currently pursuing PCI-DSS Version 3.0 and ISO 27001; 2013 upgrade to continue to enhance the security of our systems in tandem with the highest global standards. We have already touched on mobile banking so I will leave that aspect out for now," the director explained.

She also spoke on the recent award given Fidelity Bank by Deutsche Bank AG. Ugochukwu noted that Deutsche Bank AG provides correspondent banking services globally and clears US dollar payments for Fidelity and many other banks.

"The award is the Deutshe Bank United States Dollar Straight Through Processing (USD STP) Excellence Award, 2013. It's an independent and objective criteria-based award recognising excellence in processing. To win, Fidelity scored 98.87 per cent out of possible 100 per cent in timely and accurate processing of customers' requests," she said.

She however added that the award was unique given the standing of the awarding institution and the fact that Fidelity had consistently come tops since 2010. "In fact, Fidelity was the first Nigerian bank, the first in the West African sub region and second African bank to win the award in 2010 and had consistently won the subsequent editions.

"We are poised to continue to raise the service bar and this is one of the pointers to what we have set our minds to do in terms of service excellence across board," she said.

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Source: AllAfrica

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