Dotun Ifebogun, Head, Retail & SME, Wema Bank discusses issues of savings promotions and SME funding in the country.
THE quest for cheap funds has led to introduction of savings promotions in the industry. How effective is this strategy and what is the experience of Wema in this regard?
It is necessary to recognize every customer and reward or appreciate their patronage as well as attract new ones. While promos have been used in many industries for this, it is a very delicate option for the banking business in my view. Banking products and services are intangible unlike the typical FMCG goods where sales once made is conclusive and the goods sold translates to revenue figures instantly. Not always so in banking because it takes time to translate the ‘money’ to ‘money’.
More often than not, the promo objectives of a bank can go beyond the obvious savings message or intent to pure product/corporate awareness campaign, drive for transactional activities, retention or outright corporate image and branding. A bank should properly understand the primary intent, customer preferences and anticipate the unintended outcomes before embarking on a promo because a good promo is a very expensive venture.
While seeking for cheap funds through promos, a bank must understand the match-up between the amounts garnered in the period of the promo and the huge capital expenditure to prosecute the promo.
In the same vein, the ability to satisfy the service demand amplified by the promo must be assured at the time of customer experience. Whether a bank achieves the quest for cheap funds in a savings promo is better answered by the bank, in line with the intended objectives.
As a bank, we prefer a more direct approach to such engagements. We adopt what you call a BTL approach to our reward engagements because we are better able to monitor and analyze success of such promos. In our view, the promo expectations must be clearly defined and promo returns should cover as far as practicable the expenditure profile.
What is the place of SMEs in the economic growth of Nigeria?
The place of SME in every economy cannot be underestimated even more in a developing economy like Nigeria. Statistics have it that Nigeria has over 17million such categories of businesses which are further subdivided into micro, small and medium enterprises. The entire segment accounted for 32.4million employees, according to National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reports and has capacity to absorb more staff, given the right operating environment. Each employee is responsible for at least a 4-member household. In a country with a youth population that is more than half of the entire population, out of which close to 40 percent are unemployed, we just must not neglect the SME. Rather we must ensure the entrepreneurial spirit of the average Nigerian is nurtured in our enlightened self-interests.
We stand to gain a lot (and avert a lot) by keeping our youthful population gainfully employed. Though the challenges are multifaceted, we can change the tide if we remain focused on making the best out of our situation, using the natural resources at our disposal.
How is Wema Bank helping SMEs in the country to grow?
As a bank, we have products and services designed to cater to the needs of the SMEs. Banking products such as Wema Treasure Account (WTA) and MyBusiness Account (MBA) amongst others are suited for the transactional needs of the average SME. Their financing needs are also accommodated across the sub-segments of micro, small and medium to enable better understanding of requirements for growth at each stages of their businesses. This aligns with the business segmentation approach to customer engagement in Wema Bank. I hope you know the foundation of Wema Bank over 70 years ago lies in the niche of providing support for up and coming indigenous businesses, hence it is in our DNA to support SMEs.
Notwithstanding the bank-owned products, we participate actively in other developmental finance packages of the government as enabled by CBN and BOI for the benefit of our customers. To access such funds, we provide extensive advisory services to enable companies qualify for approval and also follow through to ensure judicious utilization and timely repayment.
Though we have dedicated resources in-house for some categories of businesses that fall under SMEs, we also partner with subject matter specialists to consult on and monitor specialized transactions in the overall interest of the bank and our customers.