Successful retail banking requires redefinition of customers – Wema Bank

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Dotun Ifebogun, Head, Retail & SME, Wema Bank highlights emerging trends in the retail banking space and how they are influencing banks approach to the business.

By Babajide Komolafe

WHAT would you consider as the major trends and challenges in the retail banking space?

Retail banking has evolved significantly and is more about what the customers want done and who can provide it. Current trends have placed customers at the driving seat of retail banking business with the use of technology, and these trends are throwing up various challenges. As Clayton Christensen, the Harvard professor who first coined the theory of disruptive innovation, observed in his book “The Innovator’s Dilemma”, new market values are being created and existing markets disrupted and displaced.

The major trends remain: technology, shifting consumer behaviour and increasing competition. Technology is, however, the most significant because it enables and fuels the others. With access to new, more powerful technology at lower cost, consumers are in the driving seat and are increasingly able to perform financial transactions outside the traditional banking walls.

Incursion of Fintech and other non-financial businesses into the payment and transactional activities that used to be the exclusive preserve of banks has come to stay.

•Dotun Ifebogun

What are the new areas of opportunities in retail banking and how is Wema Bank exploiting these opportunities?

As a bank, we understand the vagaries of the emerging retail banking customers’ and the threats imposed on the business. The observed trends are displacing the traditional banking inter-phases, thereby diminishing/altering the existing business model. To arrest the customers interest therefore, we have to redefine the bank customer hence our business model.

Bank customers are not necessarily account or card holders anymore. They are people that interact at all touch-points (Branches, ATMs, PoS terminals, etc). So, beyond generic products and services, Wema Bank positions for ubiquity by offering channels beyond brick and mortar. Our customers have access across all channels – Online, mobile both structured and Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD). We enable transactions other than basis cash-in, cash-out on every platform.

Wema Bank renders services to organizations by providing payment platforms and solutions for transactions. When necessary, we enable the human touch points required to onboard new to bank customers seamlessly and then transfer them to self-served platforms because we believe banking is no longer where you go but what you do.

More importantly, the impact of technology has thrown up the need for innovation and opportunities for partnerships within the financial ecosystem. We have partnership arrangements with Telcos and Fintechs to support the customer centric demands of the business.

Because financial services are now available to customers on the go, retail banking opportunities now abound in the share of the customer’s life rather than share of wallet. As a bank, we are focused on optimizing every interaction and touch points with customers to up-sell and cross-sell to those customers, to drive revenue.

Wema recently launched a solar-powered mobile branch. What is the philosophy behind the initiative?

First, let me thank you for patronizing our mobile branch. As earlier stated, we understand the ubiquity required of banking services to our customers and non-customers alike, hence the idea behind providing banking on wheels. Banking needs abound everywhere and not just about a branch anymore so we thought it would be fine to be able to move from location to location to make it happen for people.

Despite the efforts towards cashless transaction, the emphasis on cash transaction is still pervasive, hence the pressure on cash points and associated back-up infrastructures. ATMs need power, particularly after banking hours and at weekends and with the poor state of power in our country, the other viable option is solar.

Based on our commitment to partnerships, we worked with one of our partners to deliver the first solar-powered mobile branch to solve the problem of high cost of powering cash points, disappointment of customers when not served at ATM points and the need to replicate a proper bank branch at any required location without incurring huge capital outlay on fixed structures.

As we make Wema Bank accessible on wheels, we also let customers know they have all it takes to bank on the go by ensuring they hook up on all other banking channels on their phones, be it smart phone or ‘palasa’ phones.

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