At the official unveiling of Stanbic IBTC Bank’s digital branch at the Maryland Mall, Lagos, Deputy Managing Director, Stanbic IBTC Bank, Dr. Demola Sogunle, spoke on Stanbic IBTC Bank’s digital banking revolution and the bank’s growth strategy, among other issues. Excerpts:
Can you tell us about the new digital branch that was unveiled by Stanbic IBTC?
This is our very first fully digital branch and for us at Stanbic IBTC, this is the beginning of a new phase with regards to customer interface, the reach of our channels and access to products and services. For us in the banking industry, we believe that digital is here to stay as the future of banking, self-service environment.
What prompted the bank to embark on this initiative?
With over 80 million Nigerians are on the internet, we believe that we should be able to take value to them online whilst providing same to other Nigerians at our traditional channels. Our overarching objective is to empower the customer even further by providing him self-service options in the comfort of a branch, this means he is able to do all of his transactions with little human interaction.
What distinguishes this digital branch from any other e-branch?
It is a fully digital branch. It is an entirely paperless, self-service environment, which speaks completely, to the aspirations of the customer with a millennial mindset. So whatever you want to do, you can come into the branch, go to any of the points and you are able to pay, collect cash or make enquiries. Everything is available for you; there is very little interface with human beings. When it comes to access to internet products and services, people with millennial mindsets are very conversant with everything that has to do with self-service and internet access. We believe that we are helping the customer improve productivity through these digital branches.
No doubt the Stanbic IBTC digital branch strategy is one important way to reach the unbanked population. What other plans are in place to attract the unbanked population?
Yes it is, even though there are still over 90 million unbanked in the country, we know we have more Nigerians with SIM cards and mobile phones, which makes it easier and cheaper to reach them. What we are trying to do with mobile and internet banking is to make banking faster, more convenient and a lot easier for our clients in such a way that their banking experience is seamless. Our newly upgraded mobile app represents yet another avenue through which the unbanked can be reached. Using technology provides us with the opportunity to develop competitive products and services that will help bring the unbanked into the banking system. It is not cost effective to try to open branches in every part of the country. But the moment we deploy technology via internet and mobile banking, it becomes easier for customers, even those in places where we do not have a physical presence, to access financial products and services. It is very easy for us to do and we would continue to push the technology envelope to reach the unbanked population.
Economic challenges have negatively impacted the profitability of the financial services industry. The industry’s NPL portfolio has risen over the past three years while deposits are dropping. How has technology helped banks, Stanbic IBTC Bank specifically, to cope in this period?
Any serious business continues with a future market will have to take digitisation quite seriously. At Stanbic IBTC, we have long embraced digitalization to strengthen our operations and processes, make them more accessible, efficient and cost effective. Today’s customers demand faster services without compromising quality. With technology, the turnaround time for quality service delivery is constantly getting reduced and we are also able to bring down costs, which is very important if we must boost profitability. So, one of our coping mechanism is to fully embrace technology, which has helped us provide unmatched innovative solutions, like this digital branch, the Stanbic IBTC mobile app, our internet banking, among others. We also ensure we have a highly experienced and motivated workforce. As a result, we regularly exceed clients’ expectations. This has helped the business. If you check our nine months financial result to September 2016, we did well, in spite of the economic challenges.
In any case, there are and always will be challenges but those challenges present opportunities as well; The important thing is that as a bank we are always ready and prepared to weather the storm and come out in a stronger position. We are here to deliver services to our customers for the long haul and we are ready to go through all these challenges to fulfill our obligations and responsibilities to all stakeholders: customers, shareholders, staff members and the communities within which we operate.
Stanbic IBTC has a large customer base of multinationals, and currently there are foreign currency issues. How has the bank been coping with this?
Well we continue to try our best to satisfy our customers’ demand as much as possible to ensure their businesses do not suffer. We continue to explore genuine avenues to source for our forex. We tap into these avenues to provide forex for our clients whenever they need it. For instance, from our custody business, through Stanbic IBTC Nominee, we get forex inflows. Given the fact that we have the biggest custody business when it comes to custody business for foreign investors, we tend to see forex inflows. Our global market is also very strong in terms of trading forex and we have got our parent company, Standard Bank. We have had to combine these sources to ensure that we are able to continue to provide something that is very scarce but very important to many of our customers. We have got commitments and we are trying our best to continue to fulfill these commitments to our customers given the forex liquidity challenges.
You mobile app has been newly upgraded. Can you tell us a bit about it and the safety nets attached to this app?
It is a product co-created with the customer; our customers and other stakeholders contributed significantly in designing it, this way, we have ensured that the app fits the precise need of our customers and as every app, we will keep updating. A lot of thoughts also went into making this app well encrypted and safe to use. We have no doubt it is a fantastic product that we have put out there. Everyone who has used the app has commended it. The functionality of the app is impressive. You can do both banking and investment transactions on it.
Going forward, what should we expect from Stanbic IBTC?
Mobile and indeed e- banking is the future of banking; Stanbic IBTC is keen to be at the cutting edge of the customer service and technology is a major way to achieve this. We would therefore continue to innovate and improve our services and ensure this is made available to our customers where ever they are.