Digital banking to the rescue

Nine years after the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) rolled out the cashless banking scheme, many people have come to realise its gains, writes COLLINS NWEZE.

 

As the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic rages, bank customers are also thinking of their health safety while carrying out their transactions. That is where cashless banking comes to mind.

Cashless banking has faced several criticisms since it made its debut nine years ago. From poor quality of service,  double debits, excess cashiers to loss of funds to fraudsters, e-payment users have negative stories to tell.

With COVID-19 on the loose in Nigeria, bank customers were advised to reduce human contacts during their transactions.

As at January 15, 2021, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said there were 107,345 confirmed cases in the country, 84,535 discharged and 1, 413 dead.This scenario provided an opportunity for those that abandoned cashless banking to return.

Hence, the industry has witnessed the widespread use of the e-payment channels – Automated Teller Machines (ATMs), Point of Sale (PoS) terminals, web payment, online transfers and even mobile phones for transactions. These channels are the easiest ways to transact without physical contact, which is the fastest route to spread the coronavirus. Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) are now advising their  customers to use alternative digital channels for their transactions.

Ecobank Nigeria, First Bank, Unity Bank, Wema Bank and Access Bank, among others, have reiterated the gains of cash-less banking.

For instance, customers of Ecobank have been encouraged by the bank to utilise its digital self-service solutions, including Ecobank Mobile App, Ecobank Online, EcobankPay, Ecobank OmniPlus, OmniLite and the RapidTransfer App without having to visit branches. This is part of efforts to ensure social distancing which will help curtail the spread of COVID-19.

According to the bank, customers can “Bank from anywhere” by  utilising digital solutions to easily access their bank accounts, make payments, transfer funds, process salaries, and carry out other ancillary banking transactions from the comfort of their homes and offices without visiting branches. The bank advised that its branches remain open and available to customers who choose to visit to carry out their transactions.  The bank emphasised that its branches are equipped with all prescribed preventive measures.

Also, the bank noted that as part of its self-service options, customers could create virtual cards for eCommerce and other online transactions on the Ecobank Mobile when required. It noted that Ecobank also provides online and digital product assistance through its Chatbot, Rafiki on Ecobank Online or Mobile, and through  24/7 Contact Centres across the group.

The bank reiterated that “standard measures have been put in place at the branches across the group to help curtail the spread. These include provision of temperature checks at all entry points to screen employees, customers and visitors; installation of hand sanitisers; equipping customer-facing staff with emergency response plan;  encouraging social distancing especially from anyone who is coughing or sneezing; educating branch staff on international best practices recommended by the Federal Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation (WHO) and actively updating customers and employees on the COVID-19.

Group Chief Executive Officer, Ecobank Transnational Incorporated (ETI), Ade Ayeyemi said: “This is an unusual, extraordinary and difficult period in time. At Ecobank, we do understand that COVID-19 is impacting a number of people and causing others serious concern and anxiety. We will continue to stay abreast of the situation in order to adapt to changing developments for the good health and well-being of all our customers, employees and communities. Together let’s keep well and safe, following the instructions given to us by the world health experts for our better health.”

And so, for the past nine years since the exercise kicked off in 2012, first in Lagos and later across the country,   cashless banking is gradually becoming a lifestyle with those that failed to embrace the scheme learning the hard way.

Take for instance, Azu Stevens, a 40-year-old entrepreneur, who spends a part of his business time in banking halls making payments to his suppliers of goods.

During one of such visits to a bank in Central Lagos, a cashier who has been monitoring him for years, including his frequent visits to the banking hall, decided to tell him about electronic payments.

“You don’t need to be physically here to pay your suppliers. You can do it at home, or even in your shops or through mobile phone,” the cashier told Stevens.

That was the turning point for the businessman. For the past three years after that encounter, Stevens has never visited the banking hall. His android phone is now his bank.

He is one of the millions of Nigerians that have been captured by the cashless banking fever.

 

CBN’s position

The CBN has admitted that a lot more has to be done in the implementation of the cash-less policy. The regulator has, therefore, urged stakeholders to reduce the use of cash across all segments of the economy while urging the banks to also reduce cost of providing banking services, which many perceive as too high.

According to the regulator, the cashless policy provides safe and efficient mechanisms for making and receiving payments with minimum risks to the CBN, payment service providers and end-users.

“To participate actively in the global economy, our payment system must be successfully bench-marked against the global best practices, as in most developed nations of the world. We have made some significant achievements so far in this journey, but a lot still remains to be done,” it said.

 

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Source: The Nation

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