Opinion: Seismic shift underway in Nigeria's digital banking
Many in the payments industry have been predicting so for years. That digital payments are inevitable for the future.
It's only a matter of time, the experts said over and over again.
But while the technology has continued to take over commerce worldwide, digital payments in Africa have not neared anywhere close to global adoption rates.
The challenges with developing the digital payment sector in the sub-Saharan continent are well catalogued. Challenging infrastructure, low income levels and the well-established virtues of cash – immediacy, ubiquity and trust – have all constrained the development of electronic payments in African countries.
In Nigeria, cash has remained king and financial services have remained stagnant despite decades of efforts to do away with old-fashioned paper money.
That was, until COVID-19 hit. In the aftermath of the virus outbreak, we have seen digital banking emerge across Nigeria with heightening consumer demand for efficient ways to access banking records and complete financial transactions outside physical branches and traditional card payments.
The fear of paper currency as a carrier for coronavirus has jolted the banking sector into massive digital disruption, signalling a powerful inflection point for payments in Africa. And we see this as just the start of the shift in how consumers, merchants and issuers choose to transact.
At Network International, we remain committed to fostering agile innovation by deploying our best-in-class technology to support digital and financial inclusion of Nigerian consumers and businesses
Online deposit, mobile banking apps, cards and e-bills payment have become the norm overnight, with card and virtual card payments becoming one of the most important non-cash transaction channels.
With the power to oust physical currency, the potential of plastic as a medium of exchange is unrivalled. Banks that build their Issuance business now not only contribute to the foundation on which this transition can take place, but also position themselves to reap the rewards of this seismic fundamental shift.
As banks work to respond to the increased demand for digital payments induced by the pandemic, banks needed to tap into the considerable advantages held by our African markets including our youth demographic.
While the rest of the world is ageing, the median age of the population in Africa is just 19, compared to Europe at 42, for example. The young people of Africa have been increasingly engaging with financial products in different ways, ready to trail blaze the use of modern payment services.
This proliferation of digital banking prompted Network International to gain first mover advantage and lead the transformation in Nigeria by partnering and providing issuance solutions to financial institutions to help them respond to the changing needs of their customers.
Additionally, in the current economic climate, banks in Nigeria have been able to tap into our experience and expertise in creating virtual card solutions (VC) for emerging markets. Issuers also benefit from Network's advanced digital infrastructure and robust security protocols, avoiding the need to invest in expensive card management infrastructure.
As we power digital transactions with the capability to issue virtual cards through API Integration connected to existing channels of financial institutions such as mobile, Internet banking and ATMs, we believe the potential exists for banks to multiply returns from virtual card Issuance. Banks that incorporate virtual payment cards into their business strategy also gain greater opportunity to cross-sell other products and services.
Virtual card issuance has the potential to transform into a strategic, high value generating asset for banks, while allowing bank customers to enjoy the convenience, flexibility, safety and security of cashless payments to fulfil their financial and lifestyle needs.
We remain committed to fostering agile innovation by deploying our best-in-class technology to support digital and financial inclusion of Nigerian consumers and businesses. Because, ultimately, furthering digital adoption is going to be dependent on the people, platform and partnership.
Cash may not be gone just yet. But with this fundamental change accelerated by Covid-19, our payments ecosystem has now truly been ordained and will have profound implications for people, businesses, and society.
SAS: Improving the British Army’s decision making with data
SAS’ long-standing relationship with the British Army is built on mutual respect and grounded by a reciprocal understanding of each others’ capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Roderick Crawford, VP and Country GM for SAS UKI, states that the company’s thorough grasp of the defence sector makes it an ideal partner for the Army as it undergoes its own digital transformation.
“Major General Jon Cole told us that he wanted to enable better, faster decision-making in order to improve operational efficiency,” he explains. Therefore, SAS’ task was to help the British Army realise the “significant potential” of data through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to automate tasks and conduct complex analysis.
In 2020, the Army invested in the SAS ‘Viya platform’ as an overture to embarking on its new digital roadmap. The goal was to deliver a new way of working that enabled agility, flexibility, faster deployment, and reduced risk and cost: “SAS put a commercial framework in place to free the Army of limits in terms of their access to our tech capabilities.”
Doing so was important not just in terms of facilitating faster innovation but also, in Crawford’s words, to “connect the unconnected.” This means structuring data in a simultaneously secure and accessible manner for all skill levels, from analysts to data engineers and military commanders. The result is that analytics and decision-making that drives innovation and increases collaboration.
Crawford also highlights the importance of the SAS platform’s open nature, “General Cole was very clear that the Army wanted a way to work with other data and analytics tools such as Python. We allow them to do that, but with improved governance and faster delivery capabilities.”
SAS realises that collaboration is at the heart of a strong partnership and has been closely developing a long-term roadmap with the Army. “Although we're separate organisations, we come together to work effectively as one,” says Crawford. “Companies usually find it very easy to partner with SAS because we're a very open, honest, and people-based business by nature.”
With digital technology itself changing with great regularity, it’s safe to imagine that SAS’ own relationship with the Army will become even closer and more diverse. As SAS assists it in enhancing its operational readiness and providing its commanders with a secure view of key data points, Crawford is certain that the company will have a continually valuable role to play.
“As warfare moves into what we might call ‘the grey-zone’, the need to understand, decide, and act on complex information streams and diverse sources has never been more important. AI, computer vision and natural language processing are technologies that we hope to exploit over the next three to five years in conjunction with the Army.”
Fundamentally, data analytics is a tool for gaining valuable insights and expediting the delivery of outcomes. The goal of the two parties’ partnership, concludes Crawford, will be to reach the point where both access to data and decision-making can be performed qualitatively and in real-time.
“SAS is absolutely delighted to have this relationship with the British Army, and across the MOD. It’s a great privilege to be part of the armed forces covenant.”