Technology disruption has been infused in every facet of the Nigerian economy. It has become the driving force propelling the future. Coupled with the influence of social media, digital transformation has become inevitable for countries and organizations.
Social Medias and their comprehensive development are undeniable reality in the modern world. Statistics indicate growing use of social media. Today, more than two billion people in the world use social media. Though, it has its own disadvantages, but if well explored, the benefits outweigh the demerits.
Today, virtually all the sectors of the economy have one thing or the other to do with social media. For instance, players in the financial sector are adequately exploring its benefits to drive business and bring both services and convenience to the door step of their customers.
The introduction of the Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) in 2017 witnessed many fintechs and banks adopting it for easy payment system. Lately, attention is shifting towards WhatsApp Banking.
While the USSD banking system uses short dial codes, this system simply requires you add a specific number to your WhatsApp contact list and start performing bank transactions.
WhatsApp banking is a new feature that allows potential customers perform basic financial transactions and give an alternative channel for banks to provide services in real-time. This system of banking is aimed at easing up banking stress for Nigerians. You can just send money, pay bills, top-up airtime, and check balance, among others via the WhatsApp messenger. More so, many Nigerian banks have integrated virtual assistants to help with bank transaction via FB messenger.
Currently, four banks in the country have extended their services to the one billion user-strong messaging platform- WhatsApp. They include the United Bank for Africa (UBA), Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB), Access Bank and First Bank of Nigeria.
FirstBank of Nigeria is rated first for being the first financial institution in the country to achieve sustained alternative channels transaction volumes of 100 million transactions in December 2015 and May 2016.
Aware of the technological shift, coupled with the adoption of messaging apps over traditional SMS, First Bank of Nigeria Limited, launched its WhatsApp platform, being the most popular messaging application to provide an innovative product that avails seamless conversational payment to her customers whilst generating revenue.
Existing and potential customers of FirstBank Nigeria (FBN) would now experience the most convenient way to bank with its new digital banking tools like the FirstMobile, USSD, FirstCheckOut, Soft Token, Agent Banking Emerging Channels (USSD Collections, mCash, mVisa), FirstBillsPay.
According to the Bank, WhatsApp is the most popular data-driven application in the world, with over one billion daily active users world-wide. In other words, WhatsApp is the most commonly used mobile application in the world.
Taking advantage of this, FirstBank aims to fill a vital gap in the retail customer base landscape by bringing the bank to where majority of its customers can be found. This unique value-proposition is also the first of its kind in the Nigerian digital banking arena, therefore pioneering this project gives FirstBank a leading edge in the market.
Its benefits are convenient way to make payment, increased security of payment, reliable network connection, ease of use/simple payment experience, and 24/7 service availability.
The digital journey began with the FirstMobile launched in September 2015, which required customers to visit a branch to complete the on boarding process. The app was later enhanced to deliver an instant, remote, self-enrolment feature. Hence, on boarding process on FirstMobile was improved to allow customers remotely complete their on boarding process on the App without visiting a branch.
The Soft Token, launched in 2015, was to satisfy the needs of customers who did not want to carry the hard token about. It serves same purpose as the hard token, but comes with ease and convenience.
Another payment option was launched in 2015, that is, the FirstCheckOut. This affords integration into merchant website that allows customers pay bills directly from their bank accounts as a substitute to cards.
Also, the FirstBillsPay is a Biller Aggregator platform, launched in 2018 aggregates various billers through a secured connection to the bank, to avail customers a single payment point for all bills from their accounts.
According to the bank, it launched the 894 USSD Quick Banking service in 2016 as part of its financial inclusion drive. The *894# USSD service makes banking services available across all GSM networks, on any type of device, anywhere and at any time; this gives it a unique selling point
To further boost its customer’s experience, FBN launched some emerging channels in 2017 that included FirstBank, mVisa and the USSD collections.
The FirstBank mVISA is an innovative mobile payment solution that allows consumers pay for goods and services via FirstMobile Customers by scanning a QR code using a smart phone or by dialing a USSD number on a feature phone. Payment goes directly from the consumer’s account into the merchant’s account and both parties get real-time notification.
The focus segments for USSD Collections are for Fast Moving Consumer Goals (FMCGs), value chain businesses, energy (petrol stations), network marketing firms, transporting companies, churches, schools and others and allow merchants to receive payments from customers simply by using 894 USSD string for FirstBank customers.
According to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), FBN, Adesola Adeduntan, First Bank of Nigeria is pushing ahead with its digital-banking roll-out, with more than 10,000 agents targeting the unbanked everywhere in the country, out of the 500,000 agents which the regulator has said are needed to cover Nigeria.
While agent banking was launched towards the end of 2017, the bank recruited agents (Firstmonie Agents) and empowered them to carry out basic financial services within their vicinity.