As countries prepare for an imminent easing of movement restrictions and resumption of normal operations in most sectors of their economies, many are convinced that some of the changes put in place within business operations due to the pandemic will force many businesses to transform and reinvent themselves going forward.
Africa’s banking and financial services have been amongst those whose operations have been deeply impacted during the COVID-19 crisis.
According to Mr. Polys Hadjikyriacos, the Chief Business Development Officer at NETinfo, after the current crisis, banks will need to redefine their vision and consider a new digital strategy, whilst re-evaluating their competition.
“The financial environment is changing, and banks need to co-exist with the fintechs and telcos. Banks will need to find synergies between themselves, their environments, and fintech companies,” said Mr. Hadjikyriacos during a recent webinar with African bank executives and the media.
“They will need to create new eco-environments built over Open Banking secure API services. They will also need to ensure they have the right tools and partners in place in an agile environment. Use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools will become commonplace and omnichannel will be a necessity.”
The virtual session hosted on Wednesday discussed how banks can accelerate digital transformation to meet customer demands for seamless digital solutions that are consistent across all channels during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The technology generation gap between older and more youthful customers continues to shrink, with those who were not previously digitally engaged being forced to do so while demanding prompt and direct access to their funds, irrespective of age.
Thomas Yieke, the Business Development Manager and Kenya Country Manager of NETinfo said that the use of internet banking has become very crucial for corporate customers while individual customers prefer mobile app-enabled services. Some corporates, he added, are also keen on how they integrate their systems with fintechs via APIs for better service provision.
Said Yieke: “For instance, KCB currently handles over 90 per cent of its transactions via digital and online digital platforms. This has been enabled by consistent onboarding of customers and a secure authentication process that takes care of data and information security concerns of customers”.
However, amidst this transformation, various challenges still exist. “One of the challenges we see is that of onboarding, where the challenge is two-fold - one is from legislation and the other is of technology. We have seen a huge demand for remote customer onboarding, with technologies such as face matching and liveness tests with banks addressing the requirements of their central banks. Within Europe and USA for example, we see very stringent regulations in place for new customers. Within Africa, we have seen both flexibility and an embrace of technology from some central banks. As NETinfo, we have supported banks to use either fully automated or semi-automated onboarding processes depending on the central bank regulations,” noted Mr. Hadjikyriacos.
“We also see the growing importance of the personal account manager or PAM, which has been extended from private banking to all types of banking customers. Video conferencing has also become a requirement to facilitate virtual face to face interaction.”
The COVID-19 crisis has led to a change not only in the way financial institutions conduct business and engage with their customers but how employees work and the way consumers manage their finances.
This transformation, adds Mr. Hadjikyriacos, will also affect the overall future of financial inclusion in Africa.
“Banks need to work proactively with their customers and have a better understanding of their needs and offer this as a value-add to them, proactively. Personal financial management (PFM) tools enabled with Artificial Intelligence (AI) will become commonplace, with PFM tools able to provide detailed information on their current and future financial activities (combining forecasts with real data),” he noted.
Banks, added, can offer their customers unique customer experience based on the user’s real-time activity, such as the next best screens and actions. This, he noted, would result in increased user engagement and interactions enabling the bank to offer personalized marketing messages during product and service campaigns.
On the future of cash, cheques, and cards, Mr. Hadjikyriacos projected that “cards will coexist for some time with more innovative ways of payments such as mobile wallets and e-accounts” while the industry would see a reduction on card transactional charges.
“Even with cheaper rates, card usage is expected to drop significantly. We expect a huge increase in fintech institutions providing more tailored digital services to their customers,” he projected.
Founded in 2000 in Cyprus, with partners and customers based in all continents, NETinfo offers digital transformation strategies for banks and financial institutions, helping them to harness the latest technologies to embrace and meet the needs of today’s digital consumers.
To support their customers and partners during the current crisis, he said: “NETinfo has a worldwide customer base and partners’ network. This enables us to share experience in different regions enabling our customers to adopt the best banking practices related to the digital banking channels. NETinfo has a strong customer base and we are considered the leader in our area. We have customized our platform to reflect the banking needs in East Africa and banks can benefit from our quick and risk-free implementation approach.”
“We have practiced this with COVID-19 pandemic and our customers and partners had the flexibility to change their business models, easily and promptly,” he concluded.