LAGOS, OCTOBER 12, 2016 – In a bid to expand convenient, low cost and secure financial services to the unbanked women in South Eastern Nigeria, Enhancing Financial Innovation & Access (EFInA), a financial sector development organisation has released a Technical Assistance Grant to the sum of $100,015 (One Hundred Thousand and Fifteen US Dollars only), to support FINCA Microfinance Bank’s Agency Banking network.FINCA MFB is one of the financial institutions in Nigeria to significantly roll out a proprietary agent network to reach the unbanked markets. The agency banking network is expected to deliver convenient and secure financial services to the unbanked, especially women. Under the network, customers will be able to open new accounts, deposit and withdraw cash and perform account to account transfers through ‘agent’ assisted banking.
According to the Chief Executive Officer of EFInA, Chidinma Lawanson, “The FINCA agency banking network clearly aligns with EFInA’s key focus area of using agent banking as a means to reach many under-served and under-banked people, especially women. Through this project, FINCA MFB will offer a full suite of pro-poor savings and loan products to the under-banked people in the South East.”
“In Nigeria, from our EFInA Access to Financial Services in Nigeria 2014 survey, bank penetration averages only 6.43 branches per 100,000 adults, and this figure is less in rural areas. The distance from bank branches and the associated high cost of servicing low-balance accounts are key challenges that increase financial exclusion of the poor, and this project primarily addresses these challenges”.
Furthermore, she said, “FINCA’s experience in several African countries shows that the deployment of an agent banking network is ultimately a tool through which savings are mobilized.”
Speaking on the grant, Philip Takyi, the CEO of FINCA Microfinance Bank Ltd Nigeria, said, FINCA’s agency banking network will provide increased access to financial services to the community.
He noted the vision for piloting the FINCA Express (Agency Banking) network project – “The overarching value proposition on FINCA’s Express is to provide clients with choices that ease access to financial services, to ensure convenience as per the client’s definition (proximity, hours and cost of access), to provide value to our clients in areas they define as priorities (lower cost of access, security, convenience etc.), to ensure reliability that attract those with little or no access to financial services”.
“We are committed to reaching low-income Nigerians, micro-enterprises, and small businesses that need access to socially responsible financial services. Customers of FINCA will have unlimited access to their account, they can withdraw, make deposits, repay their loans, make transfers from their FINCA account to other FINCA accounts, print their statements and check their account balances without paying for any of these services or leaving their businesses.”
Mr. Philip added that FINCA’s customers’ transactions are also secured because a customer
will authorize access to their account by use of biometrics via their registered fingerprints. When a customer opens a savings account with FINCA, the customer provides a digital scan of their fingerprints. “We seek to scale up our branchless banking strategy through the introduction of FINCA Express (Agency Banking) to facilitate outreach, support operation efficiency and diversification of its products and services within the Nigeria market at large. This is hinged on using secured devices as delivery channels to drive savings among clients, accelerate convenient access to financial services and build visibility for FINCA MFB, making it a community bank of first choice”.
FINCA MFB’s goal is to expand outreach into five additional states with fourteen branches in the South East region within five years, reaching more than 267,000 active clients. In preparation for the ultimate end game, “the implementation of the Agency Banking pilot will give FINCA MFB the opportunity to understand the economics of using the bio-metric POS device to manage transactions both for clients and FINCA at various non-FINCA branch locations.
The process will among others give FINCA’s Information Service team the opportunity to test and refine its approaches to device selection and set up and any other necessary build up for full rollout implementation. Also, the pilot will enable FINCA MFB to assess its system architecture, connectivity and processes such as “end of day” system close out for effective and efficient service and delivery at the agent location. In addition, the pilot will provide an understanding of standards required for seamless, secure, real-time transactions via POS, with extremely low error rates and, overall, a very positive customer experience”.
The EFInA Technical Assistance Grant will enable FINCA MFB pilot its agent banking network project in Owerri, Imo State.