As part of its Retail Banking strategy, Unity Bank recently rolled out its Agent banking services in the North Western states of Kano and Jigawa as a vehicle to reach out to the unbanked and deepen financial inclusion.
In line with Central Bank of Nigeria’s financial inclusion mandate, Unity Bank targeted its Agent Banking services at Gumel in Jigawa state and Rijiya-Lemu in Fagge Local Government area of Kano state, last week.
According to the General Manager Products & Channels Directorate of Unity Bank, Mr. Bonaventure Okhaimo, prioritising the North West was borne out of the need to tap into the huge unbanked population in the region. Agent Banking model is conceptualised to evolve as a model of community and rural banking where basic banking services are brought to the level of rural financial activities, said Bonaventure.
The roll-out, which witnessed the opening of many Agency outlets in the areas, was attended by numerous locals, customers and prospects, who were all excited to be able to avail themselves of financial services without travelling long distances to a bank branch.
The customers were able to open accounts with Unity Bank, perform cash-in (deposit), cash-out (withdrawal) as well as bills payment transactions at the new Agent Banking outlets. With the bank’s digital account opening portal – Unity1 Online – new tier-1 accounts can be opened for customers without any need for identification. The whole process takes less than 4 minutes. Customers are advised of their NUBAN account numbers immediately, and are able to start transacting straightaway; in fact, once they provide their Bank Verification Numbers (BVN), they have full access to their accounts.
The Bank’s Group Head, Retail & SME Banking, Olufunwa Akinmade, explained that an important part of the roll-out in any location, is a two-day customer education session organized to bring customers up to speed with the basic tenets of the scheme.
On the security of the customers’ funds, Mr. Akinmade said that the mitigant on the withdrawal side is that the service is running on MCash-a secure phone-based withdrawal system backed by the Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement Systems (NIBSS) while at the deposit end, the customer must receive an alert to be sure that the transaction has been consummated. This is in line with CBN regulation, which states that that all transactions are processed online real-time.He advised customers to always look out for Unity bank’s branding on the agents outlets, to be sure that they are actually dealing with a registered Agent outlet. The branding also provides information on the services and products as well as the bank’s Contact Centre numbers .
The Bank is working with Bizi Mobile Cashless Consultants, a leading Agent Network Manager in Northern Nigeria. With the rollout of Agency Banking in the Northwest, Unitybank and Bizi Mobile are targeting all the Local Goverments in the Northwest before the end of the year, starting with Babura, Taura, Kiyawa, Malammadori, Gwaram, Birniwa, Miga, and Maigatari. Alhaji Aminu Bizi, the CEO of Bizi Mobile cashless consultants, talked extensively about how the partnership is a winning one, leveraging on Bizi Mobile’s extensive reach with over 120 outlets in the North. In addition to deepening financial inclusion, the agency banking partnership would also contribute to the CBN’s target to reduce financial exclusion by the year 2020.