The challenges for banking in emerging markets are similar to those elsewhere, but with fewer resources and structures available to address them. Key issues include expanding the market, and improving financial inclusion, to provide better access to banking services. To my mind, one of the most interesting aspects of the market now is the rise of fintech, and especially how it is helping those previously unable to access banking or loans. Fintechs are a good example of providers expanding the market: They are not replacing existing banks and services, but providing new services to previously under-served customers.
This is particularly important in Nigeria, because the government’s vision for 2020 is to join the G20 group of top world economies. The Nigerian government sees digital banking and fintech as one of the key ways to achieve this, and hopes to transform the country into Africa’s fintech centre in the process.
SAS was the official banking analytics partner at last month’s New Age Banking Summit, Nigeria, which took place on 26th and 27th September in Lagos. The event was a great demonstration of the vibrancy of the banking community in sub-Saharan Africa, with over 200 delegates, mostly c-level executives from the banking world in the region, including some from fintechs. A range of exciting speakers and panelists discussed issues that are key to transforming banking around the world, not just in Nigeria or the wider region.
An agenda for change
One key element of the transformation is the ‘cashless Nigeria’ policy, which has emphasized new and innovative methods of payment and banking. Increasing mobile and internet use is the way to serve hard-to-reach groups, and expand access to banking, reducing dependence on cash across the country. Banks and other providers are being encouraged to develop new services and systems, including for payments, and to improve both customer experience and security. It is, then, no surprise that the Central Bank of Nigeria is a key partner in this New Age Banking Summit.
The topics for discussion at the summit reflected this interest in payments and fintech, and included mobile-only banking and payment systems and the role of fintech. Other topics that were identified included the impact of the Internet of Things on banking, and building cyber resilience, essential in managing future payment systems, and ensuring that systems are secure against attack.
The main area of interest for SAS at this conference was advanced analytics and big data, how we can help organizations use their data for insights. One of our partners in Africa, the Tunisian firm Biware Consulting, provided a speaker, Adekunle Arogundade (based in Nigeria). He discussed data-driven decision-making, and how it can deliver real business value. SAS often partners in emerging markets, because it is a good way to benefit from local knowledge and resources. Biware’s focus is very much on getting insights from data, with solutions including data warehousing, social media analytics and fraud prediction, many of which draw on SAS technology.
Awards & recognition
SAS also provided a panelist for the session on fintech, Antoinette Edodo, from our team in Nigeria. The panel discussed the role of digital banking in powering the growth of financial inclusion. It is great to see proper consideration of the issue about how fintech and other changes to the way that banking is provided can help those who have not previously been able to access banking. It is also good to see recognition that this really matters to the economy, and that banks and fintechs can benefit from improving financial inclusion.
The event also hosted the New Age Banking Awards. It was an honour to be asked to give the awards for Excellence in Digital Banking, Excellence in Customer Service and Excellence in Alternate Channel Banking, which went to Ecobank, Guaranty Trust Bank and First City Monument Bank respectively. The awards recognized excellence in each area, and were strongly focused on innovation, including in mobile and digital banking, and improving financial inclusion. The winners of each category have set the benchmark high for future years. I think we are likely to see ongoing innovation and developments in this area, that will challenge the status quo and force new ways of thinking about banking, customer experience, and service provision.
A positive outlook
Overall, the event was very positive. There was a real buzz about the sessions and awards ceremony, and a genuine excitement about the opportunities available in future. There is no question that the sub-Saharan African banking community is looking enthusiastically towards the future.