The Chief Digital Officer [CDO] at Alat, Dele Adeyinka, in this exclusive interview spoke on the role of technology and how the 72 years old Wema Bank, embraced and demystified banking with the launch of Alat digital banking platform. Excerpts.By building digital platform and not bank branches, how much has Wema Bank saved?
To build a bank branch today would cost huge amount. However, if a bank branch gets two thousand customers after going live, that particular branch would have done exceptionally well. But with Alat, we launched in May and we have over 30,000 customers on Alat. A bank branch cannot get 30,000 customers in three months. Alat did it in three months. Alat has saved hundreds of millions of naira. What we are selling to customers is confidence, simplicity, and reliability. We want our customers to use our services without coming to our office.
We are deemphasizing physical banks and emphasizing digital channels to serve our customers better. We have involved in retail banking. We know the best way to do it is to leverage on technology. Retail is a game of numbers, reaching out to customers and consumers in their various places. We deliberately invested in technology. We have scaled and decided to be the first digital banking in Nigeria
What are the special features to expect on Alat going forward?
We are going to have many partnership initiatives with different platforms. It is going to be like a hub. Alat will be your bank account, investment deposit. What we offer our customers is the highest in the industry and in the country. We offer 10% rate on savings. The ultimate end is that when you want to make payment for tuition fee, you need to use Alat. We have collaborated with Payporte, Dealday, Uber, Taxify, film houses etc. If you are buying from online shops via Alat, you get a discount.
What differentiates Alat from other banking applications?
Alat deemphasizes interface with the physical banking structure. Our customers do not need to have contact with any physical space to open an account or engage in banking transactions. That is what Alat offers. From onboarding to card activation, our customers do not need to walk into any of our banking branches. Alat offers digital processes from end to end. It is the very first offering of that platform in Africa and in Nigeria.
The version of Alat we launched in May was the minimum viable product, (MVP). The industry was excited. Our consumer onboarding rate was very high. However, between May and now, we have added many other features to Alat. About 10 different innovations have gone into Alat. When we started, customers needed to supply names and phone numbers before onboarding with passport photograph, signature, personal identity, and utility bills. But we have introduced email address and BVN. With that, you can engage in banking transaction immediately.
You can do transact up to N2 million daily from your account and more features are still coming to the table. In the next one year, we are going to have over a million customers on Alat and several innovations and ideas on how banking is done today, we have digitized everything. What we are saying to our customers is that they should whatever they want to do on their mobile platform without visiting any banking hall.
Are BVN and KYC requirements not hurdle to customer onboarding?
Bank Verification Number [BVN] is a regulatory requirement by the CBN. It is a unique identifier. In building Alat, there must be BVN attached to it. It identifies the customer irrespective of how much you have in your account. We keep to the rules of the game as defined by the regulator. In the industry today, there are about 30 million unique BVN. The ultimate goal is to demystify the process of getting BVN and give potential Nigerians the opportunity of having BVN so that we can serve them. We must have centralized data based on where we can identify everyone.
What is the correlation between Wema and technology positioning?
For Wema Bank, it is a journey. We are 72 years old. In the last decade, a new set of board and management have been in place. Our goal is to position Wema Bank to live for another 100 years. We are positioning the bank for the future. To do this successfully, we must leverage heavily on technology. Going forward, we are going to be setting the pace as far as technology is concern in both banking business and serving our customers.
What is the relationship between Alat and fintech companies?
Fintechs are not competitors. We collaborate with them. Nigerians built Alat for the world, from the beginning of the concept, implementation, and execution. We don’t see fintech as competitors but we share many values together to jointly serve our customers. We collaborate and share API. Alat is going to do more. They are not threat. We collaborate with them to serve our customers better. That is why we got the millage. We launched in May and we have over 30,000 customers on that platform. Gone are the days when you need to bring all sorts of documents to open accounts.
Why are you deemphasizing physical banking?
We want our customers irrespective of where they are in the world to be able to transact with us and get the best services without coming to any of our bank. Facebook does not have an office in Nigeria but Facebook has customers all over the world. There are over two billion people on Facebook. Yet Facebook does not have an office in Nigeria.
You can fund the Alat account immediately. You can request debit card at no cost to you. We will send your card to you and it is ready to be used on all channels. From where you are, once you have a mobile device, you are ready to get on board and you are up and running. When customers want to travel, they usually call their banks to activate their cards in their destination country. It is not so with Alat. On Alat, you can activate that on your device and set it to any country.
The concept of debit and credit is the same. When banking started, customers got tally. The banks had to reconcile their books. Now, with a click of the button, you can easily reconcile your books. The foundation of banking, finance, and accounting will remain relevant. It is just that we are automating the channels and the means with which we are doing it. Rather than spending five hours to reconcile your books, it can be done in 30 minutes with automation.