SEYE JOSEPH spoke to MD/CEO, Xpress Payments Solutions, Oluwadare Owolabi on the company’s strategy of supporting the government’s intention to achieve the financial inclusion goal. Excerpts.
Xpress Payments emerged as the Fintech Start-up of the Year award at the Lagos Fintech Week 2019. What does the award mean to the company?
The award we won last year was actually helpful because the truth of the matter was that we worked very hard. We have been around for three years but last year was the first year we focused on all the licenses that we have.
We have few licenses from the Central Bank of Nigeria [CBN]; we have the PSB license, PTSB license, the Switching and Processing license, Agency Banking license, and so we did fully maximize and use those licenses last year. Winning the award showcased how we’ve been able to work hard and how consumers have seen what we have done so far. It gives us the encouragement to do more and better than what we have been able to do last year.
The company’s Group Head, Switching and Terminal Services, Toyin Albert also won the Female Fintech Leader of the Year.How has the two awards affected the image of the company?
The truth is that all the women at Xpress Payments are hard working. Even if she wins it this year, another person at Xpress Payments can win it next year. I’m very comfortable with all the ladies that are working at Xpress Payments; they complement our works at Xpress Payments. Toyin winning the award is not a surprise; Xpress Payments winning it is not a surprise because we all worked hard. We put a lot into what we deliver at Xpress Payments.
How visible is Xpress Payments’ vision which states that 1 out of 2 e-payment transactions in Nigeria will be made on Xpress Payments’ platform by 2020?
That’s true because that is what we set for ourselves. We are working very close to the number. Getting those numbers means that we have to work hard, it means that we have to beat our competitors; it means that we have to make our customers happy. We might not be there in the year 2020 but I can assure you that as the year rolls by, Xpress Payments will definitely be a choice for Fintechs in Nigeria.
Do you also believe that fintech will chase the banks away?
Fintech will chase the bank away. Yes! Bank will still exist because at the end of the day, you might not have the cash or deposit around cash. Banking services will still be there but what you will not see again is the brick and mortal, you will less of branches, you will see less people going to bank branches because you will have technology that will take over those things.
You will see less cashiers, you will see more of financial technology that is where we play. Most of the banks are closing their branches because technology is driving their operations.
Most of the banks that do not have technology background would be the one that we don’t see anymore. Banks should partner with fintechs, focus on their businesses and not setup their own fintechs.
How visible is Xpress Payments products and services?
We are putting most of our products on mobile devices so that people can use their phones to access the products and been able to deal with the last man at our back end. We have an app for our agency banking that they can use that would not make people come to our office. Once you register on those apps and you are being approved at the back end by our risk officers, you will be able to do a lot of these transactions.
The apps also allow you to have access to your balances. For example we provide access to customers’ balances in their accounts. We also provide these services for government as well. Now people go to our apps and platforms to check their account balances.
Do you think EFiNA will achieve the goal of bringing 80% of Nigerians into the formal financial services by the year 2020?
I must laud EFiNA’s achievement. I was part of EFiNA’s working group in 2012 when we first started mobile money in Nigeria. EFiNA has involved in competition, awarding grants and so on. They’re close to achieving the FI goal because government is now supporting the body. The banks came together and create SANEF which is helping EFInA to drive financial inclusion.
What is the total transactions detail that has been done on your agency banking?
On our agency banking, the number keeps increasing everyday because we provide transaction across the nation. Last month’s POS transaction was over a billion on our platform. We are seeing most of those numbers from rural areas. We have seen in places where there are no financial services. The reasons for these high transactions are because the banks are not building branches, or deploying ATMs. Xpress Payments agency banking will now serve as financial services of the banks in some of those rural places.
What is your own definition of Financial Inclusion?
My definition of financial inclusion is being able to meet the financial services or needs of the people in the rural areas. When they have financial access in all ways then you can say you have covered everybody in Nigeria. Meeting the financial needs of the financially excluded in Nigeria is known as financial inclusion
Do you believe that innovation should go ahead of regulation?
Both should work hand in hand. The truth is that there must be policy behind whatsoever business people are building. If you don’t have those policies behind businesses, there would be problem. Both should go and in hand. The innovation must not bypass the regulation, so also regulation must meet the innovation, skills wise, and knowledge wise, they both must be at par.