Babatunde Olofin is the Managing Director of Moniepoint Microfinance Bank. He expressed enthusiasm about the bank’s expanded role in the financial inclusion drive and the opportunity to power the financial happiness of millions of people across the continent. He also spoke about measures put in place to address customers’ fears about fraud in this interview with ISIOMA MADIKE. Excerpts:
Why did Moniepoint embrace digital banking?
As internet penetration continues to grow, consumers are increasingly gravitating towards banking activities that are convenient, easy to use and things can get done with speed. Digital banking can help customers to access banking services including account creation and registration (onboarding), making payments, e-commerce transactions, applying for loans, investments, to financial management easily, quickly, anywhere and anytime. You don’t have to travel all the way to a physical branch just to know your account balance.
Is convenience the attraction?
Of course, convenience is a big attraction for consumers. With digital banking platforms, you can check your balance, transfer funds and or set up an automated debit charge — all from the comfort of your place and without the need to visit a branch. You get to save time that can be deployed into more productive uses. Transactions can be carried out at digital banks at any time during the day. With digital banks, you are better empowered to maintain better control of your finances leveraging the business productivity tools that they provide.
What about personal interaction with customers?
Digital banks offer strong personalisation to customers, for example, Moniepoint Microfinance Bank provides personal banking services and customers can get their debit cards in less than 48 hours, which helps to advance the cause of the Federal Government’s cashless policy. Again, talking about financial inclu- sion, especially in underserved communities, digital banks have bridged the gap significantly ensuring that people no longer have to walk long distances to access banking services or when they have financial emergencies. Digital banking is always open, convenience is still king, and innovative solutions that save time and give more options will always be game changing.
What would you say is the bank’s unique value propositions that stand it out?
Moniepoint MFB puts the customer at the heart and centre of everything it does. We are constantly researching and engaging to collect feedback, address concerns, and constantly improve our services to meet customer needs with a view to deepening trust and bringing more people into the financial services sector. We are big on powering dreams and creating a society where financial happiness is pervasive. At Moniepoint, we also understand the importance of making and creating real, authentic connections. This is predicated on having a clear and deep understanding of the Nigerian market, and our recognising the need for accessible and convenient digital payment solutions in a country where a lot of people had been financially excluded. This in turn has enabled us to push the frontiers in ensuring that we can be everywhere that the customer is, providing reliable and convenient services.
Has the company also invested in innovation and technology to drive its ideas?
Yes, we have invested heavily in innovation and technology while retaining an eye for simplicity and functionality. Irrespective of your social standing, Moniepoint’s services are easy to use whether it’s our banking app or POS terminals. We are also pleased to always hear our customers talk about how the brand has come through for them at tough times in their personal lives and businesses. Lastly, we are also big on financial literacy and education. As such, we go to great lengths to ensure that stakeholders within our ecosystem are empowered with the right kind of information and problem-solving skills to offer banking services in a manner that leaves the customer happy.
Online banking has a more relaxed due diligence and KYC on potential customers. What do you do to prevent this loophole from being exploited by fraudsters?
It’s important to correct the impression that the KYC and DD for customers’ onboarding are relaxed for digital banks. The Central Bank has a clear policy guideline with respect to requirements for tiered account opening and at Moniepoint we have always stayed compliant with the rules. As a responsible and compliant organisation, we take customer KYC very seriously. KYC is not merely an acronym but indeed a cornerstone in establishing trust, ensuring security, and complying with regulatory standards. All accounts created on our platform have BVN verification and in addition to this we per- form a check at the point of onboarding. This is a comparison of the account holder’s life picture and the BVN image as a way to reduce impersonation. Recently, the regulator had asked for all accounts to be updated with BVN and NIN and we are currently doing a lot of customer awareness and sensitisation around this new mandate to ensure compliance while our customers continue to enjoy best-in-class financial solutions.
How do you manage fraud traits?
We have zero tolerance for fraud and typically go all out to ensure that we track fraudsters and fraudulent transactions on our platforms. We have fraud detection systems and technologies that can help with flagging suspicious activities. We also have a very cordial relationship with law-enforcement agencies to ensure that using the instrumentality of the law, errant and devious individuals and businesses are brought to book. We also champion collaborative alliances within the payments ecosystem to ensure that the fight against fraud remains robust and strengthened. Our customer service teams have also been empowered to act as a first line of defense for customers when their accounts have been breached or compromised so that further investigations and remedial actions can be carried out.
The use of telephone numbers as account numbers could be manipulated by fraudulent people. How do you safeguard this?
The use of mobile telephone numbers as account numbers by traditional, digital banks as well as PSBs and MNOs has been a significant and value-added feature in the payments space. Think about accessibility, ease of recall and the fact that it comprises a set of numbers that most people share often with others makes it all the more attractive. There’s more relevance when you consider the laudable goal of driving financial inclusion and enabling more individuals to participate fully in the financial services system. Typically, when you remove the first 0, mobile telephone numbers have 10 digits. Nigerian Uniform Bank Account Number (NUBAN) is also a 10-digit Bank Account Number format and the process of its acquisition is governed by the same required KYC processes. The point of this is to show that both can serve as key identifiers in the payments space.
Does that not make the account numbers vulnerable to identity theft and fraud?
All over the world, bank account numbers are vulnerable to identity theft and fraud. And this is why, for example, when trying to make routine changes to your account, you might need to answer questions about your mother’s maiden name or any special question you had inputted during the onboarding process In terms of how to prevent manipulation, using very strong, unique login IDs and or passwords, a strict adherence to KYC protocol and multi-factor authentication are safeguard tools that can be deployed to prevent bad faith actors. In layering a multi-step authentication to your accounts and devices wherever available, this adds another step before granting access to a bank account, such as requiring a fingerprint, voice activation, or a time-sensitive code sent to the mobile phone number on record.
There are those who have fears that digital banking could crumble any moment. How do you handle such fears?
Nigeria has a structured and well-regulated financial services system. So, any fears exercised about the viability of dig- ital banks are misplaced. We also need to continue the campaign – when you critically examine the dividends accruable from leveraging technology to provide digital financial services far out-weight the teething challenges experienced. With a combination of increased in- vestment in security and fraud detection, collaboration by stakeholders in com- bating and swathing off bad faith actors and responsible regulation, the digital financial services will grow in leaps and bounds. If Nigeria is going to achieve some of its audacious goal of lifting mil- lions out of poverty and deepening economic prosperity, it will be off the back of the kind of digital financial services that players like Moniepoint provide.
The absence of physical branches is also creating fear among customers. How do you react to that?
The absence of physical branches lowers the operational costs for a lot of digital banks which then allows heavy investments to be made in other areas that include increasing customer support services – call centres and service personnel so that whether by self-service, mobile and web, customers have increased points of engagement and interaction. But understanding the nuances of a landscape as ours, we are increasingly looking to create physical touch points for PoS repairs, and dealing with customer complaints.