The Managing Director of Ecobank Nigeria PLC, Patrick Akinwuntan, has said the bank’s focus on technology has enabled the bank to provide innovative banking solutions to its customers thus blazing the trail as a leader in the provision of financial services across Africa.
He disclosed this in an interactive session with the media in Lagos.
“We provide full service banking right from the wholesale business to the small, medium scale and to individuals. To do this, we’ve built technology services that enable us deliver our services in a convenient, accessible and reliable manner. This is affordable and sustainable to our customers, while also ensuring good returns to our shareholders,” he said.
Akinwuntan noted that Ecobank which commenced operations in five countries in 1989 grew to become a formidable financial institution of repute in Africa and boasts of its presence in 40 countries in less than 30 years.
According to him, “We were established from day one as a Pan African entity with shareholding from sixteen countries, and within our first year of operation, we had established in five countries – Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Ghana, and Ivory Coast.
“Today, we are present in 36 African countries and four outside Africa which are UK, UAE, China and France essentially to provide linkage to global reach and facilitate financial transactions of our customers.”
“We have a customer base of over 20 million as a group, with Nigeria accounting for about nine million of this figure; over 400 branches and 4,000 agency locations; and a balance sheet in the region of N2 trillion that shows that we have demonstrated ability to be a reliable keeper of customers funds and a reliable supporter of those who wish to borrow money to grow their businesses,” Akinwuntan added.
He ascribed the growth to the quality of services the bank renders to its numerous customers, which hinges on the bank’s focus on innovativeness as a way of driving customer satisfaction.
The Ecobank chief listed some of these innovative products to include the deployment of over 4,000 agency locations known as Ecobank Xpress point which aimed at bringing banking to every neighbourhood; the Ecobank Mobile which brings banking to your palm; the Ecobankpay which is a payment solution that enables you to scan and pay with a mobile phone; the Ecobank Value card, an e-wallet that worked like a prepaid card which was introduced as far back as year 2000 when none of the international credit cards were available in Nigeria.
“If you came into Nigeria in 2002 with a Visa card, no ATMs in Nigeria accepted a Visa card. No ATMs accepted a MasterCard. None accepted any of the international card brands and as an individual in Nigeria, you could not apply for these cards.
“Once you put your Nigerian address, they tell you this service is not available in Nigeria. That, for us in Ecobank, was not acceptable.
“So, we took the bold step of going to MasterCard and Visa and said ‘why don’t you allow us issue a MasterCard or Visa Card in Nigeria?
“That discussion sparked off some other ones that led to the coming of Visa and MasterCard to Nigeria. Ecobank Nigeria was the first banking institution to issue an international card in Nigeria in 2004. Actually, that card was issued and used in this bank premises. The first time an ATM in Nigeria paid money on an international card happened in our premises,” he said.
Akinwuntan announced the bank’s yet another novel product of the bank, EcobankPay which is a payment solution that enables customers to scan and pay with their mobile phone or by using the *326# code to get into USSD platform and make payment seamlessly.
He listed the benefits of this product to include instant transfer of funds without any chance of repudiation by the creditor thereby boosts the business of the vending partner.
He explained that the “EcobankPay is affordable and almost risk-free, as you can have 100 QR codes at no additional cost. Also, you don’t have to protect the code as it cannot remove money from your account because it can only receive money into your account.”