May 20, 2017  By : Adebola Daramola
Submitting to a DFID challenge fund in 2003, Vodafone, parent of Kenya’s Safaricom, subsequently created Mobile Money: a new venture and a new channel for delivery of financial services at a lower cost in a faster way. This is an example of corporate entrepreneurship. This contribution offers a glimpse into innovation and corporate entrepreneurship across the Nigerian financial services ecosystem.
Nigerian financial players are leveraging internal and external relationships for their innovation advantage. Factors driving innovation across Nigerian financial services are an opportunity to use emerging technologies and new business models to maximize earnings from underserved rural, urban poor and the large youth segment, competitors’ rivalry, threat from FinTech and the large unmet customers’ financial service needs.
Nigeria has about 40.1 million financially excluded adults (EFInA Survey 2016), which account for 2.7% of the world’s unbanked. Similarly, the ownership level of financial products is low. For example, 98.1% of Nigerians do not have insurance products.
Union Bank of Nigeria, a bank with a checkered history, marked its 100th anniversary of operation earlier in the year. As part of its celebration, it partnered with Co-creation Hub (CcHub), a social business enabler, to launch a Centenary Innovation Challenge. Through this call to the Nigerian public, the bank hopes to generate new sources of competitive advantage.
Similarly, Ecobank, a Pan-African Bank with Nigeria being its largest affiliate, had announced a Fintech Challenge. Evidently, the bank’s executives expect digital technology as an elixir to its declining profits from the high cost of servicing customers through brick-and-mortar branches.
Innovative firms are deft in research and development. Nigerian Banks are no exception.
- Research and Development/New Product Development
One of such banks given to R&D is GTBank. Among its many first-to-market products is social banking on Facebook, which allowed opening an account with Facebook. Another product is dialing *737*, a USSD short code that allows customers to make third-party mobile transfers.
Going after new markets through new products has been Diamond Bank’s forte. The bank’s product, BETA savings account, allows agents to open low-value accounts for market women with mobile devices; while Diamond Y’ello, a self-service product developed by the bank in partnership with MTN, a telco, targets youth and mass market and allows them to open and operate an account on their mobile phone.
To maintain their capabilities, Nigerian banks are constantly on the lookout for talented professionals to up their game. A good example is Access Bank’s PayWithCapture, an innovative way of payment using QR codes or beacon payment technology. In what seems like acquire-hire, Olugbenga Agboola, who had developed the product, now heads Access Bank’s innovation and product management (according to his LinkedIn).
- Emerging Technology/Trends
The rave about new technologies like conversational commerce extends to Nigeria. Sterling Bank created ChatPay, a bot named Kiki, that is available over social messaging platforms like Twitter, Facebook Messenger, and Skype. The product targets Nigeria’s millennial. Regardless of their bank, users can access balance inquiries, bill payments, and mobile airtime recharge.
Banking is going completely digital with new business models like digital banks. Prominent global examples are USAA, HSBC Direct and Capital One 360 (formerly ING Direct). Nigeria’s oldest indigenous bank, Wema, struck a first with her Alat, a digital banking service that allows account opening within 10 minutes.
- Open Innovation/Crowdsourcing
P&G is the most prominent global corporation that uses co-creation. According to published research, this approach of innovation generates nearly 50% of its products. In its case, First Bank of Nigeria is generating ideas from its 18,000 employees through a platform called Ideoz.
Other Players in the ecosystem
Signal Alliance, a Nigerian IT provider, established an investment company called Sasware Nigeria, which holds a 12-month entrepreneurship program focused on aspiring entrepreneurs and newly founded startups. Its first edition of the Start-up-in-Residence (StaIR) program was focused on FinTech.
The likes of Intel have expanded their product portfolio through a corporate venture group that manages and makes investments in startups across new market opportunities. Just like Intel, Interswitch, a large integrated payment platform from Nigeria with offices across Africa, hopes through a $10 million e-payment growth fund to participate as an investor in the next -generation of Africa’s startup. It has made two investments in Africa Courier Express (ACE) and SlimTrader.
We are familiar with business accelerators or incubators providing strategic resources to support startups. They help startup firms accelerate their business and get their products faster to the market. Cre8 Space is a Nigerian workspace that caters specifically for FinTech. Its service includes providing these tenant startups access to mentors from the financial services industry such as regulators, venture capitalist, and bank executives.
Note: This article is not an exhaustive list of innovation and corporate entrepreneurship across the Nigerian financial services ecosystem.