How Wema Bank transformed from Regional to Digital Bank to increase its Customer Base


Among many of the professions that are being disrupted in the digital age is banking. From the age of trade-by-barter whengoods and services were exchanged without cash, to the era of flipping coins, where temples were the financial centres that money can be saved and borrowed,to the present age where technology is disrupting traditional waysof banking,where banking can be carried out with a handheld device

The typical case is Wema Bank PLC, a Nigerian bank incorporated in 1945 as a Private Limited Liability Company under its old name known as Agbonmagbe Bank Limited and later transformed into a PLC in1987, which has become a digital bank.

Before 2015 when the bank upgraded its license to operate as a national bank, it has operated as a regional bank, operating in six southwestern states of the country.

From that point, the idea of repositioning the bank to rank among known banks that are deploying technology to drive digital banking has become a priority the bank must implement.

“All the basic plans that you need to have a robust bank, things around technology”, Wema Bank Managing Director, Ademola Adebise, explained. He said that fixing the people and things to make the processing “contemporary are the things that we put in place and we then focused on our real segment, which is the Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs). That is what we’ve done. And of course, we also try to run a very structured, very robust public governance to ensure that the issues of the past do not recur.

“We are one of the tier two banks. And to compete in the market, we decided to embark on the digital journey. And to achieve that we set up a digital bank, and that is what culminated in the launch of Alat, which is Africa’s first fully digital bank, and that is where we are today. We are going to improve our KPIs and financial by leveraging on innovation using technology as backbone. We believe that we are quite ahead”, he said.

He pointed out that Alat is defining the pace in digitalbanking, contributing immensely to the customer base and the volumes of transactions the bank is making on daily basis.

“For instance, in just six months of its launch in May 2017, over 100,000 customers and over N1.1billion in deposits were recorded. With what we have learned over the years, we decided to position ALAT as the digitalbank of the future not only in Nigeria, but in Africa at large.

“After going live, we received tremendous support and response from the market and had roughly 15,000 users on our platform as of June. The volume of deposits was also impressive, at over N150 million. By October, the customer base had grown to over 130, 000 and deposit volumes to more than N850 million. ALAT offers customers the convenience they have been seeking.”

He said Alat has simplified transactions and given greater ability to customers to do banking transactions without visiting a physical branch, an innovation that allows do their banking transactions from their homes and offices.

The digital platform has different features that allow users that lack saving culture save money without depositing money in the bank.

Adebisi said further that the account can be funded through another bank in Nigeria or abroad.

“We understand that whether we like it or not, we are still largely a cash environment. You can still walk into our branches to pay if you have to. From the Alat account, you can then carry out the transactions seamlessly.”

He revealed that the reason Wema Bank is investing in digital platforms is to create convenience for its customers and reduce cost of service to them.

“You can imagine the cost of setting up a new branch, cost of employing staff and putting everything together. It is quite expensive. But, on the mobile platforms, your initial investment may be high, but over time, your cost to serve a customer will drop.

“You can imagine if I have a million customers on Alat, a digitalplatform. You know that as I increase the number of customers, the cost to serve the customers goes down.

“The same cost I will use to serve one million people is what I will use to serve 100,000 people. So, really, that is the beauty of it. Initially, we will incur some cost, but over time, it will make a lot of sense”, he said.

Adebise considered the whole investment on digital as wise investment that will position the bank for competitive advantage with other banks spending on technology.





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