Improved customer experience, technology and thorough exploitation of the emerging alternative markets in the non-oil sectors of the Nigerian economy are keys to growing emerging retail banking sector.

This was the submission of the Heritage Bank’s Executive Director, Ivory Banking, Mrs. Mary Akpobome who represented Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of the Bank, Mr. Ifie Seiko as a guest Speaker at the 2nd Jeff & O’Brien Roundtable Conference on The Future of Retail Banking in Africa, which took place at the Intercontinental Hotels, Lagos.

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According to Mrs. Akpobome, with Nigeria’s over reliance on the oil sector and the effect of the fall in foreign exchange rate, banks need to redefine their retail banking strategies to cater for the emerging retail business opportunities in the nation’s non-oil sector.

“Retail Banking in Nigeria is evolving. Traditional way of Banking is changing. It is going to even change more with the digital age that we are coming into. Reliance and over reliance on Brick and Mortal branches is going to change. Customers are going to have a lot of alternatives as to how to interface with the market. Today, we hear of non-oil sector as alternatives to the oil sector. We can see what over reliance on the Oil sector has done to our economy. If we had focused greatly on these alternatives, the exchange rate would not have hit us as much as it did”, explained Akpobome.

She added that those emerging alternatives, which form large chunk of what today’s Retail Banking need to focus on, include businesses managed by middle-men, farmers, entertainers and other medium-sized businesses that are the new money spinners which have got the banking industry to rethink their customer management strategies.

“What those alternatives have done to the industry is to get banks to rethink their strategies; to rethink the industry they want to play in, to also rethink the market they want to pitch their strategies to ahead of the future, because the future is going to change. Retail Banking Strategy means looking at a much wider scope of customers and how to reach them in their respective communities. Is it through alternative banking centre? Is it through Agent-Banking? Is it through cash-point or through other platforms”?

Mrs. Akpobome added that with the successful acquisition of Enterprise Bank by Heritage Bank, the nation’s retail banking service is about to witness the best of retail banking offering established on “unique customer experience, culture of excellence and people skills”.

In his contribution at the Roundtable talk, Group Head, Cowry Banking, Mr. Davidson Regha noted that the success of retail banking in Africa would require partnerships or collaboration of different competencies from other industries to drive innovative and successful retail banking service. He explained how Heritage Bank had successfully created a best-seller education product called SkoolBank with partnership with specialists in the education industry. He also described how the bank had equally partnered professionals in the entertainment industry to grow the rising retail banking demand from the sector.

In his presentation, Mr. John Berry, an International retail banking expert observed that Nigerian banks must build their retail banking strategies around people, processes, products and places with strong emphasis on differentiation to be able to navigate the current changing tides of retail banking.

He noted that to create a successful retail banking system, banks must create a unique culture that differentiates their brands; adding that “it is easy for other brands to copy your pricing but not your unique customer friendly culture”.

Mr. Berry advised that banks must turn their customers into brand advocates through unique experiential services offerings. “If you are able to turn your customers into advocates, they will buy more products, use the products more regularly, stay longer, tell others about your services and make it more profitable. I will say build a retail brand that is differentiated through functional service and consumer experience”, he admonished.

According to Mr. Pascal Odibo, Group Country Director, Jeff O’Brien, the expectation of his organization regarding the event was “to trigger the conversation and hopefully steer the sector into some radical engagement on the mix of dynamics that will shape who plays, dominates and indeed sets the agenda for Retail Banking in our region in the next decade or two”.