By Omodele Adigun
Cybercrime is a global bug that bores holes in victims’ pockets. “And what you have to do (as a bank) is to make sure you have an IT infrastructure that is able” to ward off the monster, says Ogochukwu Ekezie-Ekaidem, Chief Brand & Marketing Officer of Union Bank Plc.
According to her, “the more you move to digital channels; the more everything goes online, the more you start to see a rise in cybercrime. And we are seeing a rise, for sure, in this era.”
At an online interactive session with the senior officials of the bank last week, she explained that the protection put in place by her bank to keep the e-fraudsters at bay is very active, while also unveiling the agenda of the new CEO of the bank,Mr. Emeka Okonkwo, to make the bank Nigeria’s most trusted partner.
In March, we had a change of baton after the AGM. Our former CEO, Emeka Emuwa, retired from after transformation and building the bank. Emeka Okonkwo, our erstwhile Executive Director for the last eight years, took over as MD/CEO. And since March, we have been in a period of transition and we have been working to make sure that he settles down to the role and pursue the priority that he took us to. So, we have the new CEO. It is a new era for the bank. We still focus on being the Nigeria’s most trusted partner. That hasn’t changed for us.
Other things that happened this year: In addition to making sure that, in this new environment that we are in, we are serving our customers very well and efficiently, we also recognise that the economy is tough and challenging for our customers. Everybody knows that during this pandemic, everybody is looking for palliatives. We launched our Save & Win Palli Promo. It is our own way of offering our customers palliatives in this promo, where we are giving out N5million to customers as well as other gifts and prizes on a monthly and quarterly basis. Customers can win N1million in this promo when they save.
We are still focused on driving the platform in terms of how we engage our communities and fields. Our Edu360 education platform is still very much a priority for us. You know that in the first two years, we had two very successful physical events, where we had 3,000 and 5000 people attending in different years respectively. Obviously, with COVID-19, we are not able to hold physical event any more. But we have transited now to a lot of online digital webinars of treating points and key issues and initiatives in education space. We are still focused on working with communities, just holding Mamamoni, different projects that we are working at in the communities. Awarri is the key initiative for us that we use to penetrate schools, teaching children robotics. So quite a few things that we are doing to make sure that we still remain a responsible corporate citizen and that the brand supports the communities where we are doing business, regardless of the time we are in.
We are not a regional bank; we are a national commercial bank.
What I am saying on the banking side is that, in terms of how we are running our business today, we now spilt the business. We are now running a regional structure that is focused on making sure that we mine all the values and opportunities that we have in the regional areas. We continue to push forward under the new CEO. That is the focus as a priority for him, centralise our businesses in a way where we give responsibility and full autonomy across the branches.
We have Regional Executives that are like the CEOs in the regions. They have under them Area Business managers, who oversee the branch managers. It is just a structure. Nothing more. We are not a regional bank.
We are still focused on our Retail Banking business and our SMEs Banking business because we know that it is an area where there is a lot of activities and small businesses are the backbone of the economy.
As a business, we are focused on MSMEs, our retail; SMEs are public business. We are not trying to do necessarily anything different, we are just trying to do things better and more efficiently so that we can grow our businesses regionally. That is why I talk about structure and change in terms of how we are actually going about our business to government across the regions, give more focus and give more autonomy and responsibilities to the branches to be able to generate business. That is our focus for this year. And we keep pushing that, and now, with regard to what we are doing on the brand’s side, one of the things we want to do is to continue to give customers data. Part of what we want to do to grow the brand is to be at the forefront of delivering products and services that our customers need. The thing that is important to us as a brand is that we are not a flash in a pan. That is why we are in this market for the past 147 years. We are a bank that has been here for generations upon generations and we intend to continue here for generations.
We avail ourselves in communities; we avail ourselves in the lives of our customers. They feel us and they see the values that we bring. That is what we want to do as brand.
What all of us know is that this pandemic has forced us all into digital life, whether we like it or not. And we see that that has happened also on the customers’ side. In the past when people were resistant to adopting digital channels, we have now seen less resistance and more people are getting on board.
What we are trying to do is limiting those barriers of entering for a lot of our customers, be it on the ease of signing up or in just education, telling people to understand how it works and how to protect themselves in the digital channels and how to do banking that is as simple as part of them, basically, across the channels. We will continue to push promos; we will continue to push our platform and encourage our customers, who are not on our platform, to get on the platform, understand that it is the easiest and safer way for them to bank in this day of pandemic. We will continue to push to make sure that our customers are onboard because it is important for us, we have made a lot of investment across the platform.
Cybercrime is a global problem. In the last couple of weeks ago, I know how many major global companies that have been hit by either hacking. The industry is already focusing on it. The more you move to digital channels, the more everything goes online, you start to see a rise and we are seeing a rise for sure in this era. And what you have to do is to make sure you have an IT infrastructure that is able because everyday, a new technology, a new way of defrauding people comes up. Everybody has to be two steps ahead of the criminals. You have to make sure that your system is as foolproof as possible.
What I am saying to you is that when you hear of fraud or cyber cases, that should give you comfort that system and checks that have been put in place are working. That is why we have discovered these frauds or security breaches because we put those things in place to make sure that our system can find it. So when you hear of frauds or you hear of cyber attacks, know that it is because our system is able to catch it. In that sense, that is a good thing, because our protections have worked. Anything that is not discovered, there is insurance. Regardless of whatever the situation may be, customers don’t bear the burden. So we continue to make sure that our IT system are foolproof as possible. But note that when you hear of this crime or when you see that some people have been apprehended or that fraud has been discovered, it just means that our system of checks and balances, the protection that we put in place, are working.