Stories by Tony Udemba [email protected]
Across the world, the advent of electronic payment systems has revolutionised financial transactions among individuals and organisations, thereby bringing about easy commercial and non-commercial transactions, financial transfers and other forms of monetary transactions.
In Nigeria, since the introduction of e-payment and the cashless policy by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) some years ago, electronic transactions have continued to witness tremendous growth in the country, with billions of naira involved and visible reduction in the over-dependence on cash transactions for normal commercial and other business exchanges. Given the growing interest, trust and patronage by increasing number of Nigerians on electronic payment transactions, there has been a remarkable increase in the number of various e-payment brands in the nation’s financial sector.
It may not be an over-statement to say that the sudden rise in the number of e-commerce portals in the country and the corresponding growth in the number of Nigerians patronising them is a clear indication of the great impact, popularity and stimulating growth in the usage of electronic payment in Nigeria.
Indeed, owning to the resilience and competition in the industry, many forward-looking financial institutions have introduced diverse, cutting-edge, innovative e-payment solutions such as credit cards, debit cards, Internet banking, mobile money, etc., to the benefit and convenience of their teeming customers. Additionally, some financial services firms have successfully launched various cutting-edge, technology-driven financial services covering seamless payment capture solutions, subscriptions payments, airtime payments and related solutions in the country.
Interestingly, a report by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) has stated that the volume of e-payment transactions across all electronic payment channels in the country rose from N43.85 trillion in 2014 to N48.93 trillion in 2015. This simply showed that between 2014 and 2015, the value of e-payment transactions witnessed a growth of approximately 11.57 per cent despite the downturn in the nation’s economy.
The report also stated that the total value of financial transactions across all electronic payment channels in Nigeria between December 2015 and the end of the second quarter of 2016 stood at N33.8 trillion. The report further maintained that, within the same period, e-payment transactions, through the Nigeria Interbank Settlement Instant Payment System (NIP), rose to N19.3 trillion, making it the highest settlement recorded in the banking sector. At the same period, transactions through the Nigeria Electronic Fund Transfer (NEFT) accounted for a total sum of N7.67 trillion, while electronic payment transactions through automated teller machines (ATMs) recorded N2.59 trillion. Also, Internet/web-based e-payment transactions recorded N77.8 billion, while Point of Sales (POS) stood at N59.3 billion.
Going by these statistics, there is no doubt that the e-payment system is making a great impact on Nigerians’ financial transactions, just as its popularity and acceptance have continued to witness upward growth.
In our bid to underline the strength of electronic payment system, Daily Sun, in the first part of this special project report, profiles the financial institutions that have made tremendous marks in this system of financial transaction. They include Fidelity Bank Plc, United Bank for Africa Plc (UBA) and Zenith Bank Plc.
Innovating and changing the digital-payment landscape
The United Bank for Africa (UBA) Group remains a highly diversified financial services provider, one of the largest financial institutions in Africa, with offices in New York, London and Paris; it controls significant market share in 19 different African countries
In line with its continuous pursuit of having innovative and convenient payment options for its customers, pan-African financial services group, UBA, has been at the forefront of innovations in digital-payments in Africa and, as a major issuer of payment cards in Nigeria, the bank issues MasterCard, Visa and Verve cards, and has more than eight million retail customers. Indeed, cards are a key part of the UBA digital-banking strategy, hence the bank’s partnerships with credible local and international retailers to ensure that all customers enjoy the advantages and convenience offered by the use of payment cards.
UBA has been ahead of the competition in payment card innovation to encourage convenience in card usage across Africa, and it is the first bank to announce that its payment cards are now accepted on Paypal, the largest online payment company based in the United States, thereby enabling its customers to move into the global e-commerce payment space, riding on the platform provided by Paypal. Not long ago, the bank announced the introduction of Instant Card issuance, which allows UBA customers to instantly pick up all UBA payment cards at any of their business offices without having to wait for weeks. UBA Prepaid Cards, which are acceptable across the 19 African countries where the bank operates, as both a payment card and student or staff ID card in many African countries, are actively being promoted across Africa because of the versatility and flexibility of usage. To boost card pick-up rate in a population that is accustomed to years of cash usage, UBA also actively runs different loyalty schemes to create awareness about UBA cards in Nigeria and in 18 African countries.
In April 2015, UBA Plc unveiled a new IT banking platform, Finacle 10x, the very latest generation of banking applications developed to increase the speed of the bank’s e-platforms, including Internet banking, mobile banking, and also greatly improve the uptime and availability of its e-channels like the POS machines and ATMs.
UBA’s new IT platform delivers a whole new set of offerings such as enhanced treasury, wealth management and advanced e-banking solutions, and it comes with an advanced security and compliance framework that has resulted in significant yield in productivity and improved response to security and regulatory issues.
It offers multi-entity capabilities to support multiple legal entities, across various geographies, currencies and time zones on single, easy-to-configure modules and components.
With the new IT banking platform, UBA also upgraded its Internet banking platform, U-Direct, whose interface is more user-friendly and gives customers more functionalities that enable them to carry out their banking from their laptops, smartphones, tablets or desktops. UBA also has the U-Bills platform, which is a collection and bill payment platform that allows sellers to collect payments online or on their mobile devices, like tablets and smart phones, as well as a one-stop platform for customers to make payments for goods and services on their mobile phones, tablets or personal computers as long as they have an Internet connection on the devices.
Customers registered on U-Bills can recharge their mobile phones, pay their cable TV subscription and utility bills quickly and easily in any of the 19 countries in Africa where UBA has operations.
The bank also recently pioneered contactless card payments, which allows customers to make payment without having to slot in or swipe their payment cards. All a UBA contactless card user needs do is place the payment card against the POS terminal reader and a connection is established. A UBA contactless card, which has all the benefits and security features of a regular debit card plus the contactless advantage, can also enable the user to make payments even on regular POS terminals. The new UBA contactless payment cards, which work with NFC-enabled POS terminals by simply touching the card against the reader without slotting it into the POS, enables fast, easy and secure payments for goods and services and serves as regular payment card with the added advantage of contactless technology. It can be used at any merchant location that has a contactless symbol as well as a regular card on a POS without the NFC logo. The customer would be prompted to enter a PIN, after which the transaction would be approved.
All UBA contactless cards use the Combined Data Authentication EMV chip, which is currently the highest standard for chip technology in payment cards, to ensure that UBA contactless cards are absolutely safe.
Ideally, for low-value transactions, contactless payment cardholders are not required to input their PIN, but the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) currently mandates that all transactions on the POS require PIN entry. So, for now, customers would still be required to input their PIN, even for low-value transactions on their contactless payment cards. However, contactless payment cards still offer a superior level of convenience compared to the traditional payment cards.
Interestingly, the UBA Group has a strong retail franchise across the African continent, offering its more than seven million customers a bouquet of products and services tailored to meet their different financial needs, backed by a cutting-edge e-banking platform that enables secure and convenient real-time online banking.