By Agatha Emeadi
Mr and Mrs Isaac Mitchel were both bankers. Until recently, they worked with two different new-generation banks in Lagos.
Not long ago, they moved into a new apartment yet to be completed. And that was at Egan, a community near Igando in Alimosho Local Council Development Area in the state.
It was not an easy task trying to settle in an unfamiliar environment, having moved from their rented apartment in an upmarket area in Ikeja.
Mrs Mitchel had lost her job following her bank’s policy of redefining the sector. Shortly after, she rallied and pooled resources together to get a space to set up for a Point of Sale business popularly known as (POS).
Within months, her husband’s disengagement letter was handed to him by his own bank. He became jobless. Seeing the progress made so far by his wife, the husband immediately opened another branch of the same business. Both saw it as a welcome idea. And now, they say it was the best thing that happened to them after they lost their jobs. It was so because they were the major POS dealers where they live and have had at least a major control of the services before others began to sprout.
In a recent encounter, Mitchell who was an operational staff in his bank before he was sacked said: “This little business has kept me busy. It is a very welcomed idea because of the patronage.
“You can see that the banks are not really cited in this area; so the use of POS here is worthy and appreciated. It has been serving the residents. At least 80 per cent of their financial services – especially withdrawal and deposit are being met. They are not the only ones singing appreciation song.”
How POS serves clients
At almost all the sighted stands, one sees flex banners boldly advertising POS services. “Withdraw money, Transfer Money, Airtime, Data Deposit.” Some announce: “Pay your electricity bills, and recharge all rechargeable dishes like DSTV, GOTV etc.”
In Ikorodu area of Lagos State, POS services are available for almost 24 hours of the day. During a visit to some of the communities, the residents were appreciative of the new semi-banking operations. To them, it is a mini-bank where the common man could visit for simple transactions like withdrawals and deposits of money. Everything takes place in the twinkle of an eye.
From Ajagoguro, Agbede, Odogunyan to Owode-Onirin where banks are not anywhere near, most residents sang songs of praise for the POS. one of the residents is Dr Faleke, who is a Federal Government retiree. He had just moved into his Igbolowu country home, a suburb in Ikorodu. On that occasion, he came to patronise the POS agent. He said: “This is one of the great things that have happened to the banking industry.
“I am a Federal Government retiree; I lived in Surulere all my working years, and developed there with time. Now, I have moved in with members of my family who are still living with my wife and me. Most of my children are overseas now.
“That house you are looking at is my house; you can also see that Igbolowo is a developing area where the banks are yet to site their presence, yet the residents need banking services.
“I strolled out of my house to get some little coins in my pocket, to buy newspapers and fruits. Apart from buying a few things, I will also send some money across to my mechanic to assist him to come over and pick my car for servicing.
“Without the emergence of POS, I would have driven all the way to Ikorodu town, to queue in at the bank, make use of the ATM which might not even work immediately.
“Now POS has removed the stress of driving, queuing up in the bank even with the second emergence of the Coronavirus. Now, I have the opportunity of exercising myself because I walked from my house to this place.”
He added that “it is a very welcome development in the sense that this is how foreign countries operate.
“In the community where one lives, one should surround him or herself with one’s church, school for the children, shop, recreational facilities, hospital and bank etc; all these should come handy in the neighbourhood. But if there is a need to visit another city, it becomes a different ball game.”
At Elepete also in Ikorodu, the POS success story was told. Alhaji Moruuf, a building contractor uses the POS to transfer funds to his numerous customers.
“I am a building contractor by profession.
“Years ago, we used to go to the bank to withdraw money and carry it to the market to buy materials,” he said.
Brandishing the paper in his hand, he added: “These are my customers’ account numbers at the Building Market in Owode.
“Saratu here who operates this POS point knows me very well. When I come here, I instruct her on the amount she credits to them and I pay for the charges. It is easier, and faster for me. Instead of carrying cash around, I would walk to them and pick up my goods.
“The little charges I pay for the services of POS serves as my transportation to the bank and far better than losing all to the hooligans on the road.”
Driving towards Ijanikin area along Lagos-Badagry Expressway in Lagos State, one comes in contact with various communities such as Ilemba, Shibri, Ilogbo-Elegba, Ilufu etc. They are all fast rising with lots of residents. Every one of them depends on POS for their day-to-day financial transactions.
Mrs Modesta Uche is an agent and an operator in the area. She said: “Before I became an agent, I had a current account with my bank and that is one of the requirements for opening a POS. I also have a regular standard provision shop which was investigated by the bank officials before they found me worthy and approved my request to operate a POS.
“My first reason for requesting for a POS was because when some of our customers patronise us, some might not be in possession of enough cash, but want more items; so instead of owning us, I would encourage them to use the POS to pay for the items they bought.
“I went and made my intentions known to my banks, they came here for inspection; we completed the processes and I bought the POS machine.”
What are the charges in this area and how do you make a little profit? our reporter asked.
“If a the customer withdraws the sum of N5,000.00, it attracts a charge of N100.00. The sum of N10,000.00 attracts N200.00 while N50,000.00 attracts N500.00 only as the case may be. Our charges are a bit higher or lower, yet, users are not complaining. Rather they see it as a welcome development. Profits is a bit high when an operator has the monopoly of the customers; but in my area now, if you step out, you will see about four other POS points on the same route, and that reduces the profit margin because it is a bit competitive,” she said.
POS operators are also in Ijegamo, Ijedodo, Abaranje areas between Bucknor, Isheri, and Ijegun near Jakande in Oshodi-Isolo Local Government Area of the state. The POS operators are their saving grace as banks are not near them. The same system operates there especially for withdrawal and deposit and payments of electricity bills, DSTV, GOTV, and StarTimes even as they all have their different charges.
Mrs Margret Ekpenyong who retired from the defunct All States Trust Bank in the ’90s said: “Instead of going to queue up or sit in the sun in the bank, I prefer to walk into a POS and make my payment with little charges taken from me and have my peace.
“I can make all payments and charges would be either N800.00 or N1,000.00. Now imagine having to go to my GT Bank in Isolo from my home in Ijedodo; the stress of hopping in and out of these commercial vehicles, plying the bad road and the time such a move would take; put all that together and see if one can quantify it with a stroll to a POS point?” she said.
Indeed, POS operators are not found only in emerging communities, but also in established areas. It saves emergency and disappointing situations for individuals.
For instance, Victory Udo said he was almost stranded as he was returning late from work someday. He discovered his wallet had been pulled away after he boarded the last commercial vehicle. The POS became his saving grace because his ATM was tucked away somewhere in his pocket.
He said that he quickly moved to the nearest POS centre and withdrew the sum of N2,000 to be able to continue on his journey.
In the case of Chioma Ekemezie, she said she got into the Warehouse market someday and saw items she did not plan for, but liked them; she walked to the POS port inside the market, made a withdrawal, and purchased what she wanted.
She said: “POS is life made easy for all; their charges are okay; it reduces stress and unjust suffering.”
Findings by our correspondent suggested that the POS has come to stay in the society as a leading financial substitute to the ATM and some minor banking needs.
In every nook and cranny of the street and communities, there is always a point where POS operators are serving their customers.
According to our investigations, gone are the days when banks close at 4:00 p.m and most people in financial needs become stranded. Today, for instance, schools, hospitals, motor-parks, supermarkets, shopping malls, bars and lounges, drinking joints, clubs, open markets, streets – all operate POS machines to serve the public better. Besides, their presence is further energising the cashless policy, banking system earlier introduced in the country, thus nudging the society further to internalise a cashless culture.
Not long ago, secondary schools in Lagos State resumed. Except a few parents and guardians who paid through the Federal Government remittal scheme in the banking hall because of the Federal Government Remmitta Number and printout that identifies a student, most other payments were made in school premises through the POS services.
A parent of a child in one of the Federal Government schools who craved anonymity was seen issuing his ATM card to pay his children’s Parent’s Teachers Association PTA levy to the PTA staff who maintained a POS machine beside him for easy transaction into PTA’s account. The parent admitted that: “It is very convenient and reliable, especially as school resumes.
“Going to the bank for school bills payment is like going for an interview to spend the whole day. The charges 0.75 per cent is far better than going to the bank to spend all day including the transportation cost and the fuel one would burn in the process.”
POS can also be frustrating
But all that glitters is not gold anyway. There are times when the POS services can get one annoyed.
According to the PTA staff who operates a POS, when network delays, the process can be cumbersome.
ATM, POS explained
Now what are the operational modalities of POS agents and operators as there seems to be a conspiracy between the Bank’s Automated Teller Machine (ATM) and POS agents where the ATMs provide fewer services and the POS reigns supreme?
According to a banker in one of the new generation banks, who also craved anonymity, the ATM and POS are “both instruments of payment to serve the bank customers without delay. The introduction of the POS into the system is to reduce operational cost on the bank.
“Then, the difference between the ATM and POS is that ATM uses bank staff to service ATM. It is the duty of bank staff to install, load, clean, and service the ATM, while POS are operated by agents and bear the operational costs themselves.”
A POS agent, he said, “rents his shop, buys fuel for his generator, purchases his POS machines and bears his stay on cost.”
With a near paradigm shift in the market between the ATM users and POS users, the banker said it is not an abandonment of the ATM because “there is still much the ATM can do for customers but POS seems to be ahead of the market because of its conveniences.”
He added that “POS has an interface with the bank’s database, and that is why when an ATM card of a particular bank is used on a different bank, the customer is debited immediately, but when the same card is used in the same bank, one is not debited from the bank, but the POS operator charges the customer for the services rendered.”
There are times when a customer is charged by both the bank and a POS agent. This he said, “varies depending on the bank style and policy.”
He explained that bankers’ term known as “On us,” and “Not on us,” where all the charges emanate from. He said “if an ATM card is used on the same bank if there is a retraction or error, it is known as ‘On us mode,’ the customer gets credited immediately or shortly, but if it is a different card on a different bank, it means, it is on ‘Not On us’ mode, which takes a longer time as it is done manually to effect corrections, that is why customers who find themselves here suffer a setback before they get their money retracted from different banks.”
Requirements for agents
He added that it depends on the bank’s house-style and policy. “There are charges that some banks wave for their customer, while others do not.”
To operate a POS he explained, “an agent, compulsorily must have a current or savings account with his or her bank. An agent must have a registered primary business that must have been in existence for at least one year – sole proprietor, registered partnership. It must also be in a physical location adequate, secure premises and a clean criminal record.
“Also note that there are banks that do not welcome their staff and associates to become POS agents. Some do not like Bureau De Change, NGOs, churches and mosques and educational organisations while some welcome such.”
Profit shared between banks and POS operators
It was learnt that mostly, the gain for both comes from the volume of business transacted. Large businesses such as Shoprite attract a lot of payment from customers and that is huge for both the operators and the banks as customers pay both directly and indirectly.
The banker noted that “apart from deposits and withdrawals, when large sums of money are deposited through POS, the same money is also used to service withdrawing customers without going to the bank while the same charges are made from the customer. It is the gain that banks generate from POS that gives operators easy access and prompt services from the banks because they are the most loyal customers who generate money for the bank.”
He added that the “POS is also a stress-reduction strategy on the bank staff while making their money and spending nothing.”
He also said that bank staff do not operate POS machines because both run the same operations.
Do operators face risks?
In all the success stories of POS, there are also risks in the transaction.
Chinyere Okolo who is stays in Ejigbo said: “Sometimes, some transactions do not go through, but cash has been parted with already. When the slip is re-presented, it might be difficult to trace it because the transaction is not registered in the account number; there would not be any proof and cash has been given out already. If the transaction was on ‘not on us’ mode, it becomes the loss of the POS operator. But ‘On us’ mode would be delayed a bit before reconciliation.”
She disclosed that again, some customers might be smart to collect money through an unfunded account. She noted that one would, therefore, not undermine the activities of the robberies if one is not careful, adding that sometimes, robbers attack operators and collect everything they have worked for.