By Omodele Adigun
True to bookmakers’ views, “boom in the economy is coming through digitisation.” And Sterling Bank’s digital credit finance platform, PaywithSpecta, may have contributed to the nation’s emergence from its second recession in four years just as it continues to make waves in the service sector.
Recall that the sector contributed 54.28 per cent to the GDP in the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2020, while ICT accounted for 15.9 per cent. Together the duo served as growth drivers that pulled the nation out of the woods in the Q4 with 0.11 per cent growth in the GDP.
Launched at the peak of the recession in 2020, PayWithSpecta is an online lending platform that provides business promoters with access to credit to support and boost their businesses. It also offers digital credit limits to customers without the hassles of Know Your Customer (KYC) requirements in order to enable them purchase items in any designated stores, first, on zero to 90-day repayments at 1.25 per cent interest, and later, for seven to 12 months repayment period.
Aside this, the bank’s Divisional Head, Retail and Consumer, Mr. Shina Atilola, said PaywithSpecta can also be used to pay school fees or medical bills. “For instance, if an individual is sick and wants to do surgery but cannot pay for it, they can use digital credit to sort the bill out.”
On how this could rejig the economy, Atilola explained during the product launch that “for consumers, it is making dreams come true. Consumers can now make purchases that include cars, household items, groceries, and other essentials, even when they do not have money. They can PaywithSpecta and spread payments over a period. This increases sales volume and boosts the cashflow of merchants.
Linking this to economic impact, we are in a recession, and manufacturing is down because consumers do not have purchasing power. If merchants do not sell, the downturn will linger, leading to job losses. But with PaywithSpecta, merchants will sell more, and manufacturers can increase production. Increased production creates new jobs and new consumers with purchasing power leading to a healthier overall economy in which businesses thrive and the economy bounces back.”
On what inspired Sterling Bank to come up with the initiative, Atilola said: “You will agree with me that the outbreak of COVID-19 and the lockdown that followed affected businesses. Among the worst-hit are small businesses and households which necessarily precipitates an economic downturn. It means consumers will not spend, merchants will not sell, and manufacturers will keep goods in their warehouses and stop manufacturing new ones. This can lead to employees’ disengagement, which increases unemployment, and the economy will continue to be in recession. Daily spend by consumers drives economic growth. We intervened with PaywithSpecta to stimulate spending and mitigate against recession. It represents our way of igniting the economy.”
Umar Farook Ibrahim, the National President of Universal Multipurpose Chickens Corporative Society and the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Universal Chicken Farms., testified to the goodness of this digital finance on his business. According to him, “Sterling Bank’s PaywithSpecta solution has helped my business a lot and we sincerely hope that the bank will keep up the good work. To me, the PaywithSpecta is second to none.”
Ibrahim explained that the product gives customers the much-needed confidence to improve on their business pursuits, remarking that when they signed on as a merchant on Sterling Bank’s PaywithSpecta, their business improved within a short period because the business that they do demands high volume of money. According to him, if a farmer who has 500 chickens needs about 50 to 60 bags of feeds and each bag costs about N5,000 and if you calculate it, it is a huge amount of money and this is where PaywithSpecta comes in to play a part. Ibrahim said, with the PaywithSpecta, they can readily acquire whatever materials they needed to push their businesses. “Our members are getting the right support from Sterling Bank’s PaywithSpecta. This product even trickles down to people roasting chicken by the roadside and those that sell chickens, including those selling eggs,” the National President said.
Also another customer, Alhaji Umar Nasiru, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Al-Ummur Ventures Limited who deals in textile fabrics at the popular Kasuwan Barchi Market, Tudun-Wada in Kaduna South Local Government Area of Kaduna State, was full of praises for Sterling Bank Plc for initiating the PaywithSpecta facility, noting that the initiative has boosted his business. According to him, “PaywithSpecta is really making the difference because after Sterling Bank introduced it to me, I found it so difficult to convince my customers to use it. To convince people in the northern part of the country to collect facility from a bank is quite difficult. But I was lucky enough to convince two or three of my customers to try PaywithSpecta and they are happy with me. It is also helping my business at the same time. So, I can say this PaywithSpecta is really helping my business. “My account officer introduced PaywithSpecta to me. When he talked about it initially, I did not take it seriously then. Later, I met one of their managers who put me through. My experience so far is that the interest they are charging is not even high. If they can keep it up with the way they are going now, I think other banks will have no choice than to sit up,” Nasiru said.“I am seeing the impact already because someone that used to buy goods worth two million can now afford to buy goods of N2.5 million and without much credit. It is certainly a thing of joy. I am seeing the impact already.“I will recommend PaywithSpecta to other customers because it is not too difficult. I will explain to them that the bank is helping their businesses to grow by using the PaywithSpecta solution.”
Asked of the requirements for individuals and merchants seeking to access the payment solution, Atilola stated: The requirements are simple and straight forward. For merchants, just necessary information: The company name and its Registered Company (RC) number. Once we have the details, we add you to the platform, and consumers can use PaywithSpecta to make purchases from your store. Now, it can be in-store or online. In-store means, they can visit your physical store, or they can purchase online. Some merchants are purely online. Consumers can visit their online store to buy and PaywithSpecta digital credit.
A consumer who wants access to the digital credit would need to provide his name and account number. We will run a check to determine the customer’s capacity before granting a valid digital credit for three months. Customers can spend, withdraw cash, or use it to buy items.