By Nnamdi Odumody
Since the commencement of banking operations in 1945, Wema Bank has proven itself as an incubator of inventions and creative ideas. With the launch of ALAT, Nigeria’s first digital banking platform, the bank extended the limits of experiential banking.
ALAT is the first step for Wema Bank. In the next few years, depending on its progress, ALAT can be divested from Wema Bank, to allow it to compete more aggressively in the African market without being tethered to a bank and the associated regulation. The regulation is important and there is nothing wrong with that: banks like Wema Bank take customer deposits, unlike most fintechs, and should be regulated. So, ALAT can become an operational arm of Wema Bank while the bank remains a dumb pipeline, typical of most traditional banks today (i.e. not much intelligence due to lack of deep insights), to support what that modern banking named ALAT does. Perhaps in 10 years, Wema Bank may even simply change its name to ALAT if this new modern banking solution evolves into its future.
Wema Bank won the 2018 Accenture Nigeria Innovation Index – Banking Innovation Masters Award, Banking Innovation Concepts Award and Banking Strategy Ideation Absorption Award. Now it is organizing Hackaholics, a two day hackathon from March 29-31 2019 which will bring together tech professionals to create innovative solutions. Innovators and creative thinkers have the opportunity to convert visionary concepts into workable opportunities for financial and social problems. It comes with a prize sum of $10,000 and the winning ideas will be nurtured to become marketable, and will also receive technical support.
Hackaholics is a radical gathering of developers, web designers and creative thinkers interested in building products and developing solutions to improve financial services and other sectors of Nigerian life. We are particularly excited about potential innovations in personal finance, big data, retail banking, mobile payments, risk management, currency and stock trading, investment, regulatory compliance as well as health and the environment.
Winning solutions will stand a chance of being incubated and developed into marketable solutions. Also, the best ideas will get full technical support and funding up to 10,000 USD while talented individuals who will exhibit their agility and innovative thinking during the Hackathon will be approached to work further with the bank, in a full time basis.
Heritage Bank’s introduced its intelligent banking assistant in 2018 to enable its customers perform seamless financial transactions across channels. It recently unveiled the HB Lab, an Accelerator programme for product development teams and technology startups creating solutions to critical problems in Nigeria. It will run for 12 weeks with the winning team receiving $25,000 and mentorship from the Heritage Bank network.
Union Bank in 2017 launched an annual ‘’Innovation Challenge’’ to encourage innovators who are creating innovative solutions to social and business challenges. Last year, in partnership with the Co Creation Hub, it launched ‘’Startup Connect’’ which provides an opportunity for Nigerian businesses creating technology-based solutions for the emerging African market to partner with the bank, and the social innovation lab, for growth. It recently unveiled its Techventures proposition tailored for technology companies to support them in various stages of their lifecycle, with access to Venture Capital funding, Business Advisory, Mentorship and Accelerator Partnership.
Diamond Bank pioneered this trend with its Diamond Yello partnership with MTN that saw it acquire over a million customers. Last year, the bank launched Dreamville, a gamified platform powered by Microsoft for kids, to learn financial skills. Her Ada Chatbot was a game-changer in offering the unique customer experience, causing other banks to deploy chatbot services on their platforms, targeting the tech-savvy generation.
The bank of the future will be a technology company, which will utilize data analytics to offer personalized real-time financial services, to its customers, no matter where they are located. It will likely operate mainly with limited physical branches, unbounded by locations – rural or urban, thereby promoting financial inclusion for all. Some banks in Nigeria are already redesigning their strategies to key into this redesign which has become evident to technology leaders. For these banks, technology does not just run them, technology is transforming them, and that is great.