There is something I like about most U.S. banks: they combine retail and advisory services in branches no matter how small the branch is. When you walk in, you get a picture of a bank that is ready to collect your deposit and also discuss mortgage, lending, education funding, savings, etc right before you. The tellers are there while the advisors are in their cubicles talking to clients.
Sure, we do that in Nigeria in many ways, but the advisory part does not seem to be what any client can have access to. In other words, we make it look like you just come here to make deposit, and unless you have truckloads of cash, the advisory aspect would be away from you.
In my opinion, that is wrong. If branch staff members are not looking at how to help clients deepen their businesses and lives through advisory services, they would not strengthen the relationships necessary for future growths.
I recall a call I got from my U.S. bank many years ago. We had done a project for a Swiss businessman in Africa. They paid to my U.S. firm. The next day, the bank sent their staff to meet me, to understand how they could help the business, and if we plan to keep the cash, how the bank could make it work for us. As we discussed, they presented scenarios based on cashflow in our business. I was impressed that they did not see us as a number, but a firm, they could develop deeper relationships.
Till today, none of my Nigerian bankers have come to us with any conversation of such services. The message has been “the account is doing well” which means that inflows are coming. There is a service gap in our bank and we need to fix that.
Imagine if we can have in each mega bank branch a Future Bar (think of 9Mobile Geek Bar or Apple Genius Bar for dealing with your phone issues), but here the focus would be to discuss investments and advisory services available to young professionals, as they begin their careers. Yes, we are not in the phase to use AI to drive such processes online. But we can build structures to get the young people excited to have financial plans.
Many people in Nigeria especially in the informal sector usually begin great but some run into troubles due to lack of financial planning. Visit your village and you would see people that started great businesses, post-apprenticeships from their masters, but today are struggling in villages. Their banks could have helped them when their failed businesses were booming. Yes, besides the retail-first strategy, we must add advisory services to create more values for clients.
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