Since returning as a national institution in 2015, Wema Bank has looked to recapture the proud heritage of a business that has brought economic stability and innovation to Nigeria for the past seven decades
Writer: Matthew Staff
Project Manager: Stuart Parker
For more than 70 years Wema Bank has negotiated fluctuating industry demands and climates to remain an ever-present in Nigeria’s financial domain, and since reinventing itself as a national operator in 2015, the business has been able to go back to what it has always done best: bringing continued growth and banking modernisation to a nation.
Founded initially in 1945, a series of rebrandings-cum-reengineering, strategic moves and market repositionings have taken place during Wema’s existence; leading right up to the decision that was taken in 2015 by Chief Executive Officer, Segun Oloketuyi.
The CEO introduces: “When I joined the Bank with a new management team in 2009, we took a strategic decision to operate as a commercial bank with regional scope, but having repositioned the business for growth, the Bank returned to being a national bank in 2015.
“Wema Bank has a rich heritage which we are proud of and which has sustained the Bank over the past seven decades. We operate a mixed growth strategy involving the continued growth of branch networks, partnerships and digitisation.”
The branch network facet accounts for more than 140 outlets which is set to increase in the near future, and is complemented by 277 ATM installations strategically located around the country. Particularly strong in the area of point of sale (PoS) deployment, more than 6,000 customers are reached ultimately, but the drive to grow and expand never wanes.
“We believe there exists opportunities to grow our financial access points. Therefore, we continue to emphasise our digital drive, which is a conscious and deliberate action to position,” Oloketuyi says. “Ultimately, we would like to evolve to omni-channel, incorporating all possible customer touch points, efficiently.”
Such an all-encompassing presence would cater for all demographics of customers which currently engulf the retail, SME and corporate sectors, as well as treasury and trade domains. A strongly innovation-driven ethos ensures diversification across its product range that is almost unparalleled elsewhere in the market; putting the customers in complete control of their finances.
To this end, the Wema WebPay payment engine integrates ecommerce opportunities; Card Control facilitates vastly improved security through its flexibility; WemaMobile and WemaOnline address mobile app and online banking efficiencies, respectively; and the USSD banking service, *945#, allows for more streamlined and speedy payments.
Nigeria’s first fully digital bank
Numerous adjacent services have been formed and unveiled to align with the aforementioned portfolio – including the facilitation of more seamless international transactions – and all exist under the overarching banner: ‘With You. All the Way’.
Inevitably, given the rise of digitisation, much of Wema’s current unveilings and market analyses of late have revolved around capitalising on consumers’ online and mobile preferences; and this has led most aptly to the launch of ALAT.
Oloketuyi explains: “ALAT is Nigeria’s first fully digital bank that allows everything customers would do in a bank to be done from their personal digital devices. Account opening can be done on the digital bank via the app which is on Google Play and App Store, or on the web (alat.ng). Every Nigerian of banking age is expected to have a Bank Verification Number (BVN); and this is required to open the ALAT account.
“With ALAT, we have been able to reduce cost-to-serve to the barest minimum, allowing us to offer as high as 10 percent interest to ALAT customers who commit to saving diligently.”
Not only does this give customers a value-add service, but it also instils loyalty. With the millennial age range the most fickle, when it comes to bank choices, the need to remain relevant and attractive as a provider has never been more prevalent, and Wema’s stance on the digital front places the Company on the front foot as the bank of choice.
“We are also changing the face of our branches to improve ambience and aesthetic value. Our message to customers is that we have everything they need to Bank wherever they are, but if they ever have to come to the banking hall, we want them to feel welcomed,” Oloketuyi continues. “We want to be much more to our customers, so we are working hard to open up channels through which we can communicate with them, offer advice and expose them to opportunities.”
Excellence, enterprise and efficiency join technological aptitude as three more pillars of Wema’s success, and across each parameter a constant monitoring of customer feedback is conducted to ensure that necessary modifications to the provision are made almost in real-time.
Oloketuyi adds: “In the current KPMG customer service survey, we ranked eighth, up from 13th the previous year. We are now working hard to ensure a top five finish in 2018.”
ALAT as a bank stands for much more than its immediate physical benefits; more as a testament to Wema’s commitment to technological innovation and as a differentiator in the modern banking industry. For the customer, it is a tool that will be used for wealth creation.
Placing similar emphasis on security and safety, the Bank is hitting all of the hot topics that engulf global finance at present to affirm its current rise in the region.
However, compounding each and every innovation – and indeed the Company’s current automation goal – is its biggest differentiator: its people.
“We know that a brand is only as strong as its people, therefore, we ensure we hire the right people and keep them equipped to continuously deliver, through relevant professional and academic training,” Oloketuyi affirms. “Our recruitment process is rigorous, and generally our staff benefits are one of the best in the industry to ensure our top talents remain with us.
“We are huge on local content too as most of our top talents are local hires. However, in building a strong brand that can compete internationally, we are not averse to bringing in foreign talents to support our team in helping us achieve our goals.”
The same balance of quality and localisation is displayed throughout the Bank’s partner network too; the likes of Etisalat (now 9mobile) instrumental in Wema’s development in recent years.
Oloketuyi picks up: “For ALAT, the digital bank we founded, partnerships have been a major tool that the business is using to deliver value to customers. Most of our partnerships are in Nigeria and very much entail the provision of business-improving solutions.
“And at the moment [as a result], ALAT is the only bank in Nigeria that offers 10 percent interest on any form of savings.”
Groundbreaking statistics such as these are vital not just in terms of customer retention, but in honouring the Company’s own rich heritage, the visions of which have been passed through numerous generations.
Looking forward, the journey will continue courtesy of Wema’s dedication to customer requirements, driven by ALAT, and complemented by innovations set to give every single customer a “delightful and memorable experience across all touch points”.
Oloketuyi concludes: “We will continue to leverage on technology and innovation to deliver tailor-made financial solutions for our customers. Wema is committed to leading the industry in the development of cutting-edge financial solutions and making financial transactions easier for all our stakeholders.
“As we continue to build value-driven relationships across the board, we hope to grow our customer base to three million by 2020.”