Banks and other financial institutions have long been faced with the trends of online and mobile banking adoption. Up until now, there has been little that financial institutions could do to encourage specific groups of non-actors to change the way they bank in adoption of digital services. But that is changing now in the face of the Coronavirus pandemic across emerging economies.
In Ghana, not only are banks encouraging their customers to adapt to digital banking but customers on their own are now looking for ways they can bank digitally without having to visit branches, as a way of avoiding contact with others and preventing the spread of the virus.
At UMB, we believe that digital transformation and innovation is and will remain the fulcrum around which digital banking will revolve. It is for this reason that we have strategically positioned ourselves and as part of a grand agenda of ensuring that we drive more digital adoption and push our omni-channel banking services, to ensure that about 90percent of banking services can be executed by our valued customers whenever, wherever without necessarily walking into our banking halls.
This is evident in the fact that prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, our in-branch to digital patronage on monthly basis was around 65 to 80percent. In the peak of COVID-19 and presently, we have witnessed a spike with over 92percent in digital uptake, a testament to UMB’s vision of enabling customers to transact business whenever and wherever. Notwithstanding, we still record some in-branch transactions from remittances, mobile money cash in and out as well as cheque payments.
Who we are
Universal Merchant Bank (UMB) is a full-service financial institution specializing in customized banking products and services. Opened on March 15, 1972, UMB is a leading Ghanaian indigenous bank with considerable financial expertise. Through our Corporate, Business, Private, Personal and Channels departments, we are able to adequately address the financial needs of various segments of the market. Furthermore, our Trade, Treasury and Credit departments complement our broad range of financial services with their unique and innovative banking products. Additionally, with thirty-six (36) branches, three (3) UMB Centres for Businesses, one (1) UMB PPP Incubator Centre and a vast network of ATMs, UMB makes banking easy and accessible.
To lead, create and professionally provide a wide range of innovative and superior banking services that guarantee returns exceeding stakeholders’ expectations.
UMB aspires to be positioned as a leading Ghanaian Bank and a leader in innovative banking solutions by 2024.
Our digital products
The highest traffic regarding our digital platforms are the Mobile Banking App (UMB SpeedApp), then our ATM’s followed by our internet banking platform, etcetera. In addition to these, UMB is driving more innovations to ensure we are able to exceed our customers’ expectations amid the COVID-19 outbreak. These innovations include a considerable upgrade on our Internet Banking platform such that about 90percent of our banking services can be carried out, additional services on our Mobile Banking App, a social media banking solution and very soon online account opening feature.
The Bank also recently introduced the UMB Visa contactless cards and all these will increase UMB’s share of the market.
- Enhanced Mobile Banking: In line with efforts to mitigate the spread of the virus and observe physical/social distancing, UMB made considerable improvements on the Bills Payment menu on the UMB SpeedApp to include religious institutions as well as the Lands Commission. With this new update, we enable payment of tithes, donations and offerings whenever, whenever as well instant payment of all land-related fees due the Lands Commission.
- UMB Visa Contactless cards: We have also enhanced our range of Visa debit cards to now include the contactless feature. With the new UMB Visa contactless cards, our customers can now tap to pay on contactless-enabled point-of-sale terminals worldwide. We believe our customers will find this enhancement a more secure, easy and fast mode of payment with reduced human interactions– especially amid COVID-19. The UMB Visa contactless cards are issued instantly and now available at all our branches nationwide.
- Instant Mobile Money Salary Processing: In this era where many businesses have adopted remote-working schedules, UMB has made it possible for payroll managers to pay employees using our instant Mobile Money Salary processing. This unique service enables instant salary processing, allowance payments, and related payments using our platform directly into any designated telco mobile money wallet in Ghana.
- Enhanced Customer Service: We have also reintroduced a 24-hour customer care regime in order to ensure that we are always at the beck and call of our valued customers who may have enquiries on our products and services or to assist those who may be facing service challenges at any given time of the day. For added convenience, our valued customers can now contact the UMB Contact Centre round-the-clock on the WhatsApp number +233 266 020 400. Our friendly and knowledgeable Customer Care Agents are always on hand to offer assistance.
- In an effort to stay relevant and responsive to the plight of our customers, we increased our Visa debit card cash withdrawal limits to up to GHS10,000.00. At UMB, we want to ensure that our customers have access to as much cash as possible whenever the need arises. This development, we believe, will reduce the number of times our valued customers visit our branches or ATM’s for withdrawals.
Impact of the virus on operations
The impact of the virus has been detrimental to a lot of individuals and businesses. Aside the widespread job losses, inability to settle loan obligations, and several other challenges that affected our customers, there have been some positives amid the pandemic.
As an industry leader in innovation, we rather want to look at the big picture, explore the brighter side of the challenges and re-evaluate how we can use the observed challenges as golden opportunities to boost our efforts to satisfy customers. The main catalyst to meet customer expectations is to position our Bank as a digitally transformed and matured entity, ready to use technology to meet customer expectations and this has been evident in the significant spike in the usage of our digital channels while reducing branch walk-ins.
Key to this strategic agenda is digitization all the way. Institutions that are digital transformers are able to maximize capacity with scarce resources by constantly innovating to exceed the ever-changing expectations of customer. This mindset sustains competitiveness and UMB is well-positioned to lead the way.
How our products are helping our valued customers?
Digital banking tools without a doubt have been very beneficial to the Bank by enabling us offer banking services to our valued customers at their convenience while observing all COVID-19 related protocols of restrictions, physical & social distancing and staying at home etc. UMB has a bouquet of digital platforms that are secure, efficient and fast. Some of our platforms include; our Mobile Banking App (i.e.) the UMB SpeedApp, Internet Banking platform which serves both individual, commercial and corporate clients. Bill payments with Mobile Money, Mobile Banking App and very soon, via USSD services.
Additionally, we have included services on the UMB SpeedApp to generate inflows from church offerings, pledges, and tithes payments among others on our Mobile Banking App. Contactless feature has been activated on our Visa cards to support tap to pay mode of payments.
Cardless transactions on our ATM terminals is fully enabled to support less contact but ease of cashing out whenever. Our next frontier is to deploy business analytical tools, use artificial intelligence and predictive analytics to be able to pre-empt the needs and expectations of our customers in order to provide them the services and solutions before they request. Therefore, our Bank will be mining data and use the data extracts to support our customers by providing them with relevant banking products and services at every stage of their lives.
Relationship with fintechs
For us at UMB, we are driving strategic collaborative competition with our Fintech partners. We are all advancing by adopting newer technologies and all parties also require the support of each other (Banks and Fintechs) to satisfy our customers. In a competitive environment, where our customers could be the customers of the Fintechs, the right strategy to attract more customers is to create the right levels of collaboration and then be a step ahead of the curve. That said, UMB will continue to form meaningful alliances to keep our valued customers delighted with our innovative products and services.
In conclusion, the future is very bright, the opportunities are available, technology is available, human resources are available, training and retraining is critical. Most importantly, the formation of rich and meaningful collaboration and cooperation will make a great difference in driving financial inclusion within the Ghanaian economy.