Panellists urge businesses to collaborate to survive COVID-19 challenges  


GMRCEOs Breakfast Series VI

Panellists at the sixth edition of Ghana’s Most Respected CEOs Breakfast Series have emphasised the need for collaboration among businesses to sustain their operations in this pandemic era.

The panel, which was made up of CEOs from the banking sector and technology firms, stressed that there is a greater chance for businesses to survive challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic if they embrace innovation through partnership.

According to the panellist, it is prudent for Ghanaian businesses to adopt the new way of doing things imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic through the deployment of technology. They recommended, for example, that Ghanaian businesses must begin to see themselves as a part of a global competition that can only be won through the adoption of technology.

The panel was made up of Nana Dwemoh Benneh-CEO of Universal Merchant Bank (UMB); Daniel Kwadwo Owusu-Country Managing Partner of Deloitte Ghana; Daniel Addo, MD-Consolidated Bank Ghana (CBG); Leticia Brown-Co-Director of Intelligent Capital; Dominic Adu, CEO-First National Bank Ghana; and Ethel Cofie-CEO of Edel Technologies.

Speaking on the importance of collaboration in the financial sector, Mr. Addo of CBG was of the view that the pandemic has created a situation which has compelled players in the financial ecosystem to redefine competitors. He mentioned, for example, that the revolution that was witnessed in the payment ecosystem in 2020 emphasised the important roles fintechs play in the financial space.

The issue of who is your competitor has changed. Is your competitor a bank or a business sitting in China? The circumstances have shown that a competitor can be a partner. If a fintech is beneficial to me, I will partner that fintech to grow my business,” he said.

He stated that technology is one of the best ways to predict ‘unknowns’ in the financial sector by providing solutions that will bring comfort to customers without physically engaging them.

Touching on strategy, Mr. Addo was of the view that it is imperative for businesses to be agile in designing plans for their operations to help them evolve in the event of unforeseen circumstances. “Strategy is no longer a discrete thing that you do. You need to formulate your strategies in a lot of scenarios. You must know how to react to the unknowns,” he said, citing COVID-19 as one of the major unknowns that hit the business world in 2020.

Speed of technology

On his part, the CEO of First National Bank Ghana, Dominic Adu, maintained that investing in technology is crucial for banks in Ghana to adequately move into the profitable global business areas exposed by the pandemic. “Capital is limited, and the pandemic has revealed that banking, technology companies and pharmaceutical companies are the profitable areas now.”

He explained that these sectors have been profitable in a pandemic era because of their unique strategy to be agile and flexible in times of challenges – engaging young entrepreneurs to explore new areas.

Making some recommendations, Mr. Adu stated that local banks can play in the global league of business if they accept the speed that comes with the adoption of technology. “The banking sector has always played in the technology area, but the pandemic has shown that the speed of technology is very important for you not to lose out.”

Fintechs to drive innovation in banking sector

For Ethel Cofie of Edel Technologies, sustainability in the payment ecosystem will be largely driven by fintechs and not banks.

She argued that there are many young entrepreneurs in Ghana who are designing payment platforms which are not only simplified but very convenient to connect with international payment platforms. “Innovation in the banking sector will not necessarily come from the banking sector. I think that drive will be embarked upon by the fintechs.”

She maintained that fintechs in Ghana have already penetrated the informal market by creating easy-to-use payment platforms for traders in Makola and other markets across the country. “The payment system was revolutionised by the young entrepreneurs who started dealing with, for example, market women where the banks were not initially going.”

This, she said, requires banks in the country to acknowledge the role fintechs play in the financial inclusion agenda – hence, banks should partner them.

Efficiency of tech in workplaces

Talking on the efficiency of technology in the COVID-19 era, Mr. Benneh of UMB urged businesses to take advantage of the opportunities provided by the pandemic via engaging clients and customers remotely to cut cost. He stated, for example, that young entrepreneurs have designed new products that are very efficient in engaging customers without necessarily meeting them.

Even though Mr. Benneh stressed the need for physical networking, he was however hopeful that the new dispensation created by the pandemic will encourage businesses and individuals to use virtual platforms to reduce spread of the disease.

“The pandemic has made it possible for us to engage people far away remotely and still achieve the goal that was set. I think this provides the opportunity for businesses to engage more and even train their staff rather than spend a lot of money to travel.”

Enforcing value systems key

Despite the urge to get more businesses to embrace technology, the Country Managing Partner of Deloitte Ghana, Daniel Kwadwo Owusu, cautioned that good corporate governance must not be ignored. He maintained that partnership must meet all the ‘proper and fit test’ to prevent a breach of the law.

This, he said, will require time to meet all processes before banks, for example, collaborate with fintechs. “Fintechs must understand that there are many layers that a bank must go through before signing onto a product. The board must be aware, and all the necessary checks must be made.”

Agility is the way to go

Stressing the need for young entrepreneurs to develop strategies with agility, the Co-Director of Intelligent Capital, Leticia Brown, said companies that are not flexible to changes are bound to collapse.

She disclosed that young entrepreneurs have been able to efficiently adopt technology and agility to succeed in the fintech space. This, she said, has helped young entrepreneurs in the fintech space to sustain their operations.

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