FBNBank agent banking: redefining financial inclusion

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Victor Yaw Asante, FBNBank Ghana MD

Financial institutions in Africa seek to create innovative value propositions and customer-friendly products and services, not only to generate client enrolments but also to bring populations into the financial mainstream for greater socio-economic good.

Financial Inclusion remains a challenge in Sub Saharan Africa. Building payment and banking networks using the traditional brick-and-mortar approach is a very arduous task. Easily accessible financial products provided by delivering flexible value-added services at non-traditional bank locations has become a solution to financial inclusion at all levels.

In the developing world, markets are fragmented and a large part of the population is dispersed. Financial literacy is still low, especially among low-income segments and branch penetration is still poor.

Financial institutions have realized the lack of sufficient service points in remote and rural markets, however, new branch and ATM infrastructure costs are expensive, especially considering the high-volume, low-value transactions, specific for such markets.  The consequences are congested branches and limited scalability opportunities.

Agent banking has subsequently been positioned as a channel for providing that far-reaching and low-cost access to financial services for the underbanked populations of society. This initiative takes banking closer to the immediate vicinity or doorstep of semi urban and rural dwellers. Customers and non-customers of financial institutions can now safely visit agents in their own vicinity at their own convenience, at extended service hours.

A segment of the bankable population can now conveniently deposit and withdraw funds, make insurance premium payments and pay bills, even with no formal ID thanks to the integration of biometrics into the services provided by financial institutions.

Agents have become the focal point for driving awareness of the agent banking channel and the services being provided by financial institutions, acquiring new customers and providing assistance to customers where needed.

Today, due to technology it is not surprising that third-party agents and merchants have become an integral part of the digital financial service ecosystem, especially in developing markets like Ghana. For many customers in Ghana, Agent banking has become a channel-of-choice due to the convenience it offers, especially in terms of proximity to customer residence or business.

This growing acceptance of the model and its self-service nature is gradually leading to a shift from branch banking in Ghana. Some financial institutions have taken the lead in this and are at the point of expanding their agents’ portfolio beyond basic cash in/out transactions into customer onboarding, E-loans, Bill payments and more.

FBNBank Ghana Limited, one of the fastest-growing banks in the country, has introduced its Agent banking channel in a move to drive financial inclusion and to expand its reach by offering affordable and convenient banking to Ghanaians.

The Bank is riding on the success story of its parent bank, FirstBank of Nigeria Limited which successfully implemented this initiative, FirstMonie, in Nigeria in 2017. With over 67,000 agents in operation, the FirstMonie agents are providing world-class financial services through cutting edge technology deployed by the Bank.

FBNBank Ghana is migrating this best practise by partnering with existing businesses in various locations across the country to build a network of agents who will operate “agencies” that will offer selected banking services to customers.

This initiative aligns with a statement in the World Bank economic updates for Ghana in its 2019 report which states that; “with the use of innovative technology and approaches, universal financial access is an attainable target in Ghana.” FBNBank Ghana Limited is therefore poised to bridge the gap between the banked and unbanked population through the successful implementation of the Agent banking channel which is supported by a robust technology infrastructure.

The Bank is confident that the successful roll-out of the Agent banking channel will lead to an increase in the institution’s capacity to provide convenient banking services to existing and potential customers around the country.

The Bank will be working in partnership with Corporates, SMEs, and Individuals to take banking to the communities within Ghana. This partnership will also provide additional revenue streams for the low-income earners living within the various target communities.

The innovative service offerings available on the platform include: Account Opening, Cash Deposit, Cash Withdrawal (FBNBank and Other Banks), Funds Transfer (FBNBank and Other Banks), Mobile Money services and Value-Added Services such as airtime top-up, bills payment, remittance, card services, etc. Currently, FBNBank Ghana’s Agents are located in the Accra-Tema Metropolis, Adum, Suame and Techiman. The bank is working on enrolling more agents in other regional and district capitals of the country onto the FBNBank Ghana Agent Banking platform.

The FBN Bank Agent network is modelled on the FirstMonie brand which controls the largest agent banking network in Nigeria. Through this brand, the FirstBank Group, the parent company of FBNBank Ghana, is offering innovative products to meet the changing needs of our customers in the informal economy in West Africa.

The FirstBank Group remains a most formidable and experienced Bank in Africa with over 126 years of impeccable banking services availed to its customers. Drawing from our parent’s in-depth knowledge and banking experience that spans over a century, our various pioneering experiences in electronic banking transaction processing, and strategic alliances with key service providers and processors, FBNBank remains committed to bringing its experience to bear in achieving quantum leaps in the provision of financial services in Ghana.

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