GTCO will continue to make financial services easily accessible – Agbaje

Yvonne Faith Elaigwu is a seasoned executive with a proven track record in the financial services industry and in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) including the UBA Foundation and the Oando Foundation.

She is experienced in people management, negotiation, business planning, event planning, analytical skills and sales. She holds a Masters degree in Environmental Management from the University of Lagos.

Yvonne Elaigwu is currently Head of Operations at onepipea leading fintech API company and trustee Open Banking Nigeria. In this interview, she spoke about the future of payments system in Nigeria and revealed the trends that will drive the growth in Nigeria’s fintech space.

Please briefly describe who you are and what your professional background is.

I studied human anatomy at Maiduguri University with the aim of becoming a genetic engineer. Then I got a job! My first job was an operations role and I quickly found that I enjoyed being part of the backend team that provided the support and structure to keep things running well. Every role I’ve held since then has been operational. I’ve been doing this for over 12 years now in NGO, Banking, CSR and now in Technology. Somewhere in between these jobs I did a Masters of Environmental Management from the University of Lagos.

How would you describe the position of the current payment systems available in the Nigerian business space today?

I would say our payment systems are growing and evolving. Transaction volume and value are growing exponentially, NIP transactions alone in 2020 totaled over N235 trillion, which is almost 100 times the e-payment transaction less than 8 years ago. The COVID-19 pandemic literally forced the world to prioritize contactless interactions and the payment system has not been ruled out. This is probably one of the reasons for the rise and introduction of wire transfer payments; Pay with bank transfer.

About 10 years ago, the value of NIP transactions was 4,449,654 as reported by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), less than 2% of the 378,100,749 collected from POS terminals and ATMs. I remember a time when every saloon and shop around the corner was scrambling to get a POS machine from their bank. It was the new in thing and all necessary a machine for receiving payments. The store owner and customer both relied on the POS receipt to confirm a transaction was successful. It’s interesting that these shopkeepers and merchants had bank accounts but didn’t think of accepting payments directly into them. Today the concept of Pay with bank transfer is so accepted that the taxi driver, who previously only accepted cash (who probably never went through the POS stage), would without fuss share an account number to receive payment for his services. The data supports this shift and growth. The CBN report on e-payments showed that the NIP pay by wire transfer volume in 2020 was about 200% higher than the volume of payments made at both POS terminals and ATMs, and significantly more transaction value .

Businesses are now more comfortable with receiving payments digitally, most businesses today are geared towards receiving payments digitally and this is reflected in the fact that the transaction value and volume of all e-payment platforms is steadily growing.

What do you think of digital currencies? Do you think they will eventually catch on in our economy?

I’m not a subject matter expert here, but it seems to me that they will stay here. Like all new “products,” they would come with their teething problems, bugs, and losses. Costly mistakes would be made and lessons learned. That Luna The scenario of the last few days has taught me, and hopefully the ecosystem too, that “it’s not like that really stable unless it’s tied to actual money in a bank account.” It’s like cleaning gold, at the end of the day impurities would be removed and a gem would emerge. While it may take time as a country or economy to embrace a new technology (e.g., as was the case with cellular networks and cell phones), we eventually catch on and make up for lost time. I personally believe that once digital currencies are established and become relatively more mainstream, they will be implemented and even promoted in our country. This would probably take some time, but it is very likely to happen.

What trends will shape the financial space in Nigeria in the coming years?

I think that in a short time the concept of embedded finance will take root and grow/shape the Nigerian financial space. This would be reflected in close partnerships between traditional banks, lenders and BaaS companies to enable merchants and “normal” entities such as merchants, co-ops, farmers associations etc. to provide financial services to the last mile customer. This would improve financial literacy and allow more bank customers. The reasoning is that the farmer who was “acquired” by his farmer union would know how to ask that entity for a loan to expand his farm. This entity knows him and his operations well enough to offer him this opportunity. The same can happen with the merchant who buys out their merchants and offers them banking services. What would happen now is that last mile customers would do more banking where they are now incentivized to save their funds within the banking system to create transaction paths that make them eligible for credit facilities to grow their business and maintain leave urgent needs.

I also think that as people continue to embrace bank transfer, we will also start to see simplified and more secure payment methods. Data already shows that people are drawn to this payment method, and the failure rate on card transactions doesn’t make it any more difficult. In the future, the relevance of card payments should be minimized and thus the cases of fraud associated with card payments reduced.

How do you think technology is affecting the financial sector in Nigeria?

With a mobile network coverage of 99% and data from 2019 Jumia report on Nigeria, showing that 87% of Nigerians are mobile subscribers, this means that technology, if properly governed, can be the tool to reach the unbanked and educate the underserved.

The rise and proliferation of technology startups in finance is the first distinct way technology is impacting the financial sector in Nigeria. The proliferation of technology has enabled enterprising Nigerians to create solutions that can transform people’s lives. These ventures have attracted billions of dollars worth of capital to the country over the years, employed thousands of people and in 2021 tech startups contributed about 10% to Nigeria’s GDP. These technology-driven companies design and deliver solutions aimed at the unbanked and unbanked in the country and make them available on progressive web apps, downloadable apps, USSD and POS devices. The probability that a person in the remote village of Obagaji, Agatu, where I come from (where there is no physical bank) with a mobile phone (any type of mobile phone) can access a financial service today is very high and is attributed to technology , driven by technology companies.

Technology has made it possible for ordinary people to access resources on financial tools, concepts and data to help them make informed decisions to improve their lives – all just a Google search away.

Do you think that digital banking will achieve convergence compared to traditional banking system?

Ultimately yes. While digital banking is “now” and the future, traditional banks will have to stay here and get to a point (likely they already are) where they decide whether to fight, compete with, or collaborate with digital banks . We are beginning to see partnerships in the US, Europe and even here in Nigeria between traditional banks and digital banks to give birth to the concept of embedded finance, which is a relatively new concept. We expect to see more of this in the future.

As Operations Manager at OnePipe, what excites you about working in a startup company in Nigeria?

The challenge of developing new products and systems; the joy and sense of satisfaction of being part of the birth of something that has a propensity to transform lives and impact people and economies.

Give us a practical example of a company that has benefited from the successful solution OnePipe has delivered to them.

Omnibiz, a unified distribution platform in the FMCG area, digitized its operations in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Omnibizz worked with OnePipe to embed financial services in a way that their customers can now pay directly into their retailer’s account. Your retailers can also place orders, track their sales, pay for their orders, apply for credit and be approved without leaving the digital platform provided to them by Omibizz. As a result, dependency on cash transactions and the associated risks have been and are being reduced. It offers seamless payments, a way to remit the underserved retailer and possible credit to grow its market

What are your success strategies for leading people who work with you, both internally and externally?

I treat people the way I would like to be treated by default, I also try to understand people and learn how to communicate with them.

What is the one piece of advice you would give to women who decide to start up in Nigeria to get the operations of a company right?

In terms of operations, I would advise you to decide very quickly on the type of business you want to build and find someone whose job it would be to help build it from the ground up. When building a startup, operational practices may not be at the top of the list of most important things to the company since you develop products, find fitment for the product market, and generally just find out. With at least one resource dedicated to making sure you incorporate standard best practices into your operations, correcting course in the process, you’re less likely to encounter them heavy duty operational headaches in the future.

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