As the first completely digital bank in Nigeria, what has been the response to the platform thus far?
We launched ALAT in May 2017, coincidentally the day that Wema Bank marked 72 years in the industry. Wema Bank is the only surviving indigenous bank in Nigeria. With what we have learned over the years, we decided to position ALAT as the bank of the future not only in Nigeria, but in Africa at large. After going live, we received tremendous support and response from the market and had roughly 15,000 users on our platform as of June. The volume of deposits was also impressive, at over NGN150 million. By October, the customer base had grown to over 130,000 and deposit volumes to more than NGN850 million. ALAT offers customers the convenience they have been seeking. It simplifies all their transactions and ultimately gives them a greater ability to do their banking transactions without visiting a physical branch. A typical retail bank has branches in almost every strategic location where they can easily reach out to customers. This is great, and almost all of them want to make their branches accessible for customers. We, however, have a slightly different view. As great and as conducive as these branches are, young professionals and entrepreneurs do not enjoy going to branches. We allow them to do their banking transactions from their homes or offices. Excitingly, there are over 80 million Nigerian subscribers combined across the four major telecommunication platforms in the industry.
What is your strategy to increase Wema Bank's customer base from 1.5 to 3 million and revenue from NGN54 billion to NGN200 billion?
We defined our business clearly before embarking on the journey to ALAT. We have certain loyal customers who are in the older generation, because of the age of the bank. Therefore, we needed to reach out to younger customers who should be able to build and grow with the bank and change the perception that Wema is only for older people. We will be vibrant in our outlook and approach. We also want to disrupt what seems to be the status quo in doing banking transactions. That is the force driving our work. It is a deliberate decision to do retail and do it more effectively. We are now leveraging on technology and reaching out to customers. We want to meet them at the point we can easily catch up with them and provide offerings that will get them excited to use the bank.
What is your point of view on the threat digital banks pose to traditional banking?
They do not pose a threat, but will merely change how banking will be done. Banking will always be necessary; banks, however, will not. The largest industry in the word is the payments industry. This cuts across everything we do, as well as every lifestyle and type of commercialization. Payments and banking are one and the same. Therefore, the digitalization of banking will not pose a threat. It will, however, complement the industry. Today, people can do their grocery shopping online; why not do the same for banking? If the education system, music, and public transportation can be disrupted by technology, why not banking? Technology makes everything a level playing field. It disrupts almost every business, including banking. It is not a function of “if," but “when." That time is now, and we are leading a path in the industry. We are disrupting the way banking used to be done as the first fully, end-to-end, digital bank.
What are your expectations from 2018?
We expect to have millions of customers in the coming months.