Wema Bank: Scaling Up from an Underdog to Sector Digital Driver, Innovator Status
With newfound business decisions to teach customers and stakeholder how to do business in Nigeria; making lending easier and less cumbersome and flexible; and also offer free legal advice to Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) customers among other innovations, Wema Bank is repositioning itself as a digital savvy, youthful and zestful lover and great supporter of its customers.
In a short while, Wema Bank, the longest surviving indigenous Nigerian Bank will be celebrating its 76th year anniversary having transited from its very humble “Agbonmagbe” beginning to a regional player and emerging as a force to reckon with in some select areas of business in the Nigerian banking space.
The years gone by, by no means have been tortuous and challenging for the brand, however, it imbued the bank with an impressive heritage of resilience and value; the quantum of learning also cannot be overemphasized. As the longest surviving indigenous Nigerian bank, the brand thrives on a foundation of a customer-centric and innovative approach to financial service delivery reveals Tunde Mabawonku, the bank’s Chief Financial Officer, at a media interactive forum.
Tunde, who represents the Bank’s CEO, Ademola Adebise, led a couple of other young and savvy professional (men and women) members of the management at the session, disclosed, “within the next three years, we want to dominate digital payment space, open and transparent”. This perhaps explains the current revamp going on – ALAT upscale.
From a purely traditional player, the bank can proudly hold its head in among other players in the financial services field. “Audacious with a pioneering spirit, Wema Bank is building a legacy of leadership by blazing the trail to what banking could, and should be for the Nigerian stakeholder”, the CFO yet again reiterated.
This feat is never happenstance, or new development in the bank, though the institution has never been loud about its achievements in recent years. The revolution started a decade ago. Wema was among the first financial institutions to introduce Mobile banking in Nigeria precisely in 2011 and the bank took it several notches higher in 2017 with the launch of ALAT, Africa’s first fully digital bank.
The innovative tech-driven ALAT became a game-changer not only for Wema but the entire financial services industry. On the strength of this and other products and platforms backed with efficient customer service delivery, the bank has emerged from relative obscurity to a frontline player of repute.
“Our position is testament to our resilience, vision, audacity, commitment to ethical corporate governance, a best-in-class workforce, visionary leadership, and excellent customer service” added to this the bank management explains, is its “steadfast commitment to innovation-led service delivery”. All these invariably brighten the path of customers and stakeholders to an assured, enabled, and exciting future.
On the account ALAT, the top-notch digital financial solution and other customer-friendly solutions such as *945# USSD service solution; ALAT for Business: Corporate Internet Banking platform with elastic features; SME Solutions: an assortment of Retail management suites, agent banking solutions, and special SME Loan packages; and its single-digit loan for women and SMEs, the turnaround has been fast, intense and consistent in the last couple of years.
To attest to its fast-improving customer service delivery, the bank which started at the lowest rung (17 or 18) of the KPMG’s measurement ladder a few years ago, now occupies an enviable 3rd position. Contrary to the word out there, the CFO thumps his chest that “a customer will best experience the bank’s splendid service when such comes in contact with the bank”. Similarly, he reveals, the bank ranks No. 2 and No. 6 respectively in retails services and SMEs products on the reputable KPMG ratings.
Coming from a background of continuous loss and obvious inability to meet its financial obligations to its stakeholders, the bank over the last three years has transited to the side of profitability. The year ending 2020 will mark its 3rd consistent year of not only returning to profitability but also paying out dividends to shareholders.
While not resting on its oars, the bank’s new message to its customer is: “Do Much More”, as an individual, as a business, and as a community. To make this impactful, the bank has redefined its core target focus to between 18 – 35 years while leaving no stone unturned in meeting the innovative, data-driven and technology-based needs of this class of people. Yet still, the bank is not discountenancing the peculiar needs of the older faithful adherents of the brand inferred the management.
Some Uniquely Wema Initiatives currently being driven to delight the customers especially the former group include – Wema Hackathon: Exhibition of innovative solutions/inventions with excellent market potential, capable of solving essential, everyday business across – Agritech, Healthtech, Edutech, Fintech and Gaming; and Sara by Wema: Reduces inequitable gender access to growth opportunities in Nigeria via access to finance supports, capacity building, deals and discounts, and women wellness.
Others include Project Zero: A multi-partner initiative to fund education for out-of-school children and Several Sustainability projects and initiatives:
The coming of the revolutionary ALAT by WEMA has yielded many awards and recognitions for the bank. These include Winner: 2017 Best Digital Bank; Winner: 2017 Nigeria and Best Mobile App; 2018 Best Digital Bank in Africa; 2020 BusinessDay SME Bank of the Year and Second in the Retail segment of the 2020 KPMG Banking Industry Customer Experience Survey, BICXM.
All these are testaments to where the former regional player is headed especially as it has decided to be less reliant on “brick and mortar” operation with its meager 150 network of branches which leaves it at an ominous position compared to banks with between 200 -700 branches. Instead, Wema has chosen to take the war more seriously in the virtual /digital space to serve the teeming Nigerian population of youth.
The taste of the pudding, as they say, is in the eating, this explains the CFO’s claim on behalf of the bank, “We support youth across channels deepening our operations in the creative, entertainment and entrepreneurship segments, lending is easier, less cumbersome and flexible” he promised.