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WE CAN BE DEFINED AS A  MULTI-DISCIPLINARY FINTECH FIRM – NIYI TOLUWALOPE

 

 

As Nigerians are adopting various digital payment methods in the country, Niyi Toluwalope, the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of eTranzact discusses the progress of fintech, the prospects and challenges in the Nigerian digital payment ecosystem. Anthony Nwosu captures this in an exclusive interview.

 

As a player in the electronic payment ecosystem, do you think that Nigerians are embracing the digital payment the way they should?

Yes, they are doing that, I can say that Nigerians are embracing the digital payment. With my background in financial space as an accountant and investment banker, having worked in Wall Street New York’s financial firms such as J.P Morgan Bank, Credit Suisse and Citi Group, with this, I have seen how much money that is chasing Fintech in Nigeria. The fintech institutions are building great products that are serving Nigerian citizens. This is transformational, I must say.  Fintech institutions are building great products that are adding value. With over a 100 million dollars following fintech last year and crazy valuations of over 200 million dollars this year. We can know that the Nigerians are adopting digital payment and fintech is growing crazily in Nigeria. A lot of transactions are moving digital. A lot of banks are collaborating with us to work out agency banking and we have been sharing APIs lately. We have seen a surge in digital payment and in our agency banking business, we have seen growth like three to four times after this pandemic.

Do you think that FinTech would replace the brick-and-mortar banking in future?

Well, fintech would drive the future banking, you know that the banks are traditional and slower to market changes, they might not be quick to react to the market demands but the fintechs are innovative and they get to deploy fantastic solutions. Any smart bank that partners with a solid fintech that has spread and technology will get to reach the last mile customers easily. It is about collaborations, failure to do this would be inimical to any bank’s role in the market.

With majority of Nigerians being unbanked, do you think that Fintech can reach out to this set of Nigerians?

We are looking at these set of Nigerians and bring them into the banking ecosystem. We already have what we call “Solving the 70 Million Question”, we have about 200 million Nigerians with over 140 million mobile phone users in the country. Now these set of people make transaction on daily basis be it airtime or transfer, that is the situation. These are the people that we are looking because we have about 50 million BVN numbers so as you can see, we have a big gap about 70 million that are not buying airtime from banks. These are the people we are looking, the unbanked see bank as people that they don’t trust or they are not comfortable, these set of folks are mostly in rural area. Now these 70 million people do contributions and save money outside the bank. Let us take for instance the local contribution called Ajo, where by a person goes around collecting money from these people and pay them at the end of the month, that Ajo person is the bank and we are building a solution around this scheme, this would in turn bring them to the banking system. Anyone that can create a solution for these set of people wins this market. We are doing such a thing in North and that is what we hope to deploy in future.

How do you engage Nigerians in the villages where we have low or non-existence internet, because digital payment rides on the back of the internet?

Well, to an extent, this has been solved, you know before, when you want to do digital payment, there is always a need to have internet and smart devices. Today, data penetration has increased significantly in the country even though we are not yet there when you compare the country with countries like Egypt, South Africa etc, but we have made a tremendous stride in the area of internet coverage. This challenge has been solved through the USSD technology. With the unstructured supplementary data (USSD) this has made transaction easier and transactions can be localized because you don’t need a smartphone to do transaction, with basic phones one can do transfers, recharge their phones or even get loans. So, with USSD technology, the folks in the rural areas can also enjoy our digital payment solutions. In our platform, the on funds transfer which is he USSD is the fastest growth. The other area we are looking at is training the people on how to use this USSD, providing infrastructure and capacity building on the side of agents.

Are we getting it right in Nigeria as it regards electronic payment?

Nigeria is the fastest growing electronic payment country in Africa, we are getting it right, I must say. When you look at our demography, we have a lot of young people and these set of people are technology inclined. If you look at social media, it is filled with merchants and SMEs in social media and I must tell you that Nigeria is getting it right?

Are you looking at having a tailor-made solution for the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs)?

Yes, we looked at merchants and social media, we have to bridge in some gaps in the eCommerce space. We have this product that we are bringing out for SMEs where they can trade. This solution protects the seller and buyer, you click on it and download it, people can buy and sell on the platform. We are going to solve the questions of what I ordered isn’t what I received. We have an escrow system where a buyer pays to the platform and when he confirms the good, the money is released to the seller. It is a consumers’ world and our solution is to protect both parties.

So, are you diversifying into eCommerce ecosystem?

We are switching our transaction platform we are fully diversified fintech. We are a switch, an enterprise payment firm, we have just been appointed as one of the new platforms to manage the TSA (Treasury Single Account). We are diversifying our operation so as to explore new markets. The TSA mandate collection is a testament of our ability and the type of government solutions we have. Also, we are into retail services that are designed for online transaction and financial inclusion services such as agency banking. Also, we are looking at big data solution for industry specific. We are multi-disciplinary fintech firm.

You looked at insurance subsector to launch NISMART, how has the product been received?

This is an insurance product that looks at people that are those are buying insurance, insurance firms and brokers. We are trying to consolidate that market; however, we have a last regulatory mile we want to cross and we are doing that and once we get that settled, we would go full blast. The solution will be an insurance marketplace.

You have been known to build capacity in Nigeria and you have trained a lot of Nigerians in software development. How has it been all these whiles?

Let me tell you something, we are innovating to meet our own need, we have made tremendous progress in fintech as a country. Fintechs have made a lot of advancement in digital that in some places, we are way ahead of USA, I am exposed to both worlds. We are innovating to meet the peculiar needs of Nigeria and this has placed us ahead of many countries even in developed worlds. We have to get creatives to meet up with challenges here.  Though, we are losing our best software techies to USA, Canada and Australia I must say the fact. We have trained smart guys here and after sometime they leave, most not because of renumeration but quality of life and environment which we cannot afford in eTranzact. We don’t build roads etc, these are why most of these guys see and leave. We go to NYSC camps and bring about 40 graduates who are interested in software, we train them and after few years they leave to other countries that need their services and offer quality of life for them.

How has Covid 19 affected your organization?

Covid 19 triggered a complete halt in global micro economy, that is the fact.  We built solutions to facilitate digital payment and these are based on trade and commerce, that is where the whole thing was halted. Look at airlines, any fintech that built a solution for airlines were disappointed because airline was stopped and so are many sectors, we looked at the current realities and decide to evolve and adapt. We saw explosive growth in agent banking and we are structured to adapt to the current realities.

The 2021 would be a great year, what are we looking at from eTranzact?

We would continue to execute our strategy; we have successfully raised some money in the stock exchange and we are using that to strengthen our technological capabilities and reposition us in the market. For us this year has been a good stepping stone and also a learning process, we see expansion and we are excited with that. We are also looking at partnership and strengthen the relationships with the banks.

 

 

Yes, we looked at merchants and social media, we have to bridge in some gaps in the eCommerce space. We have this product that we are bringing out for SMEs where they can trade. This solution protects the seller and buyer, you click on it and download it, people can buy and sell on the platform. We are going to solve the questions of what I ordered isn’t what I received. We have an escrow system where a buyer pays to the platform and when he confirms the good, the money is released to the seller. It is a consumers’ world and our solution is to protect both parties.

 

 

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