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Digitisation, key to financial sector transformation – Inlaks CEO

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Inlaks, a foremost ICT infrastructure and systems integrator in Sub-Saharan Africa, has reiterated the importance of digitization in ensuring optimum efficiency in the financial sector.

This was the consensus of opinion at a webinar themed ‘Driving Customer Experience Through Digital Transformation organized by Inlaks Group to explore digital strategies in the industry for success in modern times.

Inlaks MD/CEO Africa Operations, Kyari Bukar, observed that security, analytics, customer behaviour and footprints should be understood deeply for anticipatory actions in the highly regulated financial sector.

According to Inlaks CEO, there is a need to explore the use of advanced systems predictive of customer needs, as studies have confirmed up to 77% of clients acceptance of unsolicited services. With over 30 years of experience in financial services technology, Mr Bukar said digitization plays an integral role in driving customer accessibility to timely services.

“Digitisation is becoming an everyday occurrence in technology innovation with enhanced systems, making life easier and convenient for everyday users. AI technology, virtual and augmented reality, and all of those components that appeared to be cutting edge in the last five years are now becoming mainstream in applications and adoption,” he noted.

With the heavily regulated industry, he said high caution and due diligence were required before using some of the leading technologies.

Javier Hermida, Head of Digital Banking for the Middle East and Africa at Temenos AG, said the paperwork that one must complete to open a bank account shows how some aspects of financial services lag in the technological age. Pointing to the ease in payment of goods and services now made accessible by digital brands, he said customers expect digital engagements to be always available.

He said it is therefore essential to transforming services into experiences and tailor products to customer lifestyles while leveraging opportunities beyond banking. He said the future of digital banking was meeting customers where they were and adding value to lives based on data analysis of client behaviour.

Also, speaking at the webinar, Ronald Raffensperger, CTO, Digital Transformation Financial Industry Business at Huawei, noted that consumers are inclined to the kinds of applications that they see on their phones thus making “mobile the future of finance.” “Everyone is expecting to do everything on their mobile devices. This was accelerated during the pandemic when people were forced to stay indoors,” he said.

According to him, internet banking services that have been replicated as mobile apps by many banks do not meet consumers’ needs. He proposed a strategy that optimises the customers’ journey for a mobile experience rather than a blanket emulation of teller activities on a mobile device, adding that financial institutions should offer new kinds of on-demand services such as loans, overdraft, lifestyle financing, trade financing and others.

Experts also shared their thoughts at a workshop and panel discussion that explored the future of banking and technology and emphasised the need to expand access and reliability of internet services to help banks reach a broader client base.

Panellists also agreed on embedding innovative products into customers’ lifestyles to evolve from the traditional banking methods. To help financial institutions address issues of customers’ dormant accounts, Inlaks has developed a product to manage such accounts effectively.

Joseph Q. Agyeman-Badu, Head of Financial Business and Officer-in-charge of Business Development at Inlaks, said the management system is capable of curtailing internal fraud, saving time and resources and placing users of the system ahead of competitors.

He advised financial institutions to advance beyond “just a register” to ensure they have inbuilt system approvals and workflows. “We have built an AI tool into the system which is going to help organisations with less stress,” he said, noting that the system can provide advice to dormant account managers and match suitable products that could be marketed to inactive account holders.

By so doing, he said the financial institutions can make the client aware of benefits if the account is re-activated, adding that the innovative and proactive ways of the system quickly help the financial institutions to regain active clients using the AI tools. With integrated maps and other tools, he noted that financial institutions can identify geographic locations and additional information needed to make vital decisions on dormant accounts.

Also, Biju Suresh Babu, Managing Director for Banking and Financial Services, Fiorano Software Limited, said that open banking and open APIs considered experiments a few years ago, have now become mainstream initiatives. He discouraged banks from viewing open banking as a compliance initiative. According to him, banks must embrace the latest introduction as an opportunity to invest in a relevant future for a better customer experience.

With the introduction of ISO 20022, he encouraged banks to quickly adopt the new standards due to the massive electronic data interchange benefits. “It is the game-changer because it makes relevant, contextual, payments data available to the banking world in a way that has never been available until now, and that is phenomenal,” he stressed.

Jonathan Somers, MEA Regional Director, NetGuardians, unveiled solutions to banking fraud using innovative 3D AI and machine learning technologies.

Noting that financial crime increased by 128% from 2018 to 2020, he cited a report by Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System Plc (NIBSS) that showed that Nigerian banks lost over N5bn between January and September 2020.

“Fraudsters attempted 46,000 attacks, and they were successful 91% of the time within the review period. The situation is not limited to Nigeria, but global as criminals are now targeting central, retail and smaller banks,” he said. To him, customers are not left out as they have become regular victims through social engineering and identity theft.

He said central banks are now holding commercial banks responsible for such occurrences hence the need for financial institutions to strengthen their systems. He pointed out that sophisticated employees can bypass the different layers of security systems installed by banks after being coerced by organised gangs, hence the deployment of Net Guardian solutions to track internal account movements.

He proposed measures to prevent payment and digital fraud, SIM swaps, identity theft, business wallet transfers, business email compromises and invoice manipulations. The combination of technologies that track these crimes in real-time includes the deployment of algorithms that pick up anomalies in the behaviour of bank accounts, customers, and internal users at the banks.

Femi Muraino, Executive Director of Inlaks, reiterated the need for banks to think like start-up businesses, noting that financial institutions that employ a Laissez-faire attitude will get swarmed up by aggressive start-ups. He listed data as an essential element that banks cannot downplay. “For organisations to survive in this 21st Century as well, they must understand data strategy. They must factor aspects of security, privacy, integrity, regulatory compliance and governance,” he noted.

Inlaks is Africa’s leading Information Technology Solutions provider. It is a private limited liability company and a member of the international and well re-known Inlaks Group of Companies. Inlaks has a reputation for professionalism and commitment to its customers with services including core banking, agency banking, fraud management, cybersecurity, cloud, data centre, enterprise risk management and software solutions.

Inlaks is present in Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Gambia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia & Cameroon. The company specialises in IT solutions that satisfy the unique needs of the financial, industrial, distribution, Oil & Gas and utility sectors of the economy. Inlaks’ customers cut across various segments including Banking, Telecommunication, Oil/Gas, Power, Utilities, and the Distribution sectors of the economy.

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