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Boosting financial inclusion through easy account opening

Opening an account in a Nigerian bank could be hectic. The long documentation process discourages many from approaching any bank. However, banks are finding a way around it by creating special account packages that enable quick account opening without crossing regulatory borders writes SAMSON AKINTARO

 

Opening an account in a Nigerian bank could be hectic. The long documentation process discourages many from approaching any bank. However, banks are finding a way around it by creating special account packages that enable quick account opening without crossing regulatory borders writes SAMSON AKINTARO

 

Desirous of having a savings bank account, Bose Adekunle, a trader, approached a bank for account opening. But to her surprise, she had none of the requirements demanded by the bank, except electricity bill for which she would have to go back home to request from her landlord.

 

To open a standard savings account, she was required to present two recent passport photographs, a valid means of identification, such as the data page of her International passport, her driver’s license, national identity card, and/or voters’ card). She was also expected to present a copy of a current utility bill, to confirm her house address.

 

To open a current account, she would have to provide two referees, who also operate current accounts. Adekunle hadn’t the time or stamina for the tasking process of opening an account when all she simply wanted was to keep her money in a safe place, for easy withdrawal.

 

She went home disappointed and with a resolve to continue keeping her money under her bed as she had been doing. Like Adekunle, many Nigerians are today kept out of the financial system due to the stringent requirements of opening a bank account. Many get put off when at their first visit to a bank.

 

They are told to bring a whole lot of documents just to open a savings account let alone a current account. However, the banks have devised other means of addressing this challenge by creating products that allow easier and instant account opening, some even without going into a banking hall.

 

Today, bank accounts can be opened on a mobile phone or via the internet with little or no documentation. While these accounts are special and may not come with the full benefits of a standard account, they are nonetheless making it easier for people to own a bank account thus attaining inclusion into the country’s financial system.

Banks’ solutions

 

To lure more customers, banks have been coming up with different products geared towards lessening the procedural stress of opening an account. One of such products is the FCMB Easy account. With the FCMB Easy Account, the customer does not need to visit the bank or have data. “Simply open a bank account with your phone number – no document required! This product answers the needs of everyone, particularly the unbanked segment in Nigeria,” the bank stated. One of the featured benefits of this product is that the customer’s telephone number, without the first zero, is used as the account number.

 

According to the bank, the self-service, stressfree, and secure Easy Account is available on all GSM networks in Nigeria and can be operated from any location in Nigeria. The account also allows the customer to send and receive money to and from friends, families and business partners across all banks in Nigeria, according to the bank.

Despite its simple procedures, the account is not inferior to other bank accounts. Similar to that of FCMB, is the Access Bank Instant Savings Account.

 

According to the bank, this account can be opened anywhere with just a passport photograph of the customer, which can be uploaded via its contact center, branch or website.

 

Before its acquisition by Access Bank, Diamond Bank had also came up with the Diamond Yellow Account (DYA) in partnership with telecommunications operator, MTN. This allows customers to open bank account through their MTN lines without filling a form.

 

The product offers customers the convenience of opening a full bank account without the need to visit a bank branch to fill forms or provide any documentation. It also offers the ability to send and receive money to and from any bank account in Nigeria and also to non-account holders, while providing easy access to bank services through the telecom operator’s network of agents for deposits and withdrawals.

 

Similarly, Zenith Bank is addressing the account opening challenge with its USSD code solution, which allows its customers to open an account by simply dialing the 9660#. According to the bank, an account number will be   created automatically and sent to the customer via SMS once the code is dialed and it does not require filling a form.

 

“The Zenith Bank USSD Banking application is a convenient, fast, secure, and affordable way to access your Zenith Bank account on 24 hours basis through mobile phones without internet data. With the USSD banking application, users can open accounts, check their account balances, buy airtime, transfer money to zenith and other banks account, pay bills, as well as perform other transactions,” the bank said.

 

Impact

For Mr. Francis Oladele, a banker, the special account window has enabled many Nigerians without proper means of identification to own a bank account, which is good for financial inclusion. “One of the challenges to the financial inclusion project in Nigeria is lack of proper identity.

Many Nigerians do not have any means of identification which makes it difficult for them to approach a bank for account opening. “But with the special account options, the rigid requirements are being waived and I can say that many Nigerians that would have been left out of the financial system are now being catered for through that window,” he said.

Narrating her experience, Mrs. Bola Oduniyi, who was able to open an account with one of the banks last year, said that she had wanted to have an account for years but to no avail, because she had no means of identification.

“Some years ago, I did voters’ registration just to have something to present to the bank, but by the time people were collecting their cards, they did not see mine. It was one of my neighbours that informed me in July last year that I could open a bank account with my phone.

 

Although I didn’t believe it at first, she guided me and I was sent my account number the following day,” she said. Although Nigeria is yet to achieve its financial inclusion target, the introduction of these products has helped in getting more Nigerians into the financial system.

 

According to the data released by the Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement Systems (NIBSS), active bank accounts in the country had increased by 14.41 per cent from 97.5 million in April 2019 to 111.5 million in May 2020.

 

Total savings account increased by 13.8 per cent from 114.13 million accounts recorded in April 2019 to 129.91million accounts in May 2020. Also, Current Accounts increased by 3.59 per cent from 24.3 million accounts to 25.17 million accounts.

 

National ID and financial inclusion

The ongoing national identification project, which seeks to create a credible database of all Nigerians has also been hailed for the benefits it offers at aiding swift financial inclusion of people hitherto excluded from the country’s financial sector.

 

According to industry analysts, with millions of Nigerians being enrolled into the national identity database, it would become easier for many Nigerians to open bank accounts and approach banks for quick loans.

 

They noted that the banks would also be encouraged to come up with more innovative products leveraging the national identity database.

Already, the compulsory integration of individuals’ National Identification Number (NIN) with their mobile phone numbers is driving the process as every mobile phone user in the country is expected to have enrolled and linked their NIN with their lines by April 6, 2021.

 

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