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VeriPark Blog

Nov 24
FSI Gamechanger Interview with Adewale Salami, Chief Technology Officer with FirstBank Nigeria

As well as having serious implications for people's health, Covid-19 has had a huge impact on the global economy and business community. Some banks were better prepared than others to handle the unexpected and fast-moving changes. In this interview, Adewale Salami talks about how FirstBank Nigeria (FBN) responded positively to the crisis and how they are now looking ahead and investing to ensure they thrive in this new environment.

Q: How do you think the global pandemic has affected banking? What do you consider to be the biggest challenges?


Covid-19 had a huge impact here in Nigeria. We had a complete lockdown for around three months. Our head office and branches were closed because no one was allowed to go to their office or to their bank. That has now eased but we still have some restrictions.  

For us, the biggest challenges were the loss of social interactions between our teams of employees and the fact we could no longer serve our customers face-to-face in the branches. That meant we had to serve our customers digitally and rapidly transform from a cash-based to cashless economy. As a customer-centric bank, we had to ensure our customers were ready to embrace this digitization. That meant having a resilient IT infrastructure and services to support our employees and customers and make sure our banking systems continued running despite the lockdown.

Q: Do you think Covid-19 became a wake-up call for banks in terms of digital transformation?

Yes. Embracing digital transformation became a "must" for banks and customers. The need to move to a more digital banking model has been on banks' agenda for a long time, but the pandemic has made this need for improved digital banking experiences more important than ever.


Q: How did FirstBank Nigeria respond to COVID-19? What actions did you take to support your customers and employees?


We were well-prepared; we had invested in digital core banking and employee collaboration systems last year. We had also put a huge amount of effort into thinking about how we collaborate with our customers and our colleagues. This proved to be a good move; even though we weren't physically together, we could still communicate digitally.


Q: Covid-19 is changing people's relationship with work. We observe an acceleration of remote working trends. How do you see the future of work?


Around 60% of our employees are now working from home, including many IT teams and branch staff. We use Microsoft Teams to facilitate our remote working. This makes everything easy for us; our teams now work remotely without supervision and we even have our board meetings on Teams. This is the new normal. Digitalization is the way to go.


Q: How has Covid-19 changed customer behavior? How important is it now to provide digital offerings and personalization?


Covid-19 has given us a big opportunity to customize and to embrace digital. We saw a spike in digital transactions and e-commerce during lockdown. But, we think this is a permanent change; customers now trust these digital channels and they enjoy the efficiency and convenience of internet banking and mobile banking. 

Our focus now will be on digitalization and removing bottlenecks to provide faster, better digital services to our customers.


Q: Regulations in many countries now allow processes, such as customer onboarding, to be completed fully digitally. Do you think we'll see more push by banks to persuade regulators globally to deliver end-to-end digital experiences?


Yes, the whole industry is working on this and regulators are starting to collaborate more with banks. For example, we can do around 80% of the KYC process digitally, including photo ID, but we can't yet do proof of residence digitally.  We really want to completely digitize the KYC process because it would significantly improve customer onboarding. I really hope that by the end of this year the policy makers will allow this.

Q: How do you see the future of branch banking post-Covid-19?


Many of the branches that closed during lockdown are still closed. Nationally, only around 50% of them have re-opened. At FBN, we don't intend to re-open all our branches because customers are happy to use our digital channels.


Q: How did VeriPark help you during these difficult times? What functionalities, capabilities that VeriPark provided helped you the most during the COVID-19 times?


Our retail customers started using our contact center and digital channels much more. If we didn't have these capabilities in place, we would have had a lot of issues; it would have been chaotic. Our corporate customers also found they could do everything they needed to do using our mobile app.

The reason we were able to do all this was down to the digital investments we had made with VeriPark. In fact, we were called upon to share our knowledge and digital CRM capabilities in other jurisdictions across Africa, where it became mandatory for all banks to implement similar processes for tracking customer interactions and customer issues.


We have already deployed all the VeriTouch CRM modules and they are being used 100%.  Soon, we will be launching the Next Best Action (NBA) module. NBA is focused on using sophisticated rules, analytics and algorithms to better predict customer needs and in turn offer more relevant actions and offers leading to improved wallet share and loyalty. It requires a lot of data, but will ensure our front-line teams have the customer insights to cross sell and serve our customers even better.


Q: What are the future plans for FBN in a post-Covid-19 world? What do you think should be the key priorities for banks to steer a course through the uncertainty and shape the path?


We have to continue with our digitalization, being agile and supporting our employees to work remotely. Our customers trust us and we cannot let them down now. We want to create more value, new product lines and make sure our banking services are in line with their lifestyle so they can bank wherever they are. To do that, we need to continue investing in cloud technology and engaging digital experiences. 


Thank you, Adewale. You can read more of our FSI Gamechangers interviews here.

Would you like to find out more? If so, get in touch with us!


FSI Gamechanger Interview with Adewale Salami, Chief Technology Officer with FirstBank Nigeria