In this interview with our correspondent, Theresa Igata, the General Manager (Operations) of Fidelity Bank, SAM OBIJIAKU, assures customers of the readiness of the bank to ease their cashless worries.
How prepared is Fidelity Bank for the cashless economy?
What we have done in Fidelity Bank is that we have tried as much as possible to support the cashless project by encouraging our people to use ATM. If you, instead of using the ATM, come to the teller point to withdraw money less than a hundred thousand naira there will be a penalty charge of N200 because you are using the banking hall.
Mobile money and internet banking, how much of it is happening in Fidelity?
If you look at the trajectory, the ATM, POS, internet, you will notice that mobile money is just emerging but we also in Fidelity have our license for mobile money and it’s been introduced but the awareness is not yet as high as it is for ATM and POS. So in comparison, ATM is at the highest point and the POS is catching up and mobile money is still trailing behind.
Are your customers taking advantage of the cashless policy?
Fidelity is playing big because we are giving our best to supporting the policy. The management of Fidelity Bank has also organised this type of talk shop for its various customers, a lot of encouragement and awareness creation has been made and we are giving every customer ATM cards and making sure that they can use it by taking them to the ATM point and showing them how to use it. We encourage them to change their pin. We no longer want people to go to the banking hall to cash money. We’re putting five ATMs in all our bank branches, making sure that every customer has a card and that it is picked up almost immediately. It is really happening because we have looked at the statistics of our customers in April and we have found out that outside banking hall transaction has increased, and it is increasing by the day. Let me also emphasize that at Fidelity, we have a tradition of making sure that all out ATMs are functional at all times.
How prepared is your bank against scammers?
Fidelity Bank is one of the few banks in Africa that is ISO-certified. We are very much prepared in that regard and we are encouraging our customers to always protect their PIN.
Is the policy not a mirage given our poor infrastructure?
I don’t think so because it is not a mirage. The implementation of the policy is just beginning and there is bound to be teething problems and challenges associated with it. This does not mean that they cannot be overcome. There’s been a lot of improvement because CBN has driven this project so seriously that every bank is being made to show what they are doing to this effect. I want to tell you that in a space of about two months we have moved from POS of about 1,000 to over 3,000 in Fidelity Bank, and every bank is doing the same. Yes there are challenges which nobody will deny, but we are improving and it’s better that we face those challenges.
Your greatest challenge so far regarding the cashless policy?
The greatest challenge still remains in the set of customers/ people who still think that the policy will not happen. I say this because you find some customers trying to device some means of circumventing the cashless policy, but we are educating them that they don’t need to do that. For instance, we have had cases where instead of a customer complying with the N500, 000 or N3 million limit they go ahead to open account for their apprentices in the shop and we advise them no to do so because one day these apprentices may do away with their money. But in all I must say there is a lot of improvement because what we saw at the beginning and what we are seeing today shows that people are actually gradually accepting that the policy is real.
Your bank declared N70 billion gross earnings in 2011; will you attribute this to high performance?
The bank is doing well and if you take a landscape of the banking industry where all the banks have come from, from 89 banks few years ago to 25 banks and still consolidating to 15, Fidelity still remains top and on very good standing..
Do you have a rolling plan for this cashless policy?
We have very great plans, at the emergence of this project we quickly set up a group, a division that is called e-Banking Group, and their business has been to attack the market by pushing our ATMs, POS, internet and creating awareness. They are fully devoted to carrying out the project, and we have so many other projects like workshop and town hall meetings which we are planning to take to other parts of the country in order to prepare them for the full implementation of the policy in January 2013. Our plans are elaborate, immediate, medium term and long term.