The Internet boom and Zenith Bank’s opportunity
The Internet drives almost every major aspect of our lives, and has revolutionised many nations in the recent past. One of the biggest benefactors of the Internet is Africa. According to InternetWorldStats, Internet penetration in 2017 alone accounted for 35.2%, against the global average of 54.4%. GSMA’s Mobile Economy Sub-Saharan report states that the region accounts for a tenth of the global mobile subscriber base and is expected to grow faster than any other region over the next five years.

A fast-growing mobile user base has lent itself well to the burgeoning financial services space. Africa is the global leader in mobile money, states a McKinsey report. This, among other reasons, has formed a substantial foundation for multiple banks to capitalise on. Ghana’s Zenith Bank, one of the foremost financial services providers in the West African nation has been tapping into the benefits of the Internet for its large customer base.

The bank, which won the International Finance Award 2017, for its corporate bank offerings, is steadily exploring opportunities in the mobile banking space. CEO Henry Oroh says, “With a heavy dependence on mobile phones, the bank has taken advantage of the opportunity that mobile phones provide and was amongst the first to roll out our mobile banking application, Zmobile. Our app is accessible via Play Store and the App Store on Android and iPhone. Our customer’s response has been overwhelming as it gives them 24-hour access to their bank accounts so they can conveniently carry out banking transactions anytime, anywhere.”

Zmobile enables customers to check their account balance, top-up their investments, effect intra and interbank transfers, pay bills, set up beneficiaries, view transaction history, etc. The bank has adopted both the USSD and Mobile Application solution to serve its customers. This approach is being used to bank the banked and the unbanked that are not in the bank’s portfolio.

The growing reliance on Internet services in Ghana and generally across Africa has contributed to the use of banking services in the country, with a deep impact on financial inclusion and is also driving at a fast pace the nation’s cash-lite agenda. “The Internet and the convenience of electronic banking products and services have transformed the way we do banking – most banking transactions that would have required one’s physical presence in a banking hall, can now be done remotely via a computer or mobile device such as the mobile phone, tablet, etc,” explains Oroh.

With the internet, the customer can conveniently carry out banking transactions from their homes, offices and on-the-go. With the competition in the Ghanaian banking industry, banks that have acknowledged the convenience of electronic banking solutions to the customer and have as a result leveraged on it have a competitive edge over banks that do not capitalise on its use. Profit margins of banks have also increased significantly since the use of electronic banking products and services create another avenue for adding to the bank’s bottom line.

Zenith Bank in Ghana. (Image Zenith Bank)

Fintech potential boosting strategic industry collaborations
The growing dependence on mobile financial services has lent into the continent’s narrative to boost the financial technology industry. To remain at the forefront of banking in Ghana, Zenith Bank continues to invest heavily in advanced banking technologies as well as on research and development with a focus to remain actively engaged with current trends in technology. The bank, through its knowledgeable and well equipped IT staff, consistently develops new products and services that would cater to the unique needs of clients.

This is being accomplished significantly through diverse industry collaborations. “We have formed strategic partnerships with fintech companies such as Hubtel & expressPay and employed card solutions from MasterCard,Visa and other card payment companies, as well as mobile money services from telecommunication giants such as MTN and Airtel to ensure that we remain relevant to our customers whilst staying abreast with industry trends,” added Oroh.

Moreover, strategic partnerships even with major telecom networks such as Vodafone and Airtel positively impact the bank’s profit margins. Customers of the Bank will have access to personalised services such as the Mobile Money Bank2Wallet platform allow the linkage of mobile money wallets to traditional accounts thereby allowing the ease of transfer of funds for the payment of goods and services 24/7. It also plays a crucial role in the nation’s cash-lite agenda.

With Vodafone most especially, the Bank offers the high net worth customers of Vodafone exclusive services usually reserved for Platinum clients of the Bank. These services include extended banking hours; Visa Lounge Key access (that provides complimentary airport lounge visits with access to more than 900 airport lounges across the world); access to all Zenith Bank’s exclusive Platinum Banking halls; wealth & portfolio management; investment advisory services; networking activities; and concierge services, amongst others.

These premium services and offerings make Zenith Bank a veritable banking partner for Ghanains. The bank won the International Finance Award 2017 for its corporate offerings – which Oroh believes are a step ahead than those offered by contemporaries thanks to advanced technology platforms.

“With a highly robust technological platform, powered by the Bank’s astute IT personnel, Zenith Bank is able to provide products and services that assure all corporate customers of an utmost ease of doing business. The Bank’s Relationship Management model is also unrivalled in the industry. The bank invests extensively in training programmes for its staff to ensure that they are fully equipped to deliver the best service to existing corporate clients and prospective ones.

Dedicated members of staff, who have specialised knowledge of key sectors of the Ghanaian economy (such as energy, telecommunications, aviation, mining, construction, etc.) are assigned to the bank’s corporate clients with the sole responsibility of managing the financial needs of their businesses through the provision of advisory services and tailor-made products and services that cater to their unique banking needs. Our customer-centred innovations such as our well-resources and service-attuned 24-hour contact centre, provides a channel through which the bank can engage its corporate customers to evaluate the level of service being enjoyed by these customer to ensure total customer satisfaction at all times,” added Oroh.

The bank’s competitive edge is in innovation and technology. Operations are driven by a very robust information technology platform, evident from the bank’s suite of products and service offerings in line with current global trends. Year on year, the Bank has expanded its reach to the banking public, physically and through the adoption of innovative channels driven by technology and partnerships. With a current network of 36 business locations, strategically sited ATMs and POS terminals in cities and towns across the nation, the Bank continues to expand its reach in Ghana.

Future Plans:
Over the next five, years will mainly be on customer service delivery, financial performance, digital banking, retail banking structure and brand amplification. Given Zenith Bank’s excellence in digital banking, this area will continue to be of interest to the bank’s 2018 expansion plans. “We will continue to enhance the features of our digital banking platforms to enable us meet the ever changing needs of our valued customers.”

As part of the bank’s strategy to remain competitive in the deployment of digital solutions, plans are far advanced for the roll-out of the Zenith QR, a mobile-based payment solution that allows customers to make payments through their smart phones by simply scanning the unique merchant QR (Quick Response) code at merchant outlets. The service is currently being piloted. This will add to the number of e-solutions the bank has planned to deploy in 2018.

Bank of Ghana now expects a minimum capital requirement cap on major Ghanaian banks. Zenith Bank becomes first to meet the new requirement

The Central Bank, in September 2017, announced the increase in the minimum capital requirement for universal banks from GH¢ 120 million to GH¢ 400 million and banks have until December 2018 to comply. Currently, Zenith Bank, has become the first Bank to have officially met the new requirement. In fact, our first quarter unaudited financial report showed that we had moved funds from our income surplus and now proudly boasts of a new minimum capital requirement of GH¢ 400 million. The hope of the Central Bank is that the increase in capital requirement will force some of the banks to come together to consolidate. The Central Bank needs stronger banks to boost the financial system in Ghana by undertaking big ticket transactions.