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Experts task banks on institutional relevance

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Managing Director, Prima Garnet Africa, Lolu Akinwunmi; CEO Proshare Nigeria Limted, Femi Awoyemi and Analyst-in-Chief, BRANDish, Ikem Okuhu, at the ‘BRANDish Meeting of Minds’ last week in Ikeja, Lagos

Communications experts have called on Nigerian banks to change their priorities and prove their institutional relevance by contributing to the economic development of the Nigerian ecosystem.

The call was made at the first ‘BRANDish Meeting of Minds’ held in Lagos, with the theme: “What Nigerian Banks Should Do Differently.”

Analyst-in-chief, BRANDish, Ikem Okuhu, said the event was informed by the need to approach reportage from a different angle. “Over the years, we have made some noise in the industry that people noticed and we have come up with some ideas on instigating discussions that will help those who are managing grants to do better, or analyzing what they have done to enable them to think differently and improve.”

The discussants noted that the current modus operandi of Nigerian banks is not in sync with the society in which they operate, as they do not promote entrepreneurship that is needed for the development of the country.

Among the discussants were former APCON Chairman and founder, Prima Garnet Communications, Lolu Akinwunmi; founder and CEO, Proshare Nigeria Limited, Femi Awoyemi; President, Consumer Advocacy Foundation of Nigeria, Sola Salako; and Managing Director, Quadrant Group, Bolaji Okusaga. Others are, Managing Director, TBWA Concept, Kelechi Nwosu; Managing Director 141 Worldwide, Bunmi Oke; and Director, Corporate Communications, Airtel, Emeka Opara.

In his presentation, Awoyemi pointed that the Nigerian banking system could not give what it does not have because the system is designed to be exploitative rather than developmental, adding, “The banks operate within policies that are not in tandem with the wishes and needs of Nigerians.” Hence, banks target their best services at “25 per cent of Nigerians that have been empowered to be valuable to the banks.”

Suggesting the way forward, Awoyemi called for a transformation of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), saying the apex bank should be upgraded from being a “mere senior banker to the banks”.

According to him, Nigeria needs a CBN that will “allow disruption in the sector with policies that will make banks development oriented.”

As a matter of urgency, it was suggested that Nigerian banks should be more customer centric by investing in consumer insight, which would enable them know more about their customers, communicate better and be able to tailor their services to meet customers’ needs.

The discussants noted that failure of the banks in their customer insight and market understanding duties is one of the reasons why Ponzi schemes such as MMM are thriving in Nigeria. These schemes, they said, have better understanding of customers and speak the language that resonates with them.

To help bridge the communication gap, Lolu Akinwumi advised banks to optimise their retail delivery, and simplify their business and operational models.

According to him, the lacuna between the banks and their customers is evident in bank advertisements, which portray and celebrate bank executives rather than communicate specific service offerings and benefits to customers. “Banks will need to acquire, integrate, and analyze multiple sources of internal and external data, they should understand people’s need and be able to present relevant solutions for the type of needs, they need to optimize distribution networks, simplify the business and operative model, and optimise retail delivery,” he said.

Banks were advised to desist from the current trend in which they tend to reap from where they did not sow, with Sola Salako slamming them for rarely lending money to SMEs, but start knocking on their office doors when they make it big.

“Banks look for their money in government circles. So they care less about the other customers. They are concerned about the macro and don’t understand the micro economics. But when you finally grow the business, they start knocking on your door and you wonder where they were when you were struggling to build the business. Let’s say the bitter truth, our banks are not responsible corporate citizens,” she said.

The discussants also tasked Nigerian banks to start preparing for the future of without a banking hall. They predicted that with the current global trend and evolving technology, the brick and mortar bank will not be “relevant to the upcoming generation, as brick will cease and banking will become a game of clicks.”


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