‘We are growing Nigeria’s economy by encouraging people to save’
Valentine Nwandu is the Chief Executive Officer of Tak Continental Limited, a major player in the Nigerian fertilizer and agro inputs industry. He spoke with DANIEL ANAZIA on the progress so far recorded by the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative of the Federal Government
Osita Ede is the Head, Consumer and Liability Products, Diamond Bank Plc. He also served as the Head, Mass Market Segment in the bank between 2012 and 2017. With his 18 years of experience in the banking system, he spoke to The Guardian on how Diamond Xtra Reward Scheme has increased the saving culture of many Nigerians and helped mobilise cheap funds into the system. He also explained how customers of Access Bank could participate in the scheme post merger. HELEN OJI reports.
We are aware of the recent development in the bank, and Diamond Bank has a lot of retail programmes, Diamond Xtra is one of them, will this merger affect Diamond Xtra in any way?
Really, we have looked at all that and for us, the merger will spur a bigger Diamond Xtra. Diamond Xtra stays the way it is, so some of the concerns that have been coming up regarding customers, who won prizes such as salary for life. These customers are asking questions like: I won salary for life and this merger happens, will it still continue? We want say nothing changes, prizes will still be coming, the payment will keep happening and Diamond Xtra remains Diamond Xtra. In fact, we are not even changing the name.
So with the merger, it is going to be a bigger bank. We are stronger together. The idea is to push out the product stronger to all the customers. Imagine Diamond Xtra with all the customers in Access Bank also getting on board, it is going to be a bigger reward scheme.
In this era of low purchasing power, how would you say the product has impacted on the standard of living of your customers, so far?
It has been fantastic. One of the reasons we are bent on keeping Diamond Xtra is that if you listen to the winners’ testimonies, they are actually so touching. For instance, if you were there at Season 10, where some of the customers gave testimonies on how their lives changed, you would find out that the scheme has been a life- changer and for that reason, we want to continue with that experience. It is our own way of connecting with an average Nigerian and we want to continue with the scheme.
For instance, if you go to the website, you’ll see a video of a welder, who won salary for life and the young man never knew that he could win, and every month, he gets his payment of N100, 000 paid into his account and he is going to get that for 20 years. I think he has enjoyed for two years now and he has more 18 years to go.
What is the unique in Season 10 that has just ended?
The great thing there is that Season 10 was still running till the end of January. We will launch a bigger season in February and that would be better. We have a lot of things embedded in that season. We have never disappointed our customers when it comes to rewards.
Will Access Bank customers have opportunity of participating in the scheme?
Absolutely, it will be open to both customers of Diamond and Access banks after the integration. Even before the integration, Access Bank customers that want to participate can get into it.
We have gotten the existing Diamond Xtra customers, we have the Access Bank customers, who probably do not have Diamond Xtra yet. So before integration, you have to participate, open a Diamond Xtra account, and you are automatically there. After integration, we follow the process and make sure that access bank customers who are product category get involved. Basically, Diamond Xtra is going to become bigger.
We have discussed so far the product benefit to customers, what about the bank?
For us, it is a great thing to know that we are touching lives and also growing the nation’s economy in terms of being able to encourage people to save.
There are a lot of funds outside the financial system and being able to encourage people to take money from under the pillow and bring it into the bank is a way of stabilising the Nigerian economy. So for us as a bank, we see it as a very significant way of connecting with our loyal customers and touching lives. I get so excited when I see customers, who have banked with us for a number of years emerging as winners. It is quite exciting.
Is there any regulatory challenge?
For regulators, the main thing is that the rules are there. Just follow the rules and guidelines. For them, what they try to find out is whether the process of selecting the winners is transparent enough and whether the payment of winners was done in a transparent manner to ensure that we are not leaving anybody out, once you have done that you are good. So for us, we invite them for every quarter and we make sure that we do not put them in the dark.
We provide information and have all the information on our website so that they can access it and once you are transparent, there are no issues and again, our draws are validated by KPMG. Once we have the draws, KPMG comes in first, they ensure that every customer, who should be in the draw is selected and put in the draw before the selection process.
It monitors every process and ensures that every N5,000 in your account gives you access to one ticket. If you have N10,000, it gives you two tickets to the draw and if you have N20,000, it gives you four tickets.
It also checks whether the customer is qualified to take the draw, ticks it down, then finds out how many tickets are a customer is supposed to take on the draw. So with the National lottery there, KPMG, Consumer Protection Council, there has not been any problem since the campaign began 10 years ago.
Considering that the number of people that will qualify for the draw could be bigger because of the merger with Access Bank, do you have plans to review the prices either upward or downward?
We are looking at the prices. Season 11 is in the works and it is coming out much bigger and better. We are not going for any break. Season 10 ended in January and we will launch Season 11 this month.
After the merger, what will be required of the people coming in from Access Bank to participate, would they need to open a Diamond Xtra account or categorise on an existing account and qualify them for the draw?
Both of them are options. We have our channels of communication to make sure that every customer is engaged properly on what needs to be done. Right now, if you want to participate, you can open a Diamond Xtra accounct and cue into and for existing customers, all they need to do is to increase their balances.
I have always said that it is important that your money is working for you, if you can check the interest you are going to earn if you put your funds into other accounts, even treasury bills, just imagine someone wins salary for life, and you earn N100,000 for 20 years, I will rather have my funds in Diamond Xtra and have that chance. I know we have given out over N5 million and had over 15,000 winners
How has it affected the bank?
For us, Diamond Xtra has not been about revenue base, for us, if you go to social media and see some of the comments there, these are things that form those strong bonds with your customers.
Some of those comments are very touching. It has never been about how much we make but the fact that someone, who has not been saving before just started saving and comes out and wins and is telling you the experience. It is amazing.