Zenith Bank: The Nigerian Bank Leading The Drive In Financial Inclusion Policy

Zenith Bank, Nigeria’s leading financial institution, has progressed in the drive to help Nigeria realize its Financial Inclusion objectives, by adopting potent and compelling measures as well as creating captivating products for its swarming customer base.

In this report, Yemisi Izuora chronicles the Banks Financial Inclusion Strategies that have evoked interest, attention, admiration in a powerfully irresistible way.

According to the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, access to financial services has remained a major challenge to development in Nigeria.

In 2010, 39.2 million people represenBng 46.3 per cent out of 84.7 million adult population were excluded from financial services.

In addition, 54.4 per cent of these were women while 80 per cent of the excluded people resided in rural areas.

However, in a bid to enhance the access of micro-entrepreneurs and low income households to financial services, financial sector stakeholders led by the CBN, in 2012 introduced the National Financial Inclusion Strategy (NFIS) with the overall target of reducing the percentage of adult Nigerians that do not have access to formal financial services from 46.3 per cent in 2010 to 20.0 per cent in 2020.

The strategy also proposed specific targets for the identified services comprising payments, savings, credit, insurance and pension, as well as targets for the corresponding channels of service delivery.
The number of Nigerians included in the formal sector will increase from 36.3 per cent in 2010 to 70 per cent by 2020.

For proper understanding, financial inclusion according to the regulator, is achieved when adult Nigerians have easy access to a broad range of formal financial services that meet their needs at an affordable cost.

The services include, but are not limited to, payments, savings, loans, insurance, and pension products.

Again, in line with the 2012 NFIS monitoring plan, a review was carried out from October 2017 to June 2018 based on research reports, data analysis and stakeholder engagements. The exercise aimed to understand the current state of financial inclusion in Nigeria, assess past approaches, lessons learnt in order to prioritise the most critical interventions to achieve the objectives.

One of the key findings from the review indicates that Nigeria had made significant progress to implement the NFIS because Stakeholders regard financial inclusion as a National development tool.

According to statistics, in 2016, 58.4 per cent of Nigeria’s 96.4 million adults were financially included comprising 38.3 per cent banked, 10.3 per cent served by other formal institutions and 9.8 per cent served by informal service providers.

In 2020, Nigeria plans to have 70 per cent of its adult population in the formal financial services sector and 10 per cent included in the informal sector.


Z-Money Spearheading Financial Inclusion Drive

Zenith Bank from available statistics emerged as leading in the drive to achieve that set objectives

The introduction of Z-Money, which brings banking services closer to its customers and enhance financial inclusion among the under-banked and unbanked populace of the country, is known in the industry as a major leap in the financial inclusion strategies of the bank.

Z-Money is an agency banking product of the bank which entails the onboarding of agents who are expected to render basic financial services on behalf of the bank.

Through the bank’s network of agents spread across the urban and rural communities in the country, customers are able to open accounts, deposit cash into any account, withdraw cash from any bank account, transfer funds, buy airtime, pay bills, and do so much more in a convenient way. In order to engender trust among its customers, the Bank ensures that all transactions done through the agents are PIN protected and safe.

The bank remains focused on providing premium financial solutions that create value for its customers wherever they are located across the country and the bank apart from helping to extend its  retail reach across all segments of the market, the adoption of the agency banking platform also demonstrates the bank’s commitment to achieving financial inclusion in the country.

No doubt Zenith Bank Plc is recognized as one of the most innovative financial institutions in Nigeria and was voted the most customer-focused bank in Nigeria for the Retail and SME segments in the 2018 KPMG Annual Banking Industry Customer Satisfaction Survey (BICSS).

Most recently, the bank won the Best Bank in Retail Banking and the Bank of the Year at the 2019 BusinessDay Banks and Other Financial Institutions (BOFI) Awards, and was ranked as the Best Digital Bank in Nigeria 2019 by Agusto & Co.

The bank’s commitment to world-class service standards has led to several product innovations including the “Zenith Timeless Account”, which allows Nigerians aged 55 years and above bank for free, the “Zenith Save4me”, a high interest target savings account and “Dubai Visa Service” on the Zenith Internet Banking Platform, which allows convenient application and payment for visas to Dubai.


Partnership With Facebook And Mastercard To Pioneer QR Payments On Facebook Messenger 

Zenith Bank Plc, believes in partnership and team work to achieve results.

This has led to a strategic partnership with Facebook and Twitter to launch a Masterpass QR bot for Facebook messenger, that will enable Nigerian businesses set up digital accounts and accept QR payments.

QR Payments (Quick Response Payments) allow individuals and small business make and receive payments in real time via Facebook Messenger.

The Bank hopes that in partnering with Facebook and Mastercard to introduce Masterpass QR it will facilitate its policy of driving financial inclusion and creating a new payment ecosystem for MSMEs and consumers.

This initiative will help the bank encourage financial inclusion within the country in line with the strategic thrust of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

Buyers and sellers now meet and conclude transactions in-store, online and on social media, so it is ensuring payments can also be made on these platforms via QR codes, without having to log onto other solutions or even take a break from what you are doing on Facebook’

Zenith Bank is highly focused on digital collaborations and innovations that will enable it’s audiences to fit banking into their lifestyles, make payments more seamless and promote business growth. The Bank plans to roll out the new QR Payments offering to its customers in Nigeria and other African countries where it has business footprints.


Achieving Automated Voice Banking Service 

Innovative banking is one of the hallmarks of Zenith Bank.

The introduction of an automated voice banking service, an interactive voice response (IVR) solution which enables customers to perform basic banking transactions by dialing a dedicated phone line through their registered phone numbers and following the prompts, is a feat yet to be recorded in the industry.

By simply dialing +234 (1) 278 7000 from the phone number linked to their accounts and following the prompts, customers can pay DSTV/GOTV bills, restrict their accounts or block their cards, request account statement via email, view the last five transactions, transfer funds, buy airtime, and do lots more.

Zenith automated voice banking service is designed to ensure a truly amazing experience that will offer convenience for our teeming customers.

The self-service product offers quick response to customers in addition to security entrenched by the multilayer authentication mechanism and today its customers are taking advantage of this unique service particularly at this critical time when the physical interface with the Bank has been greatly impacted due to social distancing and the restriction of movement in some states of the federation due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Zenith Bank has clearly distinguished itself in the Nigerian financial services industry through superior service quality, unique customer experience and sound financial indices.

The bank remains a clear leader in the digital space with several firsts in the deployment of innovative products, solutions and alternative channels that ensure convenience, speed and safety of transactions.

The Bank’s commitment to world-class service standards has led to several product innovations over the last couple of months including the “Zenith Timeless Account”, which allows Nigerians aged 55 years and above Bank for free, the “Zenith Save4me”, a high-interest target savings account and “Dubai Visa Service” on the Zenith Internet Banking Platform, which allows convenient application and payment for visas to Dubai.

As a testament to its excellent performance, commitment to best-in-class service and recognition as one of the most innovative financial institutions in Nigeria, Zenith Bank was ranked as the Best Digital Bank in Nigeria 2019 by Agusto and Co.

The Bank was also voted as the Best Commercial Bank in Nigeria 2019 by the World Finance and emerged as Bank of the Year and Best Bank in Retail Banking at the 2019 BusinessDay Banks and Other Financial Institutions (BOFI) Awards. Most recently, Zenith Bank was recognized as the Most Valuable Banking Brand in Nigeria, for the third consecutive year, in the Banker Magazine “Top 500 Banking Brands 2020” and the Bank of the Decade (People’s Choice) at the ThisDay Awards 2020.


Recognizing Zenith Banks Innovative Banking Leadership 

With clear understanding of the Bank’s focus and innovative strategies, Interswitch the leading POS deployment company in Nigeria recently scored Zenith tops among other banks in the deployment of Point of Sales (POS) terminals in the country. Statistics from the latest quarterly report of the platform owners, Interswitch, show that over 477 shops in Nigeria with on-line point of sales terminals (POS), now accept the Zenith EAZYcard, well ahead of the closest rival that trails with 377.

Over 40 of such shops and outlets are located in the Lagos area alone, with more angling to come alive with the service.

The reports show that from the 154 POS terminals at the beginning of the year, the bank closed the first quarter with 238 of the machines, which further jumped to 477 by June 2006. With the use of cards growing by the day, more people are becoming wary of carrying cash thus freeing themselves of the risk associated with cash handling.

At the launch of the Zenith branded Automated Teller Machines (ATM), management of the Bank vowed to spearhead a campaign to drive Nigeria towards a cashless society.

Apart from launching the first branded ATM in the country, the bank again, launched the VISA ATM, preparatory to the roll-out of the chip-enabled VISA card in the country, using the chip and pin technology, the latest in the world. The various efforts have resulted in the increased use of the card technology – the new generation mode of payment.
So far, the bank parades over six different kinds of cards in its service suite including the Zenith EAZYcard, Z-Save and the different range of the MasterCard made up of the credit and charged cards and the websurfer.
The latest range of cards from the bank’s suite, the Visa, called the V-pay is a novel achievement.

Besides popularizing the use of cards through POS machines in shops and other service outlets, over 50 of the bank’s branches are equipped with the ATM, making it possible for customers to enjoy services 24/7 all year round.


Zenith The Most Respected Bank In Nigeria

In a survey commissioned by PricewaterhouseCoopers in conjunction with BusinessDay Newspaper to determine the most respected companies and Chief Executives in Nigeria, Zenith Bank emerged first among the banks in Nigeria.

In arriving at the conclusion, PricewaterhouseCoopers said a Respected Company is defined by these enviable parameters:

A good corporate citizen, which is socially responsible with high ethical standards; a trusted company, which promotes good values with a unique and excellent leadership style, coupled with strong management principles and structure plus a smooth succession plan as well as a very resourceful company with excellent business culture.

Others are a visionary and revolutionary company with strong focus, innovative with popular brands of high quality; engaging in human capital development and high capacity building and an indigenous company with high local content.

Good corporate governance practice, high shareholder interest and value, harmonious industrial relations, friendly and good working environment, global and internationally recognized (Multinational) and size of company/largest in Africa/industry leader were other parameters used in arriving at their inference.

PricewaterhouseCoopers may have taken into cognizance Zenith Bank’s adherence to good corporate governance practices as well as global best practices and its emergence as a globally recognized brand.

The survey also considered the bank’s impressive financial performance. A five-year growth streak shows 446 per cent surge in assets, 462 per cent in shareholders’ funds, 227 per cent in PBT, 287 per cent in Gross earnings.

The Zenith brand has powered ahead of competition also on account of its huge investment in Information Communication Technology (ICT), a fact attested to by the Web Jurist award which rated Zenith Bank as the bank with the best website in Nigeria.

Also, Zenith Bank was named Bank of the Year by Bankers magazine, a subsidiary of influential Financial Times of London.

In only fifteen short years of operation, Zenith Bank has attained heights which took first generation banks over seventy-five years to accomplish.

The bank’s success and accomplishments have been traced to its unique and excellent leadership style anchored on strong management principles and structures.

Other factors accounting for its feat include the bank’s overarching image as a socially responsible corporate citizen operating in line with high ethical standards as well as a proactive, visionary, innovative and resourceful company renowned for professionalism, efficiency and excellent customer and service delivery.

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