Africa is facing a unique banking challenge in the 21st century. As the world undergoes a lengthy revolution from conventional banking to a more internet/mobile-based technologically savvy banking system, Africa is struggling to build the infrastructure to extend basic bank services to its people.
How to put not only the basic infrastructure in place but also how to integrate the 21st century world of banking into the continent was the topic of conversation at an afternoon session of the “Together for a Better Africa conference hosted by the Mediterranean Smart Cards Company (MSCC) earlier this month.
To Gary Marsh, head of retail banking at Nigeria’s Diamond Bank, the word “potential for Africa is “overused.
“There has been progress in the last 10 years, he said, “but when we measure the progress, we’ve failed.
Africa, he believes, is failing to adequately catch up in a rapidly changing world. Part of the evidence for this, in the banking world, is that 50 percent of cards issued in Africa never get used. This implies a failure of education, infrastructure and customer service.
Many of the companies represented at the conference are leaders in providing banking services, and Delta Informatique is one of them.
The French company was founded in 1982 and works globally. Societe Generale is their most important client.
Owning six subsidiaries in places like Algeria and Morocco, Delta focuses on providing “highly configurable architecture for banks, consumer friendly interfaces, and risk management, among other services.
It also serves as an important link between the struggling African continent and major international banks.
“A large part of our activity is to lead large financial groups through international expansion, said Georges Ayoub, Delta’s sales director.
When banks enter a new market, they hand operations to Delta, which sets up the entire operation.
Islam Hassan works at NCR, which is a leader in consulting companies, especially banks, in maximizing the efficiency and quality of company-customer interaction.
Hassan gave a presentation detailing specific ways that banks can maximize efficiency and customer satisfaction simply by rearranging the layout of the bank and the way customers interact with the employees.
Taking banking to the web, he said, is important. But, he warned, “you cannot just go virtual, because doing that mean banks risk losing their brands. Hassan said, though, that branches need to adapt to make banking in person almost as easy as it is to do online.
Deploying a detailed slideshow presentation, Hassan urged banks to go more electronic. In his model bank, he said, customers would first be met by an electronic terminal to help direct customers to the part of the bank that best fits their needs.
While many of the services offered by the bank would be electronic, Hassan suggested that banks blur the line between electronic services and teller services. A hybrid, he said, would be preferable.
In this model, customers could begin their transactions on computer screens, using them to fill out basic information. The data would then be sent onto the bank employee, who would help the customer finish a transaction, like taking out a loan.
Making more transactions, e-transactions serves two purposes, Hassan said. First, it increases customer satisfaction because, if implemented properly, it will mean shorter teller lines.
Second, this model will free tellers from many of the more mundane duties of counting, dispensing, and receiving cash. With machines covering those operations, tellers can handle the high level operations, like advising the clients.
Those in the banking services business are accustomed to tailoring their services to fit the needs of the customer, said Hoda Shoukri, MSCC’s managing director.
It’s a unique business because of the level of personalization required by each client. Among the services MSCC said it will provide in the new world of e-banking are planning for moving client portfolios onto the MSCC system, agreeing on the systems and hardware the clients need, and implementing new systems.
For all of these businesses, it has to be a holistic approach that includes looking at the hardware, the technology, the physical bank outlets, security, data transfer and more.
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