First National Bank of Botswana, the pace-setter in the banking sector in terms of product development, rose to another challenge last week as they introduced FNB Cellphone Banking that is aimed at offering more convenient services.
The product, which comes a lot cheaper compared to cheques and gives its customers 24-hour service, works through Mascom Wireless and other plans are afoot to get Orange Botswana subscribers into the fold.
“This service is aimed at making banking convenient for people who want to check their balance and paying utilities. They will not have to rush to the bank to try to get there before the halls are closed.
“They can even pay their utilities from their cattle posts or transfer money between accounts without going to the banks,” FNBB’s Head of Electronic Banking, Yolisa Yvonne Lejowa said on Friday.
She said the product would address issues related to distance and time and, over and above that, try to get the unbanked people into the financial system. Botswana has a large population of unbanked people for different reasons, including the distance between where they reside and the nearest bank.
“ Also by the nature of Africa’s unique geographical population spread, it is not always easy to bring full banking service to remote areas. The introduction of cellphone technology has changed the landscape of communicating in Africa. As FNBB we saw the opportunity of using technology to bring banking to the people,” Lejowa said.
About 60 percent of the formally employed people in the country do not have a bank account while there are over 835,000 mobile phone subscribers. Mascom alone has over 500, 000 subscribers. The new development will encourage banking through the use of cellphones. And at the same time, cellphone banking will cut the queues within banking halls.
“ We are continuously working on how we can improve our systems. And at the same time we are trying to align ourselves with the national Vision 2016 and ICT policy. We see our investment in innovative banking as more of an evolution of our business in line with our societal and technological development, and we will enhance our offerings in those areas.
“Going forward the use of technology is going to be critical to our lives and the way we do business,” she added.
The move also signals another strategy in the very competitive banking market where retail customer business is difficult. Some of the developments within FNBB where it became bell-weather in the retail market was the introduction of a micro-lending outfit, First Funding, which gave its competitors a good run for their money. FNBB is also ahead in terms of Internet banking and updates relating to accounts transactions through the cellphones.