Customers in Focus – New Digital Services in AccessBank Liberia and AB Bank Rwanda
By Marijana Grujic (AccessHolding), Didier Mutabazi (AB Bank Rwanda) and James Y.B. Howard (AccessBank Liberia Limited)
It does not happen often that we are working on projects to be implemented at the same time in two banks where project team members are locked down in home office across several countries and collaborating with external partners equally ‘dispersed’ across locations.
If we can talk of the silver linings of the global pandemic, then implementation of mobile banking services in AccessBank Liberia and AB Bank Rwanda would be that. The banks in both countries were prioritized as strict lockdown business hours and movement rules were in place early on, and these banks were not offering non-branch-based services before. The project is also a great example of the move towards customer-centric developments, as the key focus was solving a problem for the customers and enabling them to access funds in their bank accounts remotely. Customer-centricity is equally evidenced in the fact that with rather limited promotion of the service around go-live we have been experiencing strong adoption and usage of the service.
The formula for this project’s success was quite simple: a clear common goal, strong single focus and a big slack of flexibility on all sides (you could probably call it ‘minimum viable product’ but this does not sound poetic enough). We needed to provide basic functionalities and ensure regulatory compliance. Customers were enabled to perform basic deposit and withdrawal transactions in their bank accounts by connecting those accounts to their MNO wallets. The cross-functional team on the holding level was adopting the agile approach, which did feel hectic and ‘unplanned’ at some points, but it was necessary in the context of fast-paced implementation and physical distance between project stakeholders. Teona Burdiladze, Dirk Prenzel and Mahboobar Rahman were leading the technical development and implementation with perseverance, patience and dedication which made it fairly easy for the Business (represented by Marijana Grujic) and Audit (represented by Shavkat Akmalov) to navigate through banks business requirements, operational reality, information security and compliance. Come to think of it, this project has showcased how many positive outcomes we can achieve within one implementation as it triggered significant changes in business operational process through improved efficiency, while not compromising on quality of controls. In the end, we always need to move beyond the basics and so the second phase for mobile banking services, with more value-add ‘frills’, is already under testing.
The fact that go-live first happened in AccessBank Liberia is another important milestone, as we tended to consider this country’s infrastructure environment as not conducive to easy implementation of digital projects. Having capable and dedicated business partners and project team can obviously help in overcoming potentially significant external deterrents.
Marijana Grujic, AH Deputy Head of Business
AccessBank Liberia Limited Outlook
During 2020 our bank accelerated its process of digitalisation, with emphasis on services that provides to the customers, especially loan customers, the opportunity to make deposits and pay their loans remotely. This service was provided to our customers in May 2020 and only a month later, in June we have offered a service for withdrawals from AccessBank accounts using MTN mobile wallets. The provided mobile banking services allow our bank’s customers, who are Telecom subscribers, using their mobile phones, to either transfer money from their Mobile Money Wallet to their AccessBank Account or vice versa. To distinguish our mobile banking service from the competition, ABL launched the service under the unique brand name “QuickAccess’’. The service is 24/7 available and supports any type of phone, basic features or smart.
QuickAccess is convenient, time saving, cost effective and real time. Since the launch, the bank has seen an increase of loan repayments done via this service by loan customers, which reduced the over-crowdedness in the banking halls and thus improved overall customer experience with our bank. We are confident that improved customer experience will have important impact on both, customer acquisition and customer retention.
James Y.B. Howard, ABL Chief Operating Officer
AB Bank Rwanda Outlook
The Customer Needs Assessment conducted by AB Bank Rwanda, has shown, that there is a strong demand from our customers for this first digital experience – to transact digitally and with convenience. Last year, the bank had set this project among the big priorities to achieve in 2020. Early on, in Q1, the bank had begun the implementation process. Then, as the pandemic broke out, and the lockdown started, the project passed to an emergency level for business continuity purposes, and in less than two months ABR, supported by AccessHolding and MTN, managed to deliver an unprecedented fast Mobile Money experience to our customers.
The early uptake results speak volumes. In ABR, in just about five months after the service launch, nearly 50% of cash transactions were processed digitally through AB IBAKWE (commercial name literally translated to AB Quick), representing nearly 40% of the total transaction volume. This shows clearly an impressive demand for digital services and a strong business case for a digital transformation journey that the bank has decidedly embarked on.
Didier Mutabazi, ABR Head of Digital Finance