‘Yanga Came from Six-Month Research on Women, Banking Services’

Divisional Head, Retail, Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) and eBusiness, Unity Bank Plc, ‘Funwa Akinmade, speaks with GEOFF IYATSE on retail banking in a tough economy and the social impacts of Yanga, a product of the bank.

There is an assumption that Nigerian banks profit from the difficulties people go through during tough times rather than support them. To what extent do you think this is true?

The money banks lend belongs to people and not the banks. So, when we lend, we want the money to come back to where it was taken. If we don’t get it back, there is a problem. So, banks need to take precautions in ensuring that they do not lose customers’ deposits.

People say banks ought to be more supportive when things go bad. We agree but there are limits to how banks can play with money. At Unity Bank, we are doing a lot of corporate social responsibilities (CSRs) as part of our way of supporting Nigerians in this trying time.

Everywhere we go with Yanga, we go with our HMO partners. And the service is affordable. The partners are very supportive. We render free health checks. The health checks cost about N10,000 per person. But they are rendered at no cost to Nigerian women who are struggling to cope with the economic challenges. That is part of our way of giving back to society.

The HMO subscription is also extremely cheap. It is about the cheapest you can get in the country. We discovered that when a woman visits a hospital, the least she spends is over N10,000. She will pay for a card, a consultation fee, run a test and pay for drugs. But with an N1,000 monthly subscription on the HMO our partners provide as part of Yanga, their basic medical needs are covered.

What has been your experience managing the Yanga campaign?

It has been a fantastic experience. So far, there have been a few learning points. But overall, it has been a huge success anywhere we go. And it is a win-win situation. A win for Unity Bank, a win for the women and a win for the financial inclusion drive of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
Individuals who have never operated bank accounts own all the accounts that we have opened. When we are opening Yanga, we take the bank to the market rather than waiting for the market women to come to us.

We go along with a mobile BVN machine to enrol unregistered women who need BVN for account opening. This is a win for women who do not have the time to visit a bank. That is also deepening the financial inclusion drive. Everywhere we go, we create what we call Yanga woman who is a female banking agent.

Why is the product only for women?

Yanga is a product of extensive research and peer review. From the name to its features, it is driven by research. According to CBN data, more than 52 per cent of unbanked people in Nigeria are women.

There are various reasons adduced to support this but the most prominent revealed by our research was that men make the money and only give to women to spend. I don’t know the extent to which this is true.

For six months, we were with the Lagos Business School on research across 18 cities. We also did a focus group study. Mainly, we wanted something that will resonate with Nigerian women. Several names were suggested but research showed that Yanga strikes better than the other names that were considered.

There is no product by any bank that is specifically created for women even though more percentage of women have bank accounts than women. That is the gap Yanga wants to fill. We aspire to take the product to a point when it will be synonymous with women’s retail banking. Our managing director is the longest-serving female in any bank. This is something she will look at for some years to come and be proud of.

There will be a gap in KYC protocols when you go to the market to convince individuals to open accounts. How do you deal with this?

The CBN has made KYC much easier. Some years ago, it launched what is called the tiered KYC guidelines. So we have tier one, tier two and tier three KYC requirements. Tier one means one can open an account with only a passport photograph. That is the minimum KYC required to operate an account. The second tier requires an ID but no reference while the third KYC requires references.

About 99 per cent of women open a tier-one account, which has the lowest level of KYC. They only need a bank account where they can pay in money and withdraw when they need it.

Yanga is about market women who are into small trading and not necessarily big shop owners. There are cases where some women say they want a higher version of Yanga because their business turnovers have increased. At that point, all they need is to provide additional documents and other requirements to upgrade the accounts. But Yanga is a sufficient starting point for every market woman who has not operated a bank account.

Why Yanga and not any other retail banking product?

There are three added values. Every quarter, we organise a capacity-building programme where experts train women on how to manage a business. We also have an agreement with highly-rated HMO operators to offer health insurance services as an added value. It is the cheapest anybody can get. We also offer free health checks as part of the health package.

So to answer your question; one we do capacity building; number two, we are the only bank product that offers an HMO. With the HMO subscription, operators can access services at different hospitals, both private and public, across the country.

At every area or market, there is a Yanga woman, where you can withdraw money. You don’t need to visit the banking hall. That saves time and money. No other bank offers these services in one package.

We issued a dedicated debit card that also serves as an HMO card. We noticed that many women misplace their HMO cards easily so we creatively come up with a debit card that is tied to HMO. The last five digits of the card serial number are the HMO number.

Credit: The Guardian

Tags : Banking servicesUnity BankwomenYanga
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