Commercial banks have become a significant part of every nation’s economy in today’s age.
These banks are creating innovative products to provide wealth management, credit score, risk analysis, investments opportunities, loan grants and many alike services for the clients, so that money keeps flowing towards economic developments.
The new ways of doing business for commercial banks includes providing instant online services through apps and websites. Commercial banks have remarkably transformed themselves into the digital medium to grant customers live access to banking services and wealth management.
Excelling on all of the above-mentioned areas is Mauritius’s leading commercial bank, Bank One Limited. The bank specializes in providing services like offshore wealth management, international private banking, onshore corporate, commercial and retail banking services, international corporate banking services, consumer banking, and private banking & wealth management
Bank One is playing an active role in supporting businesses across sub-Saharan Africa. The bank has been getting tremendous international attention due to its robust business fundamentals and outstanding systems and processes.
We interviewed Julian Mwika, Head Digital Services at Bank One Limited to understand innovations and progress happening at the bank.
Below are the excerpts from the interview.
Please brief our audience about your company, its USPs, and how it is currently positioned as a leading player in the financial services space.
Bank One is a Mauritian commercial bank incorporated in 2008 following a joint venture between CIEL Finance Limited, the finance arm of Mauritian conglomerate CIEL Limited and Kenya-based I&M Group PLC.
It has a strong shareholder network with a banking presence across eight sub-Saharan African countries including Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Madagascar and Mauritius.
In 2021, we have entered the digital payment space and launched a game-changing payment solution, which we branded ‘pop’. Pop leverages the MauCAS payment network, owned by the Bank of Mauritius, which aims to make e-commerce, banking and mobile payments inter-operable.
We believe that pop will eventually grow into the first “financial supermarket” in Mauritius with an exciting roadmap of new features including loans, insurance and savings accounts in the near future.
What other services/solutions does your company offer, and how are these making an impact on the industry and your clients?
Operating a diversified universal banking model, Bank One serves both individuals and wealthy clients as well as local and international businesses, through a wide range of banking products and treasury services.
Awarded for market-leading trade finance structuring capabilities and the ability to offer clients a range of targeted solutions to address uniquely African challenges, Bank One plays an active role in supporting businesses across sub-Saharan Africa.
On the domestic front, it offers a full range of products and services for individual customers and has established a reputation for innovation including best-in-class Retail Banking offers, an Open Architecture investment solution for Private Banking clients and a state-of-the-art Custody Platform.
With the launching of pop, Bank One is determined to change the payments landscape in Mauritius. We are convinced that pop will facilitate daily payments for individual customers and help companies, from SMEs to large corporates, provide a seamless and cost-efficient digital payment solution to help them grow their commercial activities in stores and online.
Being an experienced leader, share with us your opinion on what impact has the adoption of modern technologies such as AI, big data and machine learning had on the finance niche and what more could be expected in the future?
The adoption of modern technologies has and will continue to change banking, as we know it. Evolving technology has been a catalyst for financial service providers to enhance customer experience management, and increasingly these financial service providers are using Artificial Intelligence (AI), big data, real-time monitoring to improve customer interactions in real-time.
With banks and other financial services, this has gone from customer on-boarding, product design, credit scoring, risk management and customer engagement (chat-bots, IVR etc.) and other facets of finance supported by technology improvements.
In the future, it is expected that there will be larger adoption of blockchain in “traditional banking”, adoption of augmented reality, robotic process automation, quantum computation for complex data, further development in AI (across wealth management, payments, insurance, and capital markets for instance).
Taking into consideration the current pandemic, what initial challenges did you face and how did you drive your company to sustain operations while ensuring the safety of your employees at the same time?
The current pandemic fast-tracked the prioritization for delivery and enhancement of digital services across the banking industry. As governments put in place strict lockdown measures, banks were ‘forced’ to find ways to continue serving customers who were not able to travel to branches to access banking services.
At Bank One, the pandemic has fired a very significant change in the way we serve our customers and how they access our services. We were already embarked on a significant digital transformation of our business, distribution channels, and processes when the pandemic hit, so it was more a question of fast-tracking our plans.
Our teams (and vendors working offsite) found it challenging at first to find the right balance and rhythm, but once alignment was reached on the expectations and our team members received the tools needed to adjust to remote working, it became easier for them to adapt to the “new normal” and resume production.
Our key focus areas during the crisis were staff safety and morale, client support and managing credit risk, liquidity and capital. We believe that our experienced and committed teams and sound governance structures allowed us to face the crisis and weather the storm.
What would be your advice to budding entrepreneurs who aspire to venture into the financial services space?
Understand your customers and their needs. Do not build a product or venture into the space without having a clear understanding of the customer and hearing what the customer wants. We sometimes build features and products with many assumptions on what the customer will want, but once we deliver the final version, we find that our initial assumptions were wrong.
Secondly, build a product and constantly make iterations. The product will never be perfect, so do not wait for a 100% perfect product before putting it out there. The market will always give feedback on what you need to enhance and change. Put in place a team that has an agile mentality to quickly adapt. Flexibility is key in the financial services space.
Lastly and most importantly – build with the customer at the centre of your strategy. Any product that is not customer-centric will have challenges with breaking into the competitive financial services space.
How do you envision scaling your company’s operations and offerings in 2022?
As we start 2022, our main focus is on delivering new features and enhancements for pop in the next deployment phases. Our aim is to build more value-added propositions on top of the existing payment rails for both customers and merchants.
In addition to our strategy for pop, the bank is also developing enhanced digital banking platforms to serve our customers better and deliver a seamless customer experience across our digital channels. We believe this will have an impact on customer experience, profitability and reduce operational costs in the short and long term.
About The Founder
Julian is a seasoned professional in digital solutions. He started his banking experience at the Development Bank of Rwanda where he was employed as a Project and Investment Analyst.
As the next step in his career, he moved to Rswitch as Head of Strategic Projects where he spent 3 years. Before joining Bank One, Julian had an impressive career at NCBA Bank of Rwanda where he started his career as Country Service Delivery Manager and then moved up as Head of Digital Business.
He has more than 10 years hands-on product design and implementation experience, end-to-end project management of more than 20 projects and the setting up of the relevant operating structures and resources for long-term revenue streams.
Julian holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from Makerere University Business School and a Master’s in Economics and Business Studies from Karlstad University from Sweden.