Op-Ed – Digital Banking, convenience and financial inclusion

We are fortunate to be living in an age where technology and innovation have the increasing ability to be a beneficial part of our everyday lives. Digital solutions and the technology that enables them have evolved from being the basis of science-fiction concepts, to the tools of the more affluent in society and now in the hands of an ever greater proportion of our general populations.

Digital solutions have proven to be the answer to challenges in our work and personal lives. In some cases, the needs had been identified but in others, we may have never imagined that a situation that functioned well could be so much better when refined through a digital solution. What cannot be disputed is that these digital solutions offer convenience and efficiency to our day-to-day lives.

Consider the evolution in telephones as they transitioned from fixed line to our current smartphones. There was a time when making a phone call required that you had to find a telephone box, hoping that it was operational, available, and you had the right amount on you to make your call – if not, you had to find another phone box or try again another time. Later, telephones at home became common for the majority of households and offices, though it relied on the person you were looking to speak to being at home or in their office at the time you made your call or, again, you would have to wait for them to return your call. Today, mobile infrastructure and devices mean that we are able to reach just about everyone regardless of their location or time of day and if they do not answer, we can send a message from the same device.

Or consider the convenience around eating out today – from a time of having to book an available restaurant and physically going out, to the advent of that eatery delivering to you at home. Digital solutions now offer us convenience through app-based aggregators that allow you to browse a wide catalogue of eateries for all tastes that will be delivered to you wherever the location pin finds you. The options and convenience have been given to you to use as you choose.

Banking is no different. We have moved from banking being solely confined to a physical location at certain hours in a day to multi-currency ATMs, mobile money and digital banking platforms that offer real-time cross-bank and cross-border transactions. Digital banking is today offering a level of convenience, security, affordability and lifestyle integration at a growing rate. Digital banking seeks to change the mindset that the banking you need to do needs to be time taken out of your day, rather it should be a moment that fits into your day, on your terms and in line with today’s app-based lifestyles.

In 2018, on the back of sustained mobile phone usage growth in sub-Saharan Africa enabled by greater infrastructure reach, rising income levels and greater affordability, Standard Chartered Bank launched the first digital-only bank in Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) that offers an end-to-end digital bank solution from onboarding, to product selection through to transacting.

People across sub-Saharan Africa have shown a desire to use digital means to not only make and receive payments, but also save. With such digitally-minded people, sub-Saharan Africa has all the ingredients for a mobile money and digital banking to surge.

Equally exciting and importantly, when coupling digital banking and mobile money solutions to mobile reach, digital banking offers an almost unrestricted reach for any person to be included in the banking ecosystem without the need for a brick-and-mortar structure. This is important in the pursuit of reaching the unbanked and promoting financial literacy through experience.

Digital innovation by its nature is ever evolving which means that whatever we have and experience now will most likely be eclipsed by greater innovation and integration to our lifestyles. It is an exciting time for digital banking and as a Bank that was awarded the best consumer digital bank in November 2018 by Global Finance, we are excited for what is to come.