With the growing use of applications by millennials who are upwardly mobile, market strategy and ease of use are no longer optional. Here’s a comparison between two brands in the same space doing what it takes to capture the heart of the youth.
– By Deji Adeniyi
The Financial Services Industry has gone through various cycles ranging from new regulations, entry of technology firms and mobile phone operators,to the adoption of new innovative products in the last decade in Sub-Saharan Africa.
With an estimated 40 million financially excluded adult size population in Nigeria, digital lending platforms have their operations outlined for them. Across the continent, they have churned out innovative products in order to gain market share. Competition, in form and structure of Micro-Finance Banks (MFBs) are struggling to cope with tighter regulations and macro-economic shocks(increased inflation, reduction in disposable income and job losses). This has opened up opportunities for digital lending platforms.
Paylater is a leading Nigerian brand that operates in the digital lending space. Its strength lies in its innovative outlook that leverages on technology. Features such as an app download makes it attractive to millennials, documentation is simplified with online submission and a quick turnaround in terms of approval has raised the profile of the firm. It enjoys a growing market presence which spans across the millennials- entrepreneurs,employees, a hybrid of both and even students.
This is as a result of diligent research into the needs of their captive market. Their success story so far has induced competition as can be seen by the launch of another digital lending platform, funded by a financial services player with deep pockets.
The Paylater brand understands the Nigerian market with its operations hinged on the conventional banking system and the Bank Verification Number (BVN). This is strategic as a bank account rides on an existing verifiable process and validates the identity of the applicant. Fees are flexible and are market-friendly at least within that space.
Branch is a regional player in East Africa with a continental presence in North America. Its operations show a bias for established markets in Financial Technology Services. Its African presence in Nairobi is no coincidence as Kenya is a leading country in the provision of mobile banking services in the continent. This has influenced its operations as it is linked with mobile banking accounts only. Its fees are liberal, an indication of their market insight.
A key brand strategy is the use of partnerships to gain accelerated market presence. Partnerships with a ubiquitous sector as cab drivers is bound to result in seamless adoption by any such groups. Its ability to project its brand as socially conscious and impactful will resonate with the millennials who may likely adopt their brand.
A deal breaker may be the restriction of customers to only mobile banking accounts under the Branch brand. Culturally, there is a strong preference for a conventional bank account.This is to prevent dependence on an agent or banking representative as middle men for funds or cash management.
At a seminar on Financial Inclusion in early December, 2017 in Lagos, Nigeria, a participant enumerated their experience in an Anglophone country in West Africa where a firm had the contract to provide mobile banking accounts in the rural area for instant credit of their salaries.
When the staff were informed that their accounts have been credited with their salaries, there was disbelief until the staff contacted an agent and withdrawn the total amount paid from their wallets.After being convinced, they returned the whole amount to the agent to credit their wallets.
This issue with the wallet account promoted by mobile banking is one of the many reasons why the mobile banking service has not gained traction in Nigeria.
Paylater will need to deepen their customer base by appealing to other segments of the under-served credit-seeking community. It should venture to other towns and capital cities in Nigeria and seek gender inclusion in its market. It should take advantage of the economic policies by partnering with agricultural entrepreneurs and being relevant to all players in the agricultural value chain.
Branch should also deepen its partnerships with other sectors and partner with regulators in the mobile telephony and financial services in order to expand the scope of the mobile banking service in Sub Saharan Africa.
The future of the continent lies with opening up our economy. Access to credit remains a key indicator of economic growth. Digital records of transactions enhanced with these digital lending platforms is a big leap from our recent past. Government and Regulators must support them for a future that is bright for all Africans.
What do you think? Which brand captures the heart of the youth more?
Deji Adeniyi holds a post-graduate and undergraduate degrees in Corporate Governance & Estate Management from the Leeds Business School, UK and the University of Lagos respectively. He has almost 2 decades experience working for the Financial Services Industry in Nigeria. He is currently the Managing Director at OA Capital Partners Limited, a Strategy and Governance Consulting Firm in Lagos, Nigeria.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in the Spark Magazine. Find the magazine here to read more articles.