By Chinwendu Obienyi
Over the last 20 years, electronic wallets (eWallets) services have been quite popular in developed countries like the United States of America (USA).
However, the eWallets service has slowly started to gain popularity in the developing countries especially as it plays catch up with the developed countries who are better in terms of the IT infrastructure.
It is also not wrong to say that smartphones have had greater impact than eWallets as the advancements in smartphones have helped to bridge the gap between a laptop and a phone – which is now very accessible as well as affordable to people particularly in developing countries.
According to the Economist, Kenya, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe are the top three developing countries that spent the most amounts on mobile money applications. Nigeria was not also far in the order as there has been a noticeable surge in the use of bank apps, Point of Sale transactions amongst others especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to data from the Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System (NIBSS), online transactions hit 569 million by the end of Q3 2020, up 41 per cent from 403 million in Q2 2020.
The value of these transactions increased by 50 per cent from 29.6 trillion ($77 billion) to N44.3 trillion ($116 billion). Apparently, Nigerians posted major high-value transactions as the average transaction value for this period was N78 billion ($203 million) compared to N73 billion ($189.5 million) in Q2 2020.
These numbers speak to how significant the smartphone technology is to developing nations and how much electronic services can also contribute its quota to the economy of a nation.
This is why several financial institutions are coming up with several eWallet product offerings as competition in the banking system is desirable for efficiency, maximization of social welfare. However, bank users want an eWallet they know they can transfer money to any bank account in Nigeria and any mobile number, buy airtime, buy data, pay bills, fund their bet9ja wallet, check balance and generate statement and withdraw cash via any mobile device, any network, anytime and anywhere.
This is why First Bank Plc launched the FirstMonie Wallet in 2015, an electronic wallet that allows individuals the convenience of making and accepting payments electronically with their mobile numbers.
The Firstmonie Wallet is available on two channels (i.e the USSD code – *894*1# & the Mobile App) and there are three account classes for Firstmonie Wallet with their unique specifications which include; FirstMonie Classic, FirstMonie Gold and FirstMonie Platinum.
According to the bank, the product offering is a tool used by developing nations to enable individuals participate more fully in the global financial system, eliminates the need to carry a physical wallet by storing customers’ payment information securely and compactly and is geographically positioned in the six geo-political zones in the country.
Features and benefits
The offering which had 532,441 million and 150,105 million in terms of its volume transaction in 2021 and 2022 (Q1 2021) respectively, comes with exciting features which include Transfer Funds, Fund Wallet, Airtime/Data Top-up, Bill Payments, Cash In & Cash Out, Corporate Disbursements & Collections, Bet9ja Funding, Virtual Card and Agent Locator. This in turn creates more convenience for customers, access to different accounts via the wallet with either available or without internet data and can be accessed on any network in Nigeria. Also, one can have an instant transaction with or without using his or her Bank Verification Number (BVN).
An individual does not necessarily have to have a First Bank account to run the FirstMonie Wallet. For instance, registration can be done using any kind of mobile device, a customer needs to have a registered and active mobile number as this would be the account for the Wallet, Customers would require data to download the App from Play Store or IOS store and complete registration and customers need to have airtime as low as N4 which will requested for session cost on USSD registration.
According to surveys and feedback from existing consumers of the wallet, the innovation from First Bank actually beats other existing product wallets in the country at the moment. Daily Sun gathered that the FirstMonie wallet is used by 60 per cent of men while 40 per cent of women use the wallet.
More surveys revealed that the wallet’s value of transactions in 2021 stood at N2.84 billion while about N894.92 million was recorded in January to March (First week) in 2022. Hope Aniuma, a FirstMonie Wallet user, said, “I was a bit afraid at first but once I had help from the bank staff at one of the agent branches, I discovered it is very good, saves energy and time and is the best app for transactions”.
Another user, Mariam Owonla, said, “All I needed was my registered phone number and there was no need to register at different channels. I just registered via USSD and I used the 5-digit pin created to access the two channels (Mobile App and USSD) and so far so good, I have made seamless transactions”.
eWallets and mobile payments have proved to be a powerful tool to empower the unbanked and illiterate population of the developing countries and it is safe to say that First Bank Plc is using FirstMonie wallet to unlock digital payment potentials as well as create a product offering with more possibilities.