On May 18, Polaris Bank made headlines with the launch of its Digital Banking solution. Known as VULTe, this solution, the Bank says, promises to positively impact the payments and lifestyle ecosystem in and outside Nigeria, writes AKANNI RAJI

The world of financial services has not been the same again since October 1994, when Stanford Federal Credit Union in the United States (US) became the first institution to let its customers access banking functions via the new internet. It seems like a long way from then, but the world of financial services has continued to revolutionise expeditiously, offering customers increased convenience, self-service and several other values that the world of Digital Banking has come to represent.

In an April 2021 article published by Forbes under the title: What is Digital Banking, Daphne Foreman and her Co-Author, E. Napoletano did surmarise the edge Digital Banking has in these words; “Thanks to the power of digital banking, many consumers have never set foot inside a brick-and-mortar Bank. From the ability to access everyday banking functions via a computer or mobile device, to empowering cashless transactions at a wide swath of stores, it would appear that digital banking isn’t just the future. It’s now.”

The recent launch of VULTe, a new Digital Banking platform by Nigeria’s Polaris Bank, and the conversation it has generated shows that, as Foreman noted, Digital Banking’s future is already here. VULTe, as a new entrant in the growing community of Digital Banking solutions in Nigeria, has been created as convenient, easy and quick self-service digital solution to enable access to banking services via mobile devices or on desktops. Happening immediately following the announcement of an impressive full year customer deposits growth margin of N56billion, it would seem the launch of VULTe was designed for a singular purpose – to spike shareholder value through the time-honored route of enhanced consumer experience.

VULTe is a high voltage solution designed to enable customers consummate every banking transaction, from account opening, through requesting for certain categories of loans, to generating bank statements. It does a bit more. According to Dele Adeyinka, Chief Digital Officer (CDO) of the Polaris Bank, VULTe also connects the customer to discover lifestyle trends and social events.

“VULTe is an all-in-one solution that is created to offer the most convenience for our customers. It was built to understand the needs of the customer and provide solutions to everyday challenges of accessing financial service solutions. For instance, in this platform, we have ensured that customers with multiple accounts can complete all their transactions through a single window of a digitally consolidated customer information file. This, totally eliminated the need for multiple Apps and platforms for customers,” Mr Adeyinka stated.

He added that customers who were hitherto locked in a daily transaction limits are allowed to seamlessly increase this to as high as N5 million without having to visit their Banks for forms and concurrence.

“VULTe was built with enhanced security. Our customers have the option of securing their accounts through the added means of biometric validation that ensures no other person can remotely compromise their accounts,” the CDO said.

Since its birth on September 24, 2018, Polaris Bank has not had an event as big as the one it organised to launch VULTe into the market. It was an A-list event, complete with all the trappings that attract the young, enterprising, self-driven and upwardly mobile executives. This, for many watchers, speaks of where the Bank seems to be headed in the future. As banking transactions continue to go off the traditional brick and mortar channels, to the more convenient online solutions, future-forward Banks have been taking positions.

Nigerians are quick technology adopters and have gathered in the digital ecosystem, beckoning on financial services providers to pitch value-adding solutions. As early as 2016, a KPMG report stated that 47 per cent of Nigerians have adopted one form of online banking solution or the other. Although the KPMG reports suggested this was a small percentage, considering the depth of broadband penetration in the country, this represents a significant number in 2016 and would have significantly improved ever since. For instance, in 2020, Nigeria recorded $428 billion worth of e-transactions, 42 per cent higher than in 2019. Happening in a year of Covid-19-induced business meltdown, one can only imagine what the numbers would have been had the year not been encumbered by the debilitating pandemic.

This is clearly what Polaris Bank is positioning to profit from. At the launch event, Chairman of the Bank, Muhammad K. Ahmad, pointed to the importance of the new platform to the future of banking in Nigeria, pointing to the strategic positioning of Polaris to offer cutting- edge solutions that meet the need and exceed the expectations of customers. This, according to him, informed the creation of a platform for customers and non-customers of the Bank.

Creating a digital banking solution that supports non-customers of the Bank, to say the least, is unique, new and strategic. On the one hand, it supports customers in managing multiple account relationships, including those in other Banks. On the other, it enables the Bank register presence in the minds of customers of other Banks using the solution. This is strong marketing driven by value. By placing itself as a gateway in the relationship between its customers and those of other Banks and by being a vehicle which customers of other Banks explore in consummating their transactions, VULTe is primed to position Polaris Bank as a value-adding enabler of business, commerce and relationships.

This may have been why the Bank’s Chairman described VULTe as, “a milestone in our pursuit of a strong and digitally-led retail brand.”

Said Ahmad: “When we started the Polaris journey almost three years ago, we were very clear on the type of Bank we must build and the direction we must go. This was largely informed by the fast pace of change in financial service provisioning and the apparent technology-defined outlook of our business. VULTe is not just another mobile App, but one with a world of difference, a mobile digital Bank. This is your Bank in your hand, affording you total Control of your financial service needs. With VULTe, you serve yourself, the way you want to be served.”

During his address at the same event, the Managing Director/CEO of the Polaris Bank, Innocent C. Ike, said the newly-launched banking platform, was a means of handing over all powers to the customer and proclaiming him as King, saying that customers have been enabled the freedom for unhindered, contactless and refreshing banking experience.

“With VULTe, we affirm our resolve to serve the customer better and make their banking experience, more pleasurable. Therefore, we will continue to launch an array of banking products to cater to the varying needs of our diverse customers. VULTe represents our bold declaration to hand over CONTROL of banking services to our customers and allow them to serve themselves as they would want to be served. As a Polaris Bank customer, you are at liberty to determine your banking experience since we have put the Bank in your hand 24/7. You now have total CONTROL to serve yourself; it’s no more customer service but customer self-service.”

With the entry of VULTe, the frontiers of the Nigerian Digital Banking ecosystem appear to have expanded with enhanced values. One of the standout narrations around the new solution was the fact that from ideation to finish, it was developed, not just by Nigerians, but by a team of employees at Polaris Bank. This speaks strongly to the growing global regard for the sophistication of Nigeria’s software development capacities. It also tells of a Bank that is ready to look inwards for solutions, rather than invest scarce capital in sourcing for the same and sometimes less valuable, solutions from outside.

Akanni Raji, a Fintech enthusiast, writes from Lagos


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