By Yusuf Mohammed
In the quest to attract more customers, Nigerian banks have been trying to outdo themselves by inventing new products. The United Bank for Africa (UBA) has just gone a step ahead with its new innovation called Leo.
The world has gone digital and the banking industry is not left behind. Several years ago, everyone irrespective of societal status had to walk into the banking hall for any kind of transaction. Cash deposit, cash withdrawal, transfer and the rest had to be done manually.
Today, the case is different with technological advancement making life easier. With a mobile phone in your hand, you can do almost all financial transactions as long as you have any of the banking apps.
Banks in Nigeria had recognized the potentials of information and communication technology since early 1980s when some of them began adopting electronic banking. Since these early days, electronic banking products have, though slowly but steadily, been on the increase in the system. Banks in Nigeria now offer automated teller machine (ATM) services, internet banking services, telephone banking services, credit card services.
Last year, United Bank for Africa (UBA) unveiled its ‘Chat Banker’ Leo, the first of its kind by any Financial Institution in Africa. Leo is an Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered bot. Since its creation, UBA account holders have been using the Chat Banker to perform transactions and lots more via its Facebook Messenger page.
The bank recently went a step further by launching Leo on WhatsApp. With this innovation, UBA is making sure its customers and bankers have easy access to regular bank transactions without leaving the comfort of their home.
The Columnist gathered that various transactions can be done with UBA Leo on WhatsApp just like when using the bank’s USSD code. As long as you have a phone running WhatsApp, this service is available to you. Some of the transactions that can be carried out with Leo are Bank Transfer, Airtime Top-up, Balance enquiry, Bills Payment, PIN management, Customer care access.
On the bank’s website, there is a video on how Leo works on WhatsApp. According to an official statement, with UBA Leo, “customers will be able to open new accounts, receive instant transaction notifications; check their balances on the go, transfer funds and airtime top up. They can also confirm cheques, apply for loans, freeze accounts, request for mini statements, amongst other things.
The Columnist decided to test out these features and see if Leo is anything close to “changing the face of e-banking” as promised by UBA. Its header and display image are a combination of the red UBA colours. Just like 7Up’s Fido dido cartoon character of the 90’s, Leo is a male cartoon character.
The Columnist also gathered that you need a UBA account to access Leo. To open a live account, Leo requires a customer inputs his/her Bank Verification Number (BVN), date of birth, contact address, email and phone number. Just like opening a normal bank account.
All the information you provide have to be in line with your Bank Verification Number (BNVN). You will get an error code if the details do not tally with the details of your BVN.
You have to remember the exact information in your original BVN registrations. If you don’t, you have to go to the bank you registered to found out.
Some customers see this as a downside to Leo. They think that the bank should make Leo collate all the other information immediately customers give him from your BVN.
Sending Money from one account to another is very smooth. All you need to do is input recipient name, account number and hit send, then supply Leo with the OTP.
Sending money to UBA accounts is free, but sending to other banks cost N52.50 for every transaction. This fee is not different from sending money via UBA’s USSD banking. Many are of the view that considering its value proposition Leo, the bank should make Leo cheaper to use for customers.
Despite the publicity, some Nigerians say they have not heard of it. Some say they recently heard of it due to its commercial video starring Nigerian musician, Whizkid.
In the advert, Whizkid could be seen making use of the features. Whizkid’s fame has helped a lot in terms of publicity.
Speaking to The Columnist, a young lady by the name Adura Makinde, said, “I have heard of it but it is difficult to use. It is not reliable for me. I don’t know about other people. The only thing I know about it is that Whizkid did an advert a few days ago for Leo. That is all.”
Christina Nwachuwku who stopped banking with UBA for personal reasons said that Leo will make her renew her relationship with the bank. She said, “I have been seeing the marketing videos. I think Whizkid did something on it. I don’t really know about it. My UBA account is dormant. But now that I understand what it is all about, I will get my account reactivated so that I can enjoy the benefits of Leo.”
As for Abdullahi Idris, he is excited. He said he embraces technology or product that can make life easier. “I make use of Leo and I really enjoy it. It has made banking very easy. I started banking with UBA because of Leo,” he said.
Meanwhile, efforts to speak with the spokesman of UBA, Mr. Nasir Ramon failed at the time of filing this report, as he did not pick calls to his phone and also did not reply messages.
United Bank for Africa (UBA) Plc is a leading pan-African financial services Group headquartered in Nigeria. It is one of Africa’s best and most resilient banking Groups with operations in 20 African countries and offices in three global financial centers: London, Paris and New York.
UBA Bank is one of the biggest banks in the African setting and specializes in Internet banking, Mobile banking, wholesale Banking, Corporate Banking, Investment Banking, Consumer Banking, Internet Banking & Asset Management services.