Yvonne Faith Elaigwu is an experienced manager with a proven track record in the financial services industry and in the area of corporate social responsibility.
With a Masters in Environmental Management from the University of Lagos, she is currently an Operations Manager at a growing fintech API company, OnePipe.
In this interview with IJEOMA THOMAS-ODIA, she talks about the future of the payment system in Nigeria, trends that will drive the growth of the Nigerian financial tech space, and the role of women in improving the fintech space.
Please tell us about your professional background.
I studied human anatomy at the University of Maiduguri with the aim of becoming a genetic engineer. Then I found a job! My first job was in an operational role and I quickly found that I enjoyed being part of the backend team that provided the support and structure that ensured everything ran smoothly. Every role I’ve held since has been operational in nature.
I’ve been doing this for over 12 years in the NGO space, banking, CSR and now in the tech space. Somewhere between these jobs, I completed a Masters in Environmental Management from the University of Lagos.
How would you describe the current payment systems available in the Nigerian business space today?
I would say that our payment systems are growing and evolving; the volume and value of transactions increase exponentially. NIBSS Instant Payment (PIN) transactions in 2020 alone accounted for more than 235 trillion naira, almost 100 times more than the electronic payment transaction less than about eight years ago. The COVID-19 pandemic has literally forced the world to prioritize contactless interactions and the payment system has not been ruled out.
Ten years ago, the value of PIN transactions exceeded four million, as reported by the Central Bank of Nigeria; this represented less than two percent of the 378,100,749 drawn by POS terminals and ATMs. I remember a time when every saloon and convenience store was scrambling to get a POS machine from their banks. It was the novelty and everyone needed a machine to receive payments. Both the store owner and the customer relied on the POS slip to confirm that a transaction was successful. Interestingly, these store owners and merchants had bank accounts, but did not think to accept payments directly into them.
Today, the concept of payment with transfer is so accepted that the taxi driver, who previously only accepted cash (which probably never went through the point of sale stage) would share without too late an account number to receive payment for his services. Data supports this change and growth, the CBN Electronic Payments Report showed that in 2020 the volume of “pay with transfer” PINs was approximately 200% greater than the volume of payments made at both terminals point of sale and ATMs and many more in assess transactions.
Businesses are now more comfortable with receiving payments digitally; most businesses today are designed to receive payments digitally, as evidenced by the fact that the value and transaction volume of all electronic payment platforms continues to grow.
What do you think of digital currencies? Do you think they will end up being implanted in our economy?
I’m no expert on the subject here, but it seems to me they’re here to stay. Like all new products, they would come with their teething troubles, bugs and losses. Costly mistakes would be made and lessons would be learned. The Luna scenario of the last two days has taught me and hopefully the ecosystem that it’s not really stable unless it’s pegged to real money which is on a Bank account. It is like purifying gold, at the end of the day the impurities would be removed and a gem would emerge. Although it may take us some time as a country or an economy to adapt to new technologies (as has been the case with mobile networks and cell phones), we eventually catch up and catch up. lost.
I personally believe that once digital currencies become established and become relatively more mainstream, they will be implemented and even encouraged in our country. It would probably take some time, but it’s very likely to happen.
What trends do you see shaping the financial space in Nigeria in the next few years?
I believe the concept of integrated finance will take root and develop/shape the Nigerian finance space in a short time. This would be evident in close partnerships between traditional banks, lenders and BaaS companies to enable merchants and regular entities like distributors, cooperative societies and farmer associations to provide financial services to the last mile customer. This would improve financial literacy and bank more customers.
The idea is that the farmer who has been acquired by his farmers’ association will know how to ask this entity for a loan to develop his farm. This entity knows him and his operations intimately enough to offer him this facility. It can be the same with the distributor who buys out his retailers and offers them banking services. What would now start to happen is that last mile customers are becoming increasingly banked, where they are now incentivized to save their funds in the banking system in order to create transaction leads that make them eligible for credit facilities to expand their business and take care of pressing needs.
I also believe that we will also start to see simpler and more secure payment methods as people continue to adopt “payment by transfer”. The data already shows that people are gravitating towards this form of payment and the failure rate of card transactions does not complicate matters. In the future, the relevance of card payments would be minimized, thereby reducing the incidences of fraud associated with card payments.
How would you say technology is impacting the financial sector in Nigeria?
With mobile network coverage of 99% and data from the Jumia Nigeria Report 2019 which shows that 87% of Nigerians are subscribed to the mobile network, this means that technology, when properly directed, can be the tool to reach the unbanked and educate the undercooked.
The rise and proliferation of tech startups in the financial space is the first glaring way we see technology impacting the financial sector in Nigeria.
The prevalence of technology has enabled enterprising Nigerians to create solutions that can change people’s lives. Over the years, these companies have attracted billions of dollars in capital to the country, providing jobs for thousands of people and in 2021, tech startups contributed around 10% of Nigeria’s GDP.
These tech-focused companies create and ship solutions for unbanked and underbanked people nationwide and make them available on progressive web apps, downloadable apps, USSD and POS machines.
The odds that an individual in the remote village of Obagaji, Agatu where I come from (where there is no physical bank) with a mobile phone (any type of mobile phone) will be able to access a financial service today are very high and attributed to technology, driven by technology companies.
Technology has made it possible for the ordinary person to have access to resources on financial instruments, concepts and data with which they can make informed decisions to improve their living conditions – everything is a search away on Google.
Digital banking versus traditional banking system, do you think there will be convergence?
Finally, yes. While digital banking is the “now” and the future, traditional banks are here to stay and will have to get to a place where they will decide between fighting digital banks, competing with them, or partnering with them.
We are starting to see partnerships in the US, Europe and even here in Nigeria between traditional banks and digital banks to give rise to the concept of integrated finance, which is a relatively new concept. We expect to see more in the future.
In terms of running a successful business, what advice would you give to women choosing to launch startups in Nigeria?
In terms of operations, I would advise you to decide very quickly what kind of business you want to start and find someone whose job would be to help champion that from scratch. When building a startup, operational practices may not be at the top of the list of most important things for the business because you will be building products, finding product market fit, and generally just understanding.
With at least one resource dedicated to ensuring you embed standard best practices into your operations and course correct as you go, you’re less likely to encounter heavy operational headaches in the future.
How can we get more women to succeed and reach the top like you have?
Remind women that success is not gendered, it is universal and recognizable regardless of the gender that embodies it. Encourage women to work. I think it’s now universally recognized that if you entrust something of value to a woman who is competent or willing to learn, the possibilities for success are endless.
We need to stop pretending to be “women supporting women” and actually do it. Find a woman willing to learn, give her a chance, and put her in charge of helping another woman grow.
What advice do you have for young women who want to follow in the footsteps you have chosen?
I would say start by figuring out what you want to do and who you would like to be; don’t let your program of study limit this choice. Look for people who have succeeded or left a mark in the industry or space you want to play in and learn from them; they are likely to have written books, given lectures or had books written about them.
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes or fail, always look for lessons to be learned from those mistakes and correct them. Find yourself a responsible mentor or partner to work with, and find friends and people who believe in you and encourage you to excel.