Standard Chartered Plc has commenced plans to shut down about half of its branches in Nigeria in a push to pivot its operations strictly into digital banking.
The company, which initially had 25 branches across Nigeria, had commenced actions to streamline its physical branches to a total of 13, five of which would be operational in Lagos.
According to a source who spoke to Technext, the company began this move on December 16 last year in an attempt to review its activities as it faces intense pressure, particularly from other institutions in the mobile money sphere.
This new move will see the digital bank strengthen its mobile banking segment as it plans to recruit agents to reach out to new customers and manage cash deposits and withdrawals across Nigeria.
Standard Chartered’s move echoes attempts by Nigerian banks to embrace digital banking amid a fintech boom that has pushed much of Africa to the forefront of the mobile money revolution.
Banks are cutting expenses by forming networks of approved agents, or people who sell their products and services inside their communities, instead of creating additional physical branches.
Reabsorbing existing Staff
With Standard Chartered’s plan to shut down about half of its branches nationwide, there are valid fears that jobs would be lost and sources of livelihood for several families might be affected. The bank currently has 900 employees with roughly half that number facing the prospect of retrenchment.
But the source who spoke with Technext.ng, said the company, in an agreement with the regulatory body, has no intentions of retrenching staff who worked in the affected branches. Rather, the bank intends to absorb them into the surviving bank branches.
This, the source said, would not be much of a problem as the bank is constantly witnessing situations where members of staff voluntarily resign in a bid to further their educational and career aspirations.
It is unclear, however, how the bank intends to handle the opening of new bank accounts for new customers, migrating traditional bank clients to these digital platforms, and of course, receiving deposits in areas where branches will be scarce.
Pivoting towards digital banking
Nigeria has witnessed a surge in demand for payment solutions and financing outside of traditional banks as businesses capitalize on the increasing use of mobile phones.
Over the last couple of years, Standard Chartered has positioned itself as a financial technology business and has helped customers who wanted to avoid personal touches.
Standard Chartered, which established a foothold in Nigeria in 1999, initially concentrated on corporate banking. However, it has recently moved to utilize digital technologies to expand its retail base.
In 2019, the bank launched its digital banking app, the SC Mobile 2.0, to better connect with the country’s youthful population and make banking services easier for them. The digital banking app initially offered savings accounts, current accounts, fixed deposits, lending, and wealth management solutions. But other offerings like mutual funds and even lifestyle benefits were later included.
At the time of the launch, Standard Chartered CEO, Lamin Manjang said the move was a key milestone in the bank’s digital journey and underlines its commitment to investing and growing in the market.
Digitising Africa remains at the heart of our business strategy for the region and we look to continue to grow our business in Nigeria being the best financial partner to our clients.”Lamin Manjang
In about two years, the bank has been able to attract more customers and increase its customer base from 100,000 to 500,000.
The bank has also recently announced its intention to start digital lending to process small loans quicker and increase the volume of retail credit. Standard Chartered also recently launched its agent banking service as part of its digital banking proposition to clients.
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