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Dear Mr. John,
I did everything right, I really did. I walked around many streets with my briefcase in my hand packed full of account opening forms — the soles of my shoes are proof, as flat as wafers. Finally, I met a potential customer and he was friendly enough to give me audience. So, I talked to him about our bank, enumerating the many benefits he could enjoy from banking with us. In no time at all, his attention was thoroughly piqued. He wanted in. It was an ‘eureka’ moment, but I composed myself still. I quickly opened my suitcase, brought out the four-page account opening form and handed it to him. And then I saw it, the first sign of disillusionment on his face. His mouth which was once curved upwards in a smile became straight. But I still had hope seeing he wasn’t frowning yet. I gave him my pen with caution trying not to mistakenly offend him. And he began…
He started with the ‘name’ field and after writing to the end of the box he paused, the first sign of a frown already forming on his face. He looked up at me with frustrated eyes and said, “the box is not enough.” I swallowed a large lump first before telling him to write underneath the box. And he continued, for another hour, looking up at me with angrier eyes every time he had to fill a new field. He soon turned the page over and that was when he exploded.
“Please take your form,” he half-screamed, shoving it in my hand. “I don’t think I need your bank anymore.” I knew that was untrue of course, he had been super excited about the idea of having a bank, even more so, to be a customer of our bank with the unique services we provide. But then, he was clearly frustrated.
“Why sir?” I asked already sweating from disappointment. He looked at me, and I could tell his reluctance to answer.
“I’m tired of writing. And even if I fill all these boxes, I still don’t have a passport photograph here or the other documents required, and I don’t even see how you are going to get my fingerprints.”
I answered quickly, finally excited to have a solution.“Oh no problem. You can come to our branch later on with your passport and other documents and we can scan your fingerprint and finally get you your account number.”
That was the wrong answer. The look he gave me almost sent me walking away without questions. Still, I couldn’t leave that man without being banked. I just couldn’t. I knew the benefits our bank offered, and I knew his business needed us more than we needed him. There was also the exciting prospect of him bringing other prospects to us. So, I stalled for a while and went back to his store prepared to read him our entire bank proposal if I had to.
“Sir, I’m sure we can work something out,” I said immediately I entered.
“Oh, I just got a bank account,” was his easy reply. I was shocked. I mean, I had just left him less than 30 minutes ago. Of course, I had questions — like when did he go to the bank? How was he so fast at filling all the forms? Didn’t he have to wait to get his account number?
He continued, “The man with the tablet got me banked in no time.” As he explained, his phone vibrated and with a smile on his face, he showed me a credit alert from his son.
“But how,” I asked, confused.
He shrugged. “Look for the man in a blue suit and ask him.”
I ran out of the store into the open street again, looking around until I saw the man in the blue suit. He was talking to a student. He carried no suitcase, no paper forms, just a mobile phone and what looked like a scanner. So how did he get that man banked? I moved closer to them and I heard the student complain about not having her BVN. He fingered his phone and I was already sure he was looking to show her the directions to his bank on google maps. Next, he connected the scanner to his mobile via an OTG cord and what happened next was like magic. In literally 30 seconds, he said, “done, now you have your BVN.”
My mouth was still agape as the student walked away happy. I was going to ask him how, but I had to wait because more people had started coming to him for one service or the other. This was financial inclusion happening right in front of me. The World Bank would be proud of this banker, and his bank.
In the few minutes I stood watching, he got 10 people banked by capturing and validating their data on the go. Everything that would have been done in a bank was done on his phone. I finally walked up to him with awe on my face and asked a big “HOW?”
“My bank went digital with BIOREGISTRA,” was his simple answer, with a huge smile on his face that showed his job was easy. “I basically have all my forms here,” he said, raising his phone in the air.
Sir, as I conclude my letter, I am now of the realization that, it is not enough to go digital, it makes more sense to direct our digitization towards the right channels. We can start right now. We don’t have to commit immediately if you have your doubts. There’s a free trial on the cards.