From the pre-pandemic reality to the current and post-pandemic reality, we are witnessing a shift that took place full speed, with tremendous effort on both personal and business side, but which presents great opportunities to become the businesses we wanted to be in the first place.
During our presentation at the DigiBank Summit Africa, the online conference that took place on October 14th 2020, Bernard Acquaye, our Regional Office Manager located in Ghana, made a parallel of where we were before the pandemic, what were our biggest challenges during this past 7 months, and where we are heading now. Read about it below and watch his full presentation here:
In traditional banking we have:
- Face to face meetings with clients, so many times facing queues, crowded locations, laborious cash management process, difficult access to banking services in remote areas; nevertheless there was still a big effort for financial inclusion and banking literacy.
- Inside the institutions, we were faced with heavy local infrastructure, location challenges in team collaboration, physical moving of the documents of the clients and physical meetings needed for loan applications analysis and decisions, for example, as well for risk management meetings and other collaboration discussions.
- We were mostly analyzing businesses from a perspective of growth and development, challenging still the traditional approach, but leaving a lot of adjustment time to new softwares, tools and channels that were bound to make activities much more efficient and less resource consuming.
In full pandemic times, we were brutally faced with the acute need and urgency of embracing these new channels. The pandemic impact in businesses was felt in each and every corner of businesses and in their core altogether:
- Face to face meetings with the clients stopped, leaving room for remote onboarding approaches which put software companies at high pressure to deliver and test solutions in real life, with very little to none time to afford mistakes and adjustments.
- Cash management changed to an ever more increase in online transitions, with people being more reluctant, but very much encourages also to avoid physical exchange of money.
This was not, however, easy in all areas, as inclusive banking was still an ongoing process, with a steady and slow unfold, which now quickly had to shift to issuing of cards, onboarding merchants for online payments and simultaneously educating and instructing users for efficient and safe usage of these tools.
- Installation projects were halted, and banks and financial institutions faced sometimes full blockages of project implementation and, as such, delays in offering services they were planning back when the physical contact was not an issue.
- We saw a dramatic shift in the way banks approached collaboration and team management, with an increased need in working from home but delivering even more results than before because of such a demanding environment. The need for remote secure channels inside the organization and in the relationship with clients and the rest of the stakeholders took priority in the management of the institutions
- Heavy local infrastructure projects shifted toward cloud software requests to allow all the forementioned changes to take place smoothly (well, as smooth as we could possibly expect in these circumstances):
- Team collaboration had to move from on premises to online, fully, completely, allowing for seamless discussions and interactions, document management, electronic signatures, decision matrixes and process flows that allowed for online analysis, decision making and formalization of these decisions.
- Risk and credit committees had to be held in secure manner via online channels and easy and efficient collaboration had to be facilitated.
And the impact which most had to be addressed – if we can actually put an order in what needed to be done, because, in all honesty, all had to be done at once – was the management of client portfolio, restructuring loans, deferring instalment payments based on several particularities of businesses and independent country situations.
All of the above had to be done in a timeframe of weeks in a time of great uncertainty, of focus on employee and client safety and security and uncertain budget allocation. Of course, the need and the result, hard as it was, were met with extreme effort and focus. And it is yet not completed.
In Quipu, we were able to respond to all of these requests, managing a significant portfolio of clients, banks and financial institutions with different products and services. With teams accustomed to work remotely, we focused full capacity initially to make sure all colleagues and teams were fully equipped to continue to work from home in a secure and non-affected manner. Once the set-up completed, and before complete lock-down of the world, we expanded our efforts toward our clients.
On the operations area, we made sure that all bank employees have the same ability as we had to work remotely – making sure they have the hardware, software, permissions, and knowledge for remote access of services. We deployed redundant communication channels to ensure business continuity, and team collaboration with limited to no restriction. Of course, we were proactive in the face of increasing threats in online operations and have consequentially deployed cyber-security solutions, filters, and supported employee awareness trainings to reduce risks of cyber-attacks and fraudulent actions.
We supported client management in banks with a fast response in parametrizing software to allow for example loans to be automatically restructured within a short period of time, considering the particularity of each bank. For the onboarding of clients, we have set in place digital channels to allow for remote application for accessing banking services – video onboarding, for example, to support complete remote onboarding, without having the client come to the bank at all. The same, we focused on enhancing access to internet banking applications and mobile banking applications throughout the client portfolio to allow for remote operations to the highest extent.
Significant resources were allocated by our Cards Processing Centre to provide answers to several challenges:
- Increasing cards usage in order to avoid using cash as a possible source of virus transmission.
- More so, EMV contactless cards were pushed to avoid physical interactions with ATMs and POS terminals.
- E-commerce solutions were implemented to facilitate shopping from home in case of complete lockdown, as well as like a protective measure and support of the “stay at home” call.
As in our operations, the Processing Centre has a strong appetite for security of client transactions and the implementation of 3D Secure 2.0 was a natural choice as the next generation of e-commerce authentication service, as well as ensuring very high service availability. We understand that in times of pandemic even more, the security of transactions, as well as feeling safe and supported when making your online payments are crucial.
The development of our SaaS QWare started before the pandemic. Of course, we did not know then what was to come, but we found now, during these last months, that it is a solution that is highly tailored to the current situation as it functions completely in the cloud. This digital financial platform enables institutions roll out their digitalization agenda for enhancing financial inclusion and it is a comprehensive digital transformation solution for most financial institutions, irrespective of their operating market, local regulations or the needs of end-customers. Through QWare, financial institutions are assisted remote not only in managing clients, day-to-day operations and financial business altogether, but they receive, at the same time, the support necessary in the decision-making process. Our teams support the online implementation with the help of Office365 tools, such as Teams, and can remotely address all issues. We have added an API for the integration of the online tools for providing delivery channels, as well as out of the box integration with card processing and with digital wallets, like in Ghana for example.
The processes described above are a transition from a traditional model to a cloud model that has already happened and now it only is in the process of being refined and deployed more extensively. From a very psychically mobile organization, we transformed together with our clients into a powerful remote solution provider and have supported the adjustment of banking to the new reality in very little time. It was not easy, but it was and it is possible!
The pandemic has drastically reduced offline communications channels, but it has not reduced interaction and need of it. We won’t and we can’t stop being connected – in our personal, professional, and business endeavors we remain solution oriented, as a way to respond to and counteract difficulties.
Shifting from traditional to more digitalized banking comes with high respect for the lessons years of banking and technology for banking has taught us. Digitalization and inclusion are only the tools to our higher purpose, that of increasing quality of live and supporting development in the areas where we are active. Taking services and software to the next level is, besides business need, a reflection of hard work and understanding of the client, as well as a deep consideration for the human need – be it employee, client, stakeholder – in the end, we all need our work and life to be made easy and to support and encourage results that we take pride in. Let us make the new normal The Normal and proceed further with trust in our ability to thrive despite the toughest of conditions.