KAMPALA – A growing demand for convenient means of transactions and the need for 24-7 services means that more customers are now enjoying a greater sense of freedom. Availability is the name of the game as customers would like instant access to loans, deposits and their account status. We caught up with David Twinamasiko, the Senior Manager Alternate Channels at Housing Finance Bank to explain to us what it is that the bank is doing in this regard. Below are the excerpts;
Qn: How do you rate digital transformation in the banking sector?
There has been a remarkable shift to digitization of banking services Over the Last ten years .In this period, most banks have embarked on digitizing most of the their processes with changes in their core banking systems to deliver more value to the customer as a result of efficient and leaner processes. This has significantly led to introduction of several innovations to the clients which have increased remote access of banking services from the comfort of their workplaces and homes. Clients are able now to check their balances, make payments and transfer funds conveniently with handheld devices like mobile phones in a very secure way among several interventions in place.
Qn: What alternative channels does Housing Finance Bank currently offer?
Housing Finance Bank has certainly gone through the digital transformation to create more value to its customers with introduction of Mobile Banking in 2015, MasterCard, Internet Banking and Agent Banking in 2019. At the Beginning of 2020, we delivered our corporate internet banking suite to our business and institutional customers. All these services augment our client’s access to banking services remotely which saves them a lot of time and money and inherently increasing their business value. Our ATM network which has provided services to our customers since 2004 has grown over the years with the onboarding of Interswitch and MasterCard. Our Clients now have access to over 500 ATMs locally and access in over 200 countries with their MasterCard.
Our internet Banking is a self-registration service that can be accessed anytime while the other services are activated in less than 30 minutes at our branches.
Qn: What percentage of HFB customers are now using alternative channels?
Over 75% of the bank clients use our alternate channels. The Bank has over the years educated the clients about the benefits of using our alternate channels which actually empower them. Our digital services are offered in a secure way to the clients. We are aware that is not simply about preventing an attack but also ensuring the security features are well blended with the transactions in a simple way by removing the complex requirements. A shift to use alternate channels has also been enhanced more recently by the move to go cashless due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Qn: Has Housing Finance Bank registered an increase in digital channels since the onset of the Corona virus pandemic?
The COVID-19 has created a shift globally to use digital channels. This is also seen from the recent BOU reports for the period ending June 2020 where cashless transactions have recorded increased activity during the first half of 2020 compared to the same period last year.
Data from Bank of Uganda attributes the increase to actions undertaken to mitigate the spread of Covid-19. The report also notes that the value of mobile and Internet banking transactions increased by 157.3 percent and 52.9 per cent, respectively. Active users on Internet and mobile banking platforms grew notably by 36.7 per cent and 46.9 per cent, respectively during the period. Certainly Housing Bank has strongly advised clients on measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and among them increased awareness to utilize digital channels. This has certainly created a shift to embrace our Internet and mobile Banking which are complemented by the agent banking access points which are in the local communities.
Qn: We have seen the introduction of Apps by many banks in Uganda offering a range of services. Please share some of the unique services offered by the HFB mobile app.
The Housing Finance Bank Mobile app is one of a kind with a warm look and feel for any user with an android or apple mobile device. The app is accessed in the play store and apple store for android and apple users respectively.
With the HFB app, you can conduct a Balance check for deposit or loan account remotely, Transfer of funds to accounts in the bank, Standing order creation and other services requests like cheque ordering, Payment for all your utility services like pay TV among others. The app also facilitates transfer to mobile network providers for mobile money services.
It should be noted that our clients can access our mobile banking service using the code *225# on any type of mobile phone whether smart or feature.
Qn: Security remains a major concern for Ugandans especially given the increase in instances of fraud and online attacks on financial institutions. How is HFB addressing this issue?
The Bank has embedded security in all transactions without making it complex to the client.
Users are required to use passwords to verify access to services and also use one-time passwords to validate any financial transaction. We have provided both soft and hard tokens for our corporate internet banking clients to generate one-time passwords to validate the transactions. The Bank regularly sends advisory to the clients on how to detect and avoid fraud schemes in any form using our social media accounts, radio and email.
All our back-office processes are secured and control measures are in place to detect any form of fraud on any of our digital platforms 24/7. We also ensure that all the partners associated with the bank providing services are regularly audited and carryout tests to ensure their environments are secure. Compliance to all regulatory requirements and international best practice is embedded in our day to day operations.
Our contact center is available to our clients 24/7 to report any suspicious activity and any form of compliant which keeps the bank connected to the client.
Qn: Can we expect a reduction in physical branches as Housing Finance increases its focus on alternative channels of banking?
The Bank has maintained an optimal complement of the branches to support our clients. The branches offer their special place to our clients since we cannot eliminate face to face interactions which create room for break through client-led innovations.
Focus on the use of alternate channels of banking will remain high in 2021 and years to come. This is mainly driven by the customer need for convenience and the need to be in control of their finances (Financial Independence). The Bank takes closer review of the customer needs and develops services that meet these needs. This philosophy drives our innovation and we seek to increase use of the alternative channels from 75% to 85% in the next year.
Qn: What else can Ugandans expect in the future from a digital perspective?
Ugandans own their destiny and all innovations that will create impact will come from interactions with the Ugandan Customer. These client-led innovations create more value to the users since these meet their needs. Therefore, from a digital perspective, more interventions that allow the customer to open an account remotely, update it with any information and even borrow money using their mobile devices are going to become common place. This increases access to the financial services and strengthens their potential to obtain other financial products like housing loans that significantly improve their well-being. We as Housing Finance Bank seek to fulfil our purpose to enable home ownership and financial independence. All our digital innovations will follow this philosophy to prosper Ugandans.