Q&A with James Gachie Senior Manager – SaaS Sales, at Infobip Kenya for Africa Bank 4.0 As we move into 2021, coping with lingering effects of the COVID-19, what would be your personal takeaway from the crisis and why?

 Firstly, businesses must become agile and innovative. Crises like the COVID-19 pandemic are unpredictable and businesses must be prepared to move quite quickly in terms of innovation and finding out what the customer wants. So, whether we are talking about moving a complete on-premise contact centre to a distributed cloud-hosted environment, or if we are talking about automating banking processes, such as opening an account, being able to innovate rapidly will become super important. So, the ability to innovate fast will be extremely important, as customer demands change rapidly and events like COVID-19 happen without warning.

Secondly, I believe that omnichannel commerce will continue to grow rapidly. We have seen during 2020 that customers traffic to physical branches has declined significantly. So, enterprises that are able to build better Customer Experiences (CXs) will reap the rewards in the long term. Modern customers want to transact online, so you need to differentiate yourself by offering a better experience across the entire customer journey.

What are the emerging technologies or innovations that you think will become crucial in the fiscal sector? 

Looking at sub-Saharan Africa and East African regions, number one on the list are Application Programming Interface (API) platforms. API platforms enable banks to adopt new business models and to explore new use cases for customer engagement, such as automated lending and loan recovery, over channels such as chatbots, which have a very low cost of adoption.

Second would be big data and Artificial Intelligence (AI)-driven chatbots. Since modern customers value experience over product differentiation, the need to provide a better experience across the customer journey becomes quite important. For organisations such as banks, the big question is how to provide personalisation on customer interactions at scale. The answer is through big data and AI-driven chatbots. These are the emerging technologies that are likely to drive banking and financial services in 2021.

What is the future of NEO banking in Africa? And what are your thoughts on “Building a Pan African NEO Bank”?

We are unlikely to see a completely mobile, app-operated bank in Africa, any time soon. This is largely due to the regulatory environment that governs the financial sector in sub-Saharan Africa. Yet, there are a lot of banks that cutting down on physical branches and moving some of their processes and operations to self-service portals, or a chatbot. So, the chances of establishing a NEO Bank in Africa would be determined by two factors: the ability to innovate around the regulatory framework and the ability to incorporate a better user experience and interface to smooth out the customer journey, and not just through an AI-driven bot, but also by incorporating smart contact centres capabilities that would allow users to access a host of banking services through mobile applications.

AI and Robotics, Blockchain, Data-science, Digital Engagement and CRM, Financial Inclusions – Which area has noted most promising adaptation in terms of innovation and digital transformation?

By looking at the value of adopting each of these technologies, I would narrow them down to those that have a low barrier to adoption and would also drive mass financial inclusion. Ultimately, that would be AI and digital engagement. Banking processes such as credit scoring, or Know Your Customer (KYC) verification are just some of the processes that can be run by AI and drive mass financial inclusion.

On the other hand, digital engagement, in the case of digital banks, removes the barriers to access to banking services by democratising access to credit, via – for example – lending apps.

What is the future of digital payments and innovation in Africa?

The East Africa region has recently seen on average a 10% year-on-year growth in the number of transactions outside the traditional banking branch. Consumers in Africa want the same things as consumers across the globe. For example, they want a platform to be able to pay for services like Netflix or be able to order from Amazon, so banks need to enable them to make these payments using a bank card or mobile wallet. So, in terms of growth opportunities, there is still a huge untapped market for mobile wallets and card payments in the region. I foresee a lot of disruption around mobile payments, but it is going to take a lot of collaboration between banks and fintech players to successfully deliver these services to the market at scale.

How would you think attendees will benefit by attending 2nd Africa Bank 4.0 Summit?

A lot of disruption has taken place over the past year, with a lot of it obviously driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in the rapid growth of omnichannel customer engagement. During this event, we will explore how businesses can adopt new and better customer journeys, especially in the banking industry, where product differentiation no longer exists. The only way to differentiate yourself as a financial services industry player is on CX, and that is one area that I am really excited about!