A growing demand for carrying out transactions conveniently and the need for 24-7 services means that more customers are now enjoying a greater sense of freedom. David Twinamasiko, Senior Manager Alternate Channels at Housing Finance Bank spoke to The Independent about the bank’s digital agenda.
What is your assessment of the level of digital transformation in Uganda’s banking industry?
There has been a remarkable shift to digitization of banking services over the past 10 years .Most banks have embarked on digitilising most of their processes with changes in their core banking systems to deliver more value to the customers in terms of leaner processes and efficiency. Clients are now able to check their balances, make payments and transfer funds conveniently with hand-held devices like mobile phones in a very secure way anytime, anywhere.
What alternative channels is HFB offering to customers?
HFB has gone through digital transformation to create more value to its customers with introduction of Mobile Banking in 2015, MasterCard, Internet Banking and Agent Banking in 2019. We delivered our corporate internet banking suite early this year 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, 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.
What percentage of HFB customers are using the 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. A shift to use alternate channels has also been enhanced more recently by the move to go cashless due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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.
HFB Mobile app is accessible in the play and apple store for android and apple users, respectively. With the HFB app, one can check bank balance for deposit or loan account remotely, transfer funds to accounts in the bank, standing order creation, and other services’ requests like cheque ordering and payment for all your utility services like pay TV. The app also facilitates money transfers to mobile network providers for mobile money services.
Security remains a major concern for Ugandans owed to increases in instances of fraud and online attacks on financial institutions. How is HFB handling this?
The bank has embedded security in all transactions without making it complex to the client. 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 have also ensured that all 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.
Can we expect a reduction in physical branches as Housing Finance Bank 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. 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.
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 customers. 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 seeks to fulfil our purpose to enable home ownership and financial independence.