Customers of Ghana’s leading indigenous bank, Prudential Bank, were already being ushered into a cash-lite regime before the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020.
The bank, which has over the years proven to understand the needs of Ghanaian workers, individuals and businesses, was already embracing the digitisation drive that was booming in many sectors of the economy including the banking space before human endeavours were altered with what has become known as the “new normal” which generally hinges on the limits of human interactions.
This ‘new normal’ has ultimately reinforced the need for businesses, including banks to embrace digitalisation as the panacea to dealing with the effects of the pandemic.
Prudential Bank, which prides itself as a customer-centric financial institution, had prior to the emergence of the pandemic positioned itself in the digital space by modifying its organisational structure to diversify its services through three business segments, namely Corporate and Institutional, Commercial and Retail Banking, with support from a new Digital Transformation team.
In order to ensure businesses continue to thrive and customers were not hindered by an inability to visit the bank’s business locations physically, a number of digital products, services and other measures to assist customers and staff were introduced.
Firstly, the bank’s human capital, a treasured asset which requires protection primarily through the observance of the COVID-19 protocols, had to be managed through the introduction of a shift system to ensure that staff are adequately protected and socially distanced with associated sanitising materials provided on the bank’s premises and at ATM locations.
Key among new products introduced was the scaling up of the mobile banking offering by introducing the bank’s dedicated USSD short code *772# with remote onboarding capability for a special account with reduced Know Your Customer (KYC) requirements which is driving financial inclusion and serving customers better. For merchants and businesses and in particular SME businesses which form the majority of the bank’s business customers, this code also offers extension capabilities for receipt of payments via mobile money, thereby reducing the handling of cash.
The bank now offers varied debit and prepaid card options to provide greater convenience for customers and also support the government’s efforts towards a cash lite economy.
Beyond that, the bank is aggressively promoting the deployment of collection platforms including POS machines with web acquiring solutions being deployed extensively to SMEs, corporate and potential customers as a means of reducing cash handling which is increasingly becoming costly and risky.
Bulk payment solutions are also on offer at Prudential Bank to facilitate bulk payments such as salary and multiple/regular supplier payments. The solution allows for bulk payments to be made into a combination of bank accounts and mobile money wallets.
The bank continues to support customers whose businesses have been affected by the pandemic through various initiatives such as interest rate reductions, repayment moratoria, interest waivers and other concessionary measures to support their recovery efforts.
In addition, the recently established customer contact centre of the bank provides support for customers from 6am to 10pm daily, including weekends with well trained centre staff ensuring that customer queries are handled professionally. There was a concious strategy that was adopted by the bank to blend humanity with technology to deliver exceptional service to customers and the general public.
Closely associated with the deployment of digital products is the need to ensure that the level of cyber security is commensurate with the level of risk associated with the use of these products.The bank, in 2019, completed the ISO27001 certification and in 2020 completed the PCIDSS certification to provide greater security and comfort for customers.
The bank’s actions in the digital space have contributed to supporting its Corporate and SME business customers and in particular the informal sector to also contribute their quota to the country’s socio-economic development and nation-building.
In its bid to remain the local bank of choice, the bank is also partnering Fintechs with operations in other African countries to support SME businesses to leverage opportunities under the Africa Continental Free Trade Area AfCFTA which presents a pipeline of interesting opportunities in the near future.