Standard Chartered, a British banking, and financial services business, is said to have finalised plans to close at least 50% of its Nigerian branches, in a major move as it transitions to digital banking.
This comes at a time when Nigeria’s banking industry is under intense competition from payment service providers, particularly mobile telecommunications companies, which the Central Bank of Nigeria(CBN) recently issued an operating license to.
Since establishing a foothold in Nigeria in 1999, Standard Chartered has focused on corporate banking.
However, it has recently moved to expand its retail base, setting a goal for 2019 of growing its customer base from 100,000 to 500,000 in around two years by utilising digital technologies to onboard consumers faster.
According to the persons, the lender also aims to launch digital lending to process small loans faster and expand the volume of retail credit.
Nigeria has seen an expansion in demand for payment solutions and financing outside of traditional banking, with a population of over 200 million people, more than a third of whom do not have access to financial services.
According to Bloomberg, Standard Chartered Bank closed some of its locations in December and will eventually reduce its branch count in the country to only 13 from roughly 25.
According to the report, the Nigerian subsidiary of the London-listed bank would strengthen its mobile banking services and engage agents to reach new customers and manage cash deposits and withdrawals around the country.
This is as part of its plan in the new dispensation, according to some sources who requested anonymity.
Standard Chartered Bank’s new focus reflects attempts by Nigerian banks to embrace digital banking amid a fintech boom that has put most of Africa at the forefront of the mobile money revolution.
Instead of creating additional physical branches, Nigerian banks are lowering expenses by forming networks of approved agents, or persons who sell their products and services within communities.