By Etop Ekanem

It might be called Branch, but this bank has no branches. What it has is a platform that delivers high quality, fully electronic financial services to anyone who has a smartphone in Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania and India.Nobody knows exactly how much of the Amazon rainforest has been destroyed due to copious amounts of paperneeded to carry out banking operations for centuries. Banks have traditionally always used a lot of paper. Transactions were recorded on paper. Account records were maintained on paper. Teller receipts, service request forms, account opening forms and loan applications had to be printed on paper. Multiply this by the estimated 6 billion bank accounts worldwide and you get the picture.

With technology, all of this has been rendered entirely superfluous. Nowadays, who needs to queue for hours in a banking halljust to send ‘an urgent 2k’, or put up with a saucy customer service agent when it is time to get a new debit card? Definitely not a Branch user.Almost all aspects of the management and delivery of financial products and services has been fully digitalized.

Sometime over the past decade, fintech innovation reached an“Aha!” moment – that any banking service can be done virtually, at any place and at any time. For financial service providers, this could mean significant costsavingson overheads and – even more tantalizingly – the possibility of banking services reaching places traditional banking has never been before. Or as is said in international development language, ‘banking the unbanked.’

The rise in digital banking has also brought about a shift in consumer needs as most customers now demand access to financial services with the most convenience possible. Digital banking has made it possible for individuals to keep track of their accounts anytime, anywhere, from a mobile device.

As a leading player in this burgeoning space,Branch fully understands why it is necessary for the financial services sector to be committed to a transformation to digital banking and has taken up the mandate to be the bank of choice that fits into everyone’s lifestyles from the comfort of their homes.Present in Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania and India, Branch offers flexible loan services to meetpersonal and business needs without the time delays and hassle of providing collateral, which traditional institutions demand. It also allows users access larger loan amounts as they build their credit.

With a rise in smartphone users across the globe, Branch is keying into a unique opportunity to build a customer-first financial product for people all over the world. There is no longer any need to jump through hoops or fill out endless paperwork just to get a loan. Very importantly, unlike many other lenders, Branch practices ethical debt collections and strictly avoids aggressive methods of collections like debt shaming or harassment of phone contacts.

So far, overfour million people who have accessed loans for various needs on the Branch app as well as used other services within the bank’s portfolio, have pleasant experiences to share:

•A customer from Nigeria, Joy Josephwishes she could rate the service more than 5 stars on the Appstore, explaining that the flexibility of the loan plans, the customer service and ease of transactions, have made her traditional banking app redundant on her phone.With digital banking services like Branch, sitting in a bank manager’s office for hours, just to access a loan, is now a thing of the past.

•“The repayment periods compared to other lenders are flexible and longer. The customer service is incomparable and the wallet feature is a game changer”, says Terry Muema from Kenya.Branch understands that ensuring customer satisfaction is key to the success of any fintech service, thus making services available to customers 24/7.

•Another customer from Nigeria, Elder Nuel says he was able to settle pressing personal needs after he successfully accessed a small loan on Branch. Nuel who was particularly impressed by the speed and ease of accessing the loan, said he was able to repay his debt within 28 days at a reasonable interest rate. Dept repayment is one the major things that generally puts people off from taking loans but with fair interest rates and reasonable repayment period, Branch had made loan servicing a less scary experience.

On a mission to deliver world-class financial services to people around the world, Branch offers other digital banking services such as the Branch Wallet that allows users send and receive payments at no cost. The wallet allows users easily pay bills and purchase airtime or data bundles on the go.Rather than losing money to several ponzi schemes springing up all over the country, customers can make good returns of up to 20% per annum by investing their capital on the safe and secure Branch app, without fear of getting scammed as the service is regulated by the Central Bank of Nigeria.

Accessing all these services is as simple as downloading the Branch app from the Google Play Storeand creating an account in less than three minutes. Once that is done, users are exposed to a full suite of financial services.There is a quote that goes, “Banking is necessary, but banks are not.” Only a few things embody the inherent truth in this quote like the growth story of a bank with no branches called Branch.

Disclaimer

Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.