By Adekunle Adelaja

Finance cut across plethora aspects of life. In capitalist and mixed economies like Nigeria, financial needs are surplus and expanding. From birth to old age, our financial needs spread across feeding, lifestyle, sustenance, education, business, social, fashion, health, digital, even support for others. For everyone, preferences and standards for how each of these financial needs are met differ. While some just want access to basic financial services they require, some others live for the experience and crave more to suit their lifestyle. Whichever way, one thing is certain—every person needs a financial services provider that understands them, knows what they need and is ready and willing to support them towards their goals. This is why banking today is not just about storing and withdrawing money or even getting loans. How do these services fit into your lifestyle, fulfill your needs and help you achieve your personal and professional goals? This is the question that more people need to ask themselves when seeking a financial services provider as true impact lies in how far this provider is willing to go for you. Any bank can help you store money, but which ones will journey with you through the different stages of your life and phases of your growth as the world continues to evolve?

Banking today is now about finding a partner that predicts your needs and meets them with practical solutions even before you discover the need. This is why the most sought-after banks are those that go beyond the primary scope of their functions to provide a desirable range of financial services tailored to the evolving needs of their different customers. It is for this same reason that Wema Bank is dominating the financial services industry even at such critical points of Nigeria’s macroeconomic outlook. Wema is regarded as Nigeria’s most innovative bank and is fast becoming the partner of choice for different demographics of Nigeria’s populace—even for Nigerian diaspora. Why? Because the bank has made a name for itself as the financial services provider whose solutions extend beyond the framework of traditional banking and not only fit perfectly, but more importantly, complement and supplement the lifestyles of the diverse demographics of its customer-base and their entire ecosystem.

The most puzzling part of Wema Bank’s position in today’s financial services industry is the “mystery” behind how the bank successfully captured the hearts of millions in its seventh decade of existence. One may think, “but isn’t it expected seeing as they have been here for long?” and to that, the answer would be “Not really”.

Wema Bank was founded in 1945, years before Nigeria even gained independence. Between 1945 and now, a disruptive wave of transformation has shaken the banking and business world in phases marked by great impact. The bank survived the different phases of the digital revolution and still remained a household name in the Nigerian financial services industry even at the peak of the global transformation that came with the different phases of this revolution. Through the most challenging times encountered in the financial services landscape, Wema Bank stood strong and continued to grow.

Within the past 79 years, Wema  has faced every challenge that has plagued the financial services industry, the business world and the globe; but everywhere Wema Bank could have failed, it triumphed and everywhere it could have stopped, it broke new ground. Beyond surviving the advent of the internet and the digital revolution, Wema Bank continued to provide financial services for its customers, but the salient point is, it didn’t stop where the provisions of the traditional banking model limited it to. In a bid to champion a highly customer-centric approach to banking, it expanded the scope of its services from providing both basic and advanced financial services through physical branches, to extending the range of banking options available to each distinct customer based on their needs at different points in time, beyond branches. This curve in the bank’s journey became apparent in 2015, when it gained its national banking license and went from being a regional bank to a national bank.

Since 2015, the bank has shaken the financial services industry and redefined the standards of banking with a myriad of impactful solutions that have transformed the lives and experiences of Nigerians across the globe. To bridge the gap in access to financial services, Wema Bank introduced a strategic range of platforms, in addition to solutions, supporting the lives and needs of its diverse customers by providing a healthy range of banking options tailored to their realities, experiences and needs. One of the most prominent of these solutions that caused a positive disruption the African financial services industry is ALAT, Wema Bank’s digital banking platform which doubles as Africa’s first fully digital bank. ALAT by Wema, launched in 2016, is a digital banking platform that allows Nigerians from any part of the world to transact both in naira and dollars from wherever they are, on their phones. The pioneering platform is today, an ecosystem of dynamic financial solutions tailored to provide seamless, reliable and convenient services for all.

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The platform connects users with a multitude of financial services that extend beyond the confines limits of traditional banking into the lifestyles and evolving needs of Nigerians, allowing them to access services ranging from the basic and advanced financial services available in branches to other key areas including health, insurance, travel, savings options, foreign exchange, deals and discounts cutting across all these areas in addition to fashion, driving, lifestyle, feeding, welfare, fitness, education, sustainability, work, family—and much more. With ALAT, Wema Bank was and is no longer the bank you consider within the limitations of branches. The bank had now made its grand break into the digital and innovation landscape; a space which the bank is dominating.

Shortly after the launch of ALAT, Wema Bank, acknowledging the needs of Nigerians without internet access, launched its USSD banking platform, *945# with which Nigerians from any part of the country can access financial services anytime, on any kind of phone without a need for data or internet access, especially in rural Nigeria where many may not be able to access branches and even in the urban areas where network fluctuations are experienced.

It also launched ALATHUB, designed to help Nigerians of all ages in the most rural parts of the country, to access banking services via registered agents. These customers can do anything from opening accounts, withdrawals, deposits and money transfers to accessing loans, getting cards and sorting other financial needs, without having to go to the bank. With ALATHUB, Wema Bank bridged a gap in access to financial services. Nigerians in diaspora can send money back home via ALAT and these remittances can be received effortlessly by the recipients in any part of the country.

Recognising the need for tailored solutions for women to bridge the gap in gender inequality and promote women inclusion, SARA by Wema, a female-focused community strategically designed help women access an extensive range of resources, was launched in 2019. With SARA, women from across the country can access funding, loans, trainings, self-development, skill acquisition and entrepreneurial empowerment, networking opportunities, mentorship, business exhibition, subsidised and for some, free healthcare, in addition to an abundance of other resources tailored to their evolving needs.

Through SARA, Wema has positively transformed thousands of lives and businesses of women of various ages across different parts of the country. This transformative proposition is impacting the lives and families of Nigerian women daily and still. While the bank’s alternative banking options have won the hearts of millions, it still operates a robust in-branch banking network. It is common knowledge that branch visits may not be the most convenient, hence the proliferation of alternative banking options. However, there still exists a considerable number of people who may prefer the in-branch banking experience based on their needs. Wema Bank, therefore, launched Phygital, a futuristic solution adding a digital touch to the physical banking experience. With the Phygital banking tablets across branches nationwide, customers can still enjoy the in-branch banking experience with a unique twist. The tabs are a self-service banking outlet that provides customers with access to both basic and advanced financial services on their own, without the need for a customer service representative. The bank also boasts a multitude of solutions, initiatives, partnerships and offerings that support and empower diverse demographics of Nigerians nationwide. Among these are Hackaholics, the bank’s youth and startup focused tech competition; The FGN-ALAT Digital Skillnovation Programme, its digital empowerment initiative launched in partnership with the Federal Government of Nigeria to train and empower two million youth (2,000,000) and one million (1,000,000) MSMEs, the NYSC-ALAT Accelerator Programme, its youth empowerment partnership with the NYSC to provide Nigerian graduates with well-paying jobs.

There is also the Transforming Nigerian Youth Programme, a partnership with Pan-Atlantic University’s Entrepreneurial Development Centre (EDC), and so many more initiatives, in addition to empowering the FinTech industry to thrive. With such a powerful range of banking options, services and solutions that cut across diverse areas of the lives and business of millions of Nigerians across the world, it is no wonder that Wema Bank is becoming indispensable as it dominates the financial services industry. The bank has prompted a positive disruption in the financial services landscape and piqued the interests of millions of Nigerians across the country, hence its sporadic growth over the years, exceeding all expectations and flawlessly proving that even as Wema has just clocked 79 years, it is more than equipped to go many more sets of 79 years. It is consistently resetting the standards of banking in Nigeria and showing Nigerians that the banking industry can provide solutions beyond direct financial services. The exemplary work and true impact of Wema Bank on the lives of its diverse customers is evidence that the banking industry can no longer operate in isolation but in fact, in tune with the unique needs, lives and lifestyles of customers. One thing is clear, Wema Bank works, it thinks from the customers’ perspectives, anticipates their needs and provides the solutions based on the evolving needs of its diverse customer-base. This is why Wema Bank has become Nigeria’s most innovative bank, a large-scale provider of tailored solutions across diverse areas of need, a supporter of goals, a partner even in the most difficult of times and the bank of choice for all—and this is why Wema Bank will continue to thrive in the decades to come.