A trend that has caused a transformation of the financial sector worldwide in the past ten years or so is also rapidly changing the way African banks operate. Financial institutions are increasingly abandoning the model in which clients go to a banking hall to physically handle their financial business with the bank staff, in favour of a model of self-servicing in which people use mobile and e-banking, ATMs and kiosks to make transactions.
Service and Computer Industries Ltd (SCI) is at the forefront of helping banks throughout East Africa make this migration, as it is the region’s sole representative of NCR solutions, a world leader in software, hardware, and services that enable electronic financial transactions (which is why the company identifies as SCI/NCR). Its Rwandan branch, SCIR, works with most of the big banks in the country to adopt the self-servicing model.
According to its country manager Austin Bareme, there’s a good reason for this change in approach in the financial sector. “Millions of banks are doing it because it is more cost-effective – you need fewer branches and less cash to serve the same number of clients, or even expand. Currently banks are reluctant to expand to far-away places, because of the costs,” he explains.
“And it is in line with the current trend, promoted by the government, of going cashless,” Bareme adds.
To help banks in this process, SCIR offers a wide range of innovative products and services. In the first place, of course, automated teller machines, or ATMs as they are better known.
“ATMs these days do more than just cash distribution – you can do a PIN change, make a statement request, a card request, everything,” Bareme explains.
A step further are the self-service kiosks, which SCIR will soon install at the airport. “This is where customers come and do everything themselves without the involvement a teller or any other person. At the airport, for example, they will offer a self-check-in facility,” the SCIR boss remarks, adding that another ideal location for such kiosks would be in supermarkets to allow people to check out themselves without a cashier.
The company also provides software to banks, not just to make the ATMs and kiosks operate, but also to help automate other operations that are still handled by tellers, such as cash or cheque deposits. Today, you can make a cash deposit at many ATMs, but it means putting the money in an envelope and filling in a deposit slip, which are later processed by a teller; in the near future, it will be possible, thanks to SCIR’s software and equipment, to insert the banknotes or even a cheque directly in the machine, and the money will be added to your account automatically.
“And all our software is certified to ensure it is secure, which is essential in financial services as they are very risk-sensitive,” Bareme is quick to point out. “What we do is that we have basic certified software code, and then we identify all security features that are unique to a country – such as watermarks and other features on banknotes and cheques – which we add to the software to make it country-specific.”
In the meantime, while physical branches are still inevitable, SCIR also has cash-management software on offer, which optimises the management of actual money in braches to reduce the cost of insurance and transport.
However, with SCIR’s innovative solutions, it seems that this will soon be a thing of the past.
Read this article and more in issue n° 73 of Hope Magazine.