Sterling Bank: Running and Winning with *822#


Change is so constant, that we have to be careful not to be overwhelmed by it. Further buttressed by so many new technologies, its not a surprise that some people have a difficult time keeping up! 

Almost all everything we do is tech-driven, the mere touch of a button ensures that life is generally easier! Technology impacts the human world so strongly, and has brought with it a new wave of conveniences which were previously unimagined, and the banking sector is not excluded.

In fact, the banking sector has technological innovation that is being ramped up at a rate yet to be comprehended. All the Nigerian banks are in a frenzy race churning out one product or the other ostensibly to offer their customers better services.

In recent times, the buzz is on Short Code, which rides on a technology platform called Unstructured Supplementary Service Data. Though relatively new in the country, it is gaining remarkable acceptance within the banked community. The trend is that more and more people are shunning the banking halls because they now can do their banking transactions online, real time and in the comfort of their homes. If in doubt, ask your neighbour when last he visited a brick and mortar bank.

Few discerning banks have launched the Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) banking to serve the needs of their customers. Sterling Bank  has also caught on to this trend and is currently harping on the advantages of the service to the public through advertorials.

Sterling Bank’s Chief Marketing Officer, Mr. Henry Bassey, says the launch of *822# shows that the bank is sensitive to the financial needs of its customers. According to him, a customer should not be denied basic financial services because he cannot access the internet; and this is the prime reason Sterling Bank is offering the Short Code service.  “With USSD banking, we have shown that as the demands increase, we intend to keep churning out tailor made products to suit all customers, irrespective of their social class.  This has been positioned to provide easy access to existing customers’ accounts and create access for new acquisition”, he said.

However, if customers no longer have to go to the banking halls to do most transactions, there is the palpable fear that the USSD technology will lead to closure of some banks’ branches. Bassey agrees in saying that “There is no doubt that the future of digital banking is through electronic channels (Mobile to be specific), which is a positive derivative of the digital age. However, there are still sensitive functions that require face-to-face communication with a bank representative”. He says with the endless possibilities and potential of technology, basic transactional functions of branches will be simplified for easy use by customers themselves, hence, closure of some branches is not far-fetched in the nearest future.

On how secured is USSD banking operations against cybercrime, Mr. Bassey said the recent introduction of PIN for USSD transactions by the Central Bank of Nigeria makes transactions secure once there is no compromise from the customers’ end, adding that “Convenience is key for our customers so we keep it simple. So having a secured platform is of utmost importance. Also the TELCOs are major stakeholders in this as they provide the mobile channels, hence, their systems need to be more reliable and they have the responsibility to fraud-proof any SIM swap request”.

 That banks’ customers can now bank on-the-go from anywhere with USSD banking is a big attraction, so there must be some level of competition around the service. The banks are digging deep not only to be seen on the radar but also to be at the top. Sterling Bank’s *822#, according to the CMO, is banking on the move and offers virtually all the basic banking requirements of a customer, which include Balance check, Intra and Interbank Transfers, Account number check, Airtime purchase and other administrative request functions.

To be on top of the radar, the banks have embarked on exponential marketing and mass media advertising to promote their USSD brands. Sterling Bank is not lacking in this race and the bank is doing more with modern tools.

Interestingly, this service gels perfectly with the bank’s widely acclaimed and very effective pay-off line, “…Your One-Customer-Bank”. This much is alluded to by the Chief Marketing Officer as he declares, “We are customer-centric. Your one-customer-bank. So, we reach out to our customers through various channels such as targeted messaging and digital marketing. With this, we ensure that we are always in the faces of our customers”.

With increasing knowledge and awareness of this innovation, there are concerns over how customers can secure their bank savings. Mr. Bassey says customers are to ensure that their PINs are not compromised, and that in the event that the customer’s phone is out of reach or stolen, the bank’s 24/7 customer care services are available to temporarily blacklist the customer’s profile to avoid unauthorized transactions. Mr. Bassey advised that “Customers should also ensure their mobile phones are well secured with a password to avoid infiltration or easy access to their banking information”.

On the place of Mobile Money and USSD banking in the future, Mr. Bassey explained that Mobile Money is targeted at the unbanked, while USSD enables easy and convenient access to bank account. He instructively informed that “Irrespective of the current indices, both channels have the capacity to run independently and record enormous success in the future”.







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