James Reynolds Baiden, Chair, Board of Directors, Fidelity Bank
Agency Banking pioneer, Fidelity Bank upgrades offering with revamped Agency Plus points
Over a decade ago, Fidelity Bank set out on a journey to make banking accessible to all Ghanaians. One of the main pillars of this agenda was an endeavour that would enable anyone to carry out basic banking transactions beyond the usual banking hall. Through Agency networks, Ghanaians could access banking services at community pharmacies, supermarkets, mobile money vendors or newspaper stands.
It was not just the beginning of an ambitious undertaking; it would prove to be a pivotal step that would bring banking to the doorsteps of the unbanked and under banked. At a time when players in the industry didn’t consider inclusive banking an urgent strategic priority, Fidelity Bank’s audacious enterprise underscored the Bank’s commitment to champion financial inclusion within the local banking industry.
For a country where approximately 50 per cent of the adult population is outside the formal banking sector (Afrobarometer Financial Inclusion Survey, 2019), it is not surprising that financial inclusion remains at the heart of Fidelity Bank’s vision.
Indeed, Fidelity Bank, the largest privately-owned Ghanaian Bank has played a large part in advancing financial inclusion nationwide and across economic sectors by overcoming two of the greatest barriers to financial inclusion: physical access and mindset change.
Adopting An Insight-Led Approach
Prior to 2013, Fidelity Bank had identified major barriers to financial inclusion in Ghana and adopted an intentional approach to finding solutions. The Bank commissioned a fact-finding team which proceeded into selected rural and urban communities to glean insights from inhabitants. For instance: Why do some Ghanaians trust the ‘Susu’ collector more than they do the banks? Why is someone more likely to pay through their mobile wallet rather than using other banking products? The responses to these questions served as a basis for the eventual design of the Bank’s Agency Banking model.
The Inception – Creating a dedicated department to drive the financial inclusion agenda
Fidelity’s winning approach was two-fold.
The first stage was the creation of an Inclusive Banking department, the first of its kind in the Ghanaian banking industry, mandated to develop specialized products and services tailor-made to suit the unique needs of the target population. This was a bold stratagem which sought to bring aboard those who were either skeptical of the banking system or simply used to functioning outside of the banking system.
The inception of the Inclusive Banking Department enabled the bank to develop products such as the flagship Smart Account which proved to be a major addition to the Bank’s product portfolio. The Smart Account is a minimum-effort, “Know Your Customer” (KYC) requirement account that could be opened within five minutes. In rolling out this unique product, Fidelity became the first Bank officially licensed by the Bank of Ghana to offer KYC-lite accounts. Recently, the Smart Account has been further simplified to make it even more convenient with the inclusion of a revolutionary USSD feature that facilitates self-on boarding and enables customers to carry out banking transactions from the comfort of any basic feature phone. In addition, the Bank has also partnered with Mobile Network Operators as well as FinTechs to roll-out other specialized products and services for the target audience. Among these is the Yello Save account, a service borne out of a partnership with MTN which allows customers to make regular savings directly from their MoMo accounts. These inclusive innovations have already attracted a customer-base of over a million customers, most of whom were hitherto unbanked.
Stage 2 – Rolling out the Agency Banking Model
The second stage was the introduction of the Agency Banking model which proved to be a major game-changer for the Bank’s financial inclusion agenda.
During the initial three-month pilot in 2013, 130,000 accounts were opened with about 100 Fidelity Bank agents. Since then, the potential has proven to be limitless, and the agency banking model continues to grow exponentially, with over 5,000 agents dotted around the country today. In 2022 alone, Fidelity’s Agency Banking service facilitated over 1.7 million transactions which is equivalent to 25% of all transactions across Fidelity’s Branch network over the period.
At the institutional level, the project has been mainstreamed within the bank, enabling all the bank’s clients to access banking services through agency banking. As a consequence, Fidelity Bank Agents are earning increased income through their agency banking activities. The Agent’s association and business relationship with Fidelity Bank has also propelled these Agents to be financially independent and by extension, created employment for other Ghanaians down the value chain.
Amplifying the Agenda – The strategic partnership with Ghana Post
In 2019, having established Agency Banking as a linchpin in the bid to drive inclusivity within the Banking space, Fidelity Bank forged a strategic partnership with Ghana Post. Being one of the most widely networked companies countrywide, with a rich history of connecting Ghanaians across the country, Ghana Post provided the leverage for Fidelity to further scale up its widespread reach, especially within the regions.
The liaison immediately bore fruits in the form 35Fidelity-Ghana Post agencies situated within Ghana posts offices, which are strategically placed and easily accessible in major communities across the country.
The objective at the inception of these specialized Agent Points was to facilitate easy and efficient transactions. Accordingly, the architecture of the Agent points, the training of its agents and the services on offer reflected same. Indeed, a sizeable percentage of agency transactions within the period under review have been recorded at these specialized agencies.
The Enhanced Ghana Post Agency Plus Offering
Guided by customer insight and a mutual commitment towards continuous improvement, Fidelity Bank and Ghana Post have recently launched an upgraded version of their Ghana Post outlets, aptly named Ghana Post Agency Plus points. These revamped outlets provide an augmented agency banking experience with several incremental enhancements over the existing agency model.
For starters, while the initial partnership offering, designed the Agent points to be mainly transactional with a focus on quick and efficient transactions, the current Agent Plus outlets place an emphasis on the holistic customer experience.
Therefore, in addition to speed and efficiency, the design of the revamped Agent Plus spaces are hinged on giving customers a seamless, comfortable and enjoyable experience similar to what one would experience at a standard Fidelity Bank Branch.
Additionally, the new Agent Plus points also proffer an expanded scope of services to enable customers to carry out even more of their critical banking services from the comfort of their community Post Office. Whereas, the initial agencies offered a total of 12 banking services, customers will be able to undertake 13 additional services at the Agent Plus points bringing the total haul of services on offer to 25.
The additional services available at the Agent Plus outlets include cashing cheque deposits, requesting for prepaid and debit card issuance as well as PIN re-issuance, processing of loans, signing up for personal investment packages among others.
Currently, 19 Agent Plus outlets are live, with many others expected to be progressively on boarded at Post Office locations throughout Ghana. Steering massive financial inclusion through Agency Banking
Ten years after its inception, Fidelity Bank’s Agency Banking model has proven to be the much-needed game-changer in the quest to absorb more eligible Ghanaians into the formal banking sector. Continuous enhancements such as the recently launched Agent Plus points indicate that Fidelity remains focused on raising the bar in the inclusive banking space through relevant digital innovation and optimized customer experience.