Banking Institutions Engage in Financial Inclusion

By Janet Sesay
Different banking institutions including the Sierra Leone Commercial Bank, Bank of Sierra Leone, Rokel Commercial Bank, Guarantee Trust Bank and Eco Bank on Thursday 11th July 2019 met at the Senior Officers’ Mess in Kingtom to discuss Financial Inclusion system in the country.
According to Momoh Lansana Sesay of the Financial Inclusion Secretariat, the Bank of Sierra Leone said financial inclusion is a state in which all working age groups have effective access to financial services provided by financial institutions like savings, payment, insurance and investment and that the dimensions have access, usage and quality.
He said the one day workshop for the banking institutions is for them to inform the general public especially their customers that they can be anywhere and do their banking without walking from a long distance.
Mr. Sesay said by involving the financial inclusion systems at the banks, the banking systems are now digital and those that are operating in the banks must always attend to their customers because they do not want their customers to find it very difficult to do monetary transactions in using the digital system.
During presentations, Princess Kanu, Head of Financial Development Unit at the Bank of Sierra Leone, said the unit is geared towards increasing access to finance, building a strong, competitive and effective commercial banking and promoting capacity development in the financial sector.
She said the Bank of Sierra Leone established the Marketing Discipline Division to improve access to finance particularly for micro, small and medium enterprises and also ensures the safety and soundness of the financial system where financial institutions are protected from predatory borrowers and customers’ rights are also protected.
Philip Bangura of the Bank Supervision Department, Bank of Sierra Leone, explained that retail banking refers to customers and this is a provision of services by the bank to individual consumers rather than to companies or other banks.
He stated that the bank has the Sierra Leone Collateral Registry which was launched in June 2017 following the enactment of the Borrowers’ and Lenders’ Act 2014 and the borrower and lenders regulatory in 2016.
Agyeman Taqi, Head of ICT at the Sierra Leone Commercial Bank also stated in his presentation that G2P is an acronym from government to person payments and these payments include government benefits and salary payments, and this can take place in different form in which one payment can be direct payments or mobile money accounts.
He said according to the World Bank, approximately 90% of high income countries make G2P payments mainly by digital means, whiles over 50% of developing countries make G2P payments in the form of cash or cheques.
He furthered that the challenges in this payment includes significant investments in the payments system infrastructure like capital and human resources, system integration challenges, digital financial identification etc.
He said expected benefits of digital G2P payments is lower cost for governments and recipients and also leads to improved speed and timely delivery of payments.
He stated that the benefit of this financial inclusion system also includes transparency, reduced leakage, stronger security and lower crime and women’s economic empowerment.
Reginald Davies, Group Head, Retail Digital Banking at Guarantee Trust Bank, also stated that financial secretariat is charged with the responsibility of coordinating the activities of all stakeholders in the use of Financial Inclusion space and also promoting financial literacy, financial education, financial capability and consumer protection.
He said this was established to facilitate access to credit for local businesses as well as to stimulate responsible lending to micro, small and medium enterprises.
Mr. Davis also stated that there are six digital strategies for banks to achieve the financial inclusion system; this indicates that banks should become a product or infrastructure sourcing factory and that they should become digital attackers by employing digital channels or novel business models.
He also said banks can enter new geographies or market segments that would be prohibitively expensive targets using traditional approaches.
Walton Gilpin, Managing Director Rokel Commercial Bank, also stated that the key areas of synergies to this financial inclusion includes strategy, focus and execution capabilities, market segmentation, product and services, scales culture, delivery channels and also credit risk management.
He said Rokel Commercial Bank stakeholders developed the National Strategy for financial inclusion increase in 2017 and this document is a road map to achieving 30% financial inclusion by 2020.
He said this document has six thematic areas like responsive policy, regulation and coordinating actions, digital financial service and financial literacy.

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