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In this interview, the immediate past Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Wema Bank Plc, Mr. Ademola Adebise shares his perspectives on some financial services industry issues and the transformative impact of his vision for the bank and how the vision has resulted in the first digital bank in Nigeria, ALAT. He also proffers recommendations that can increase digital technology adoption in the industry to improve service delivery, and efficiency of operations and boost convenience in banking. Excerpts:

ALAT plays a significant role in Nigeria’s digital banking ecosystem, what informed the journey to this brand extension?

The outcomes of the periodic surveys revealed that we were perceived as an Old generation regional bank with an aging customer base. We also started to notice a change in consumer behaviour across some key strategic customer segments like Gen Z and millennials. We then reviewed our vision to take away the need to visit a physical bank to access and provide end-to-end banking products and services. We wanted to focus heavily on embedding financial services into the lifestyle of our customers, providing extended value propositions in entertainment, travel, and healthcare among others. We focused on designing the platform to be simple, reliable and convenient to use to meet the needs of the teeming population of millennials and Gen Z’s.

With a disruptive initiative like ALAT and its success stories, how would you describe your expectations at the planning stage and the result of the product?

 Our key expectations at the planning stages were to increase our customer’s convenience and provide access to banking services, lower operational costs, improved profitability and by extension to improve brand visibility for the bank. The launch of ALAT resulted in increased customer satisfaction, a higher adoption rate of our banking services, and a major shift from the traditional banking industry towards digital solutions.

Since 2017 when it launched, ALAT has won many awards and the most recent being the Overall Best Mobile App at the Nigerian FinTech Awards 2022, where do you wish to see ALAT in the next five years?


We want to see ALAT continue to grow and expand its market share as the leading player in the digital banking industry in Nigeria over the next five years. We want to expand our presence in other countries in Africa, as well as introduce new technologies that further enhance our customer experience and provide new services that meet the evolving needs of our customers and the digital ecosystem. I also want to see Alat as the leading collaborator/platform with other players in the global financial services sector providing innovative solutions to many startups and financial industry stakeholders.

How did ALAT impact financial inclusion and youth banking in Nigeria?


The digital nature of ALAT allows for easy and convenient access to financial services, particularly for younger generations who are more comfortable with technology. This has helped to increase financial literacy and encourage more young people to engage with the formal banking sector, contributing to financial inclusion in Nigeria.

As a transformational leader, how did you and your team manage resistance to change especially during the audacious move for ALAT?


My team and I recognized that resistance to change is a natural part of the change process and we approached it proactively. We engaged in open and transparent communication with stakeholders to understand their concerns and address any objections they may have had. We emphasized the benefits of the changes and made sure to involve stakeholders in the decision-making process whenever possible. Additionally, we used data and evidence to support our case for change and made sure to provide resources and support to help stakeholders adapt to the new initiatives. We also recognized and rewarded those who supported the changes, which helped build momentum and encourage others to get on board. Overall, our approach was focused on building trust, addressing concerns, and fostering a shared understanding of the benefits of the changes we were implementing. Through this collaborative and inclusive approach, we were able to successfully manage resistance and drive the audacious move for ALAT

 In your opinion as an expert and an accomplished banker with over three decades of experience and meritorious service, do you think the Nigerian fintech Industry is growing at an optimum rate?

  I believe that the Nigerian fintech banking sector is growing, but it may not be at an optimum rate. While there has been significant growth in recent years, there is still room for improvement in terms of financial inclusion, particularly in rural areas. Additionally, the sector faces challenges such as limited access to credit, corporate governance issues, and insufficient infrastructure, which may be limiting its growth potential.

However, I am encouraged by the government’s efforts to support the growth of the sector through policies and initiatives aimed at improving financial literacy and access to finance for all citizens. I also see a growing number of fintech startups and innovative solutions that are helping to drive growth and improve the sector’s overall competitiveness.  In conclusion, while the Nigerian fintech Industry is growing, there is still a lot of work to be done to achieve its full potential. I believe that continued investment in infrastructure, education, and technology will be key to unlocking the sector’s full growth potential, as well as support from Regulators


 What are some of the changes you would recommend?

Encourage investment in technology and infrastructure: This would help to improve financial literacy, increase access to financial services, and enhance the overall competitiveness of the sector. Promote financial literacy: Improving financial literacy would help to increase the number of people who participate in the formal financial system and make informed decisions about their finances. Expand access to finance: This could be done through initiatives such as microfinance programs, which would provide financial services to underserved populations, particularly in rural areas. Foster innovation and entrepreneurship: This would help to attract and retain talented professionals, drive growth, and create new opportunities in the sector. Enhance regulatory framework: This would help to ensure that the sector operates in a fair, transparent, and competitive manner, which would ultimately benefit consumers, improve corporate governance and promote stability in the financial system. These changes would help to improve the overall competitiveness of the Nigerian fintech industry, increase financial inclusion, and promote stability of the financial system.


Do you have any other innovative products that will further enhance financial inclusion in Nigeria?

I believe that there are several innovative products that could further enhance financial inclusion in Nigeria. Some of these include:

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·        Tailored Financial technology solutions for SMEs: This would provide small and medium-sized enterprises with access to financial services, which would help to support entrepreneurship, promote job creation, and stimulate economic growth.

·        Crowdfunding platforms: Crowdfunding platforms can help to connect investors with entrepreneurs and provide access to finance for individuals and small businesses that may not have access to traditional sources of funding.


·        Agricultural financing solution: This would provide financing for small-scale farmers and help to promote agricultural development, which is critical for the growth and stability of the Nigerian economy.

·        Microfinance solutions: Microfinance solutions, such as small loans and savings programs, can help to empower individuals and small businesses and increase their access to finance.


These innovative products have the potential to further enhance financial inclusion in Nigeria, providing access to financial services to a wider range of individuals and businesses and promoting economic growth and stability.

Interestingly, these are some areas that our team at Wema are already introducing various experiments within the ambit of regulations, but hoping to further differentiate in the types of products and services that we offer.


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