In 2019, a groundbreaking fintech embarked on a transformative journey to tackle the pressing financial challenges faced by Nigeria’s unbanked informal sector.
The core mission was clear: to create a secure and transparent savings system that would liberate farmers and market women from the confines of the traditional thrift collection approach, notorious for its risks of dealing with unverified individuals and additional charges.
This fintech disruptor, now known as Bankly, has since achieved remarkable milestones in its pursuit of financial inclusion. Under the visionary leadership of Founder and Chief Executive, Tomilola Adejana Majekodunmi, Bankly’s story is one of innovation and strategic thinking.
Embracing the fusion of traditional savings networks and cutting-edge technology, they have successfully ushered in a new era of financial services for unbanked Nigerians.
Bankly recently reached a significant milestone with the launch of its Microfinance Bank, introducing a plethora of new products designed to further enhance financial inclusion.
Today, Bankly stands as the preferred choice for over 2 million individuals and enterprises across Nigeria.
Their banking solutions have become a catalyst for financial growth, empowering businesses with tailor-made services that align with their unique needs and aspirations.
Through the implementation of digital currency, personal identity, and comprehensive financial services, Bankly has paved the way for unbanked Nigerians to partake in the formal economy, providing them with a secure and reliable platform to nurture their financial aspirations.
With an unwavering commitment to delivering “banking solutions that make business sense,” Bankly continues to reshape the landscape of financial services in Nigeria and beyond, fostering an inclusive and prosperous future for all.
Education and early career
Hailing from Ondo state but raised in Lagos, Nigeria, Tomilola Adejana Majekodunmi’s journey in the world of finance began with her graduation in Physiology from the University of Lagos in 2009.
Following her National Youth Service Corps year, where she served as Assistant Project Manager at the United Nations Millennium Development Goals in Uyo, Tomilola returned to Lagos to embark on her professional career.
Her early career saw her thrive at Meristem, where she assumed roles as a Client Relationship Management Officer and later as a Senior Investment Analyst.
Always seeking growth and development, Tomilola attended a course in Strategic Innovation & Business Development at the prestigious Lagos Business School in 2014.
However, it was during her pursuit of a tri-city’s Master in Business Administration (MBA), specializing in Investment Banking and Financing, at the esteemed S. P. Jain School of Global Management, with campuses in Dubai, Singapore, and Sydney, that Tomilola’s passion for the fintech space was ignited.
During her MBA program, she found herself working on a project for a peer-to-peer lending company in Sydney, diving deep into understanding the intricacies of lending business models.
As her course reached its conclusion in Singapore, she was presented with an enticing opportunity from a private equity firm to conduct a fintech market survey in Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa, aimed at identifying and developing new products for these markets.
Surprisingly, Tomilola declined the alluring offer and instead returned to her home country, Nigeria, with the intention of resuming her career in investment banking.
Little did she know that her destiny was about to take a dramatic turn toward the fintech sector.
A fortuitous invitation from a friend to collaborate on a product named SmartCredit, born out of a partnership between Access Bank and Airtel, set the wheels of change in motion.
While working on SmartCredit, Tomilola’s vision for Bankly, her own fintech venture, began to crystallize.
Bankly’s foundation emerged from this transformative period, and Tomilola’s dedication to financial inclusion and leveraging technology to address the needs of the unbanked and underserved took centre stage.
Her remarkable journey from investment banking to fintech entrepreneurship is a testament to her determination and passion for making a difference in the lives of millions of Nigerians by providing them with access to secure and innovative financial services.
As the Founder and driving force behind Bankly, Tomilola Adejana Majekodunmi continues to shape the landscape of financial technology in Nigeria, creating a positive impact on communities and businesses alike.
How Bankly was born
Tomilola’s tryst with technology began during her secondary school days when she took up computer studies as a subject.
Little did she know that this early encounter would later pave the way for a remarkable journey into the world of fintech entrepreneurship.
After secondary school, she found herself visiting cyber cafes, paying to surf the internet. At the time, becoming a tech founder was far from her thoughts.
Tomilola’s initial entrepreneurial aspirations were in the agricultural space, but her first venture encountered challenges and marked her first taste of failure.
The turning point arrived when she joined her friend to work on SmartCredit, a startup providing nano loans to small businesses using a combination of the telco’s USSD platform and an Access mobile money wallet.
While working on this project, Tomilola identified a significant obstacle – retrieving loan repayments from borrowers.
Her determination to address this problem led her to join the inaugural cohort of the Company Builders program launched by Accion Venture Lab in January 2019.
As the only female participant in the cohort, Tomilola’s experience proved invaluable, laying the groundwork for her future venture, Bankly.
During the six-month duration of the Accion program, Tomilola and her co-founder, Fredrick Adams, embarked on extensive research and interviews to understand the needs of micro-street businesses, informal workers, market women, and other cash-dependent entities.
Their goal was to digitize cash, making financial services accessible to underserved populations, including farmers and market women seeking savings, loans, and investments.
By May 2019, they had developed the Minimum Viable Product, which they aptly named Bankly.
The platform was introduced to its first adopters in Abeokuta, a group of students engaged in manual thrift collection. Tomilola fondly refers to herself as the “digital Alajo Somolu,” symbolizing her commitment to bringing the unbanked into the formal banking system.
Fredrick Adams, as the Chief Product Officer, played a pivotal role in building Bankly’s web and mobile platforms, ensuring a seamless user experience.
Bankly officially launched on July 10, 2019, and the founders’ efforts behind the scenes garnered significant interest and support from investors, accelerators, and government agencies.
Initially, Bankly’s model involved helping small businesses digitize cash through vouchers.
However, they soon realized that scaling up was essential to make a substantial impact and reach the farthest corners of Nigeria.
Thus, in 2020, they embarked on building their agent network across all 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
They then set out in 2020 to build their agent network across the 36 states of Nigeria, and FCT.
So far and even farther…
Bankly’s remarkable journey began in 2019 when they were selected to participate in the prestigious Startup Bootcamp accelerator program.
However, they opted to join the GreenHouse Capital’s accelerator program, hosted in Lagos, Nigeria, as they believed they had not yet built enough to take on an international boot camp in Cape Town, South Africa.
In those early days, Bankly’s Minimum Viable Product (MVP) had only been in the market for a month and was not readily equipped to connect with the existing payment integration platform Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System Instant Payment (NIP) infrastructure to automate transfers.
This meant that Founder Tomilola Adejana Majekodunmi had to personally facilitate transactions at the backend, manually ensuring seamless transfers for customers.
Though turning down the opportunity to be in Cape Town might have seemed tough at the time, this decision allowed the team to focus on refining their product.
Their dedication paid off in 2020 when Bankly emerged as the winner of the 2019 Innovating Justice Award, beating 13 other global finalists in the competition organized by the Hague Institute for the Innovation of Law.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Bankly ventured into agency banking, establishing a nationwide network of over 50,000 agents.
These agents proved to be a lifeline for millions of Nigerians, facilitating access to financial services for over 12 million unique individuals during these challenging times.
Recently, Bankly reached yet another milestone by launching the Bankly Microfinance Bank, unveiling a host of new products aimed at enhancing financial inclusion.
During the launch, Tomilola expressed her excitement about the new venture, highlighting Bankly’s commitment to simplifying financial processes and addressing the needs of everyday people with a diverse range of financial products and services.
Tagged as the ‘new lifestyle bank,’ Bankly continues its mission to provide straightforward banking solutions to a wide spectrum of customers.
From farmers seeking to sell their produce to students needing to pay for essential expenses, Bankly ensures that there is a product or service available to cater to everyone’s unique financial needs.
As Bankly’s impact continues to grow, they remain at the forefront of transforming financial inclusion and empowering millions across Nigeria.
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