History was made last Wednesday June 27th in the York Rural District community of Adonkia when the Sierra Leone Commercial Bank, took a bold leap into the digital age of banking, launched its state-of-the-art Mi Yone SLCB banking kiosk and teller service.
At the well attended ceremony, to which the gods were favorable by providing fair weather, SLCB Acting Deputy Managing Director, Kalokoh said proudly, “the Lion is back”.
Speaking about the rational for SLCB taking this risk, Managing Director Idrissa Alooma Kamara told his audience that 1 out of every 5 Sierra Leonean has access to formal banking service.
This, he said, is unacceptable for the banking sector and the nation as we strive to attain economic growth and poverty reduction.
Thus, he said, reaching those 80% of the population that is excluded with easily accessible cost-effective banking services is a goal of SLCB because it offers great opportunities for growth and expansion.
The SLCB MD noted that sophisticated digital banking is the present and future. The two products he said are low cost entry strategies into the world of digitalized banking which is spreading fast across the continent.
The service will for now be simultaneously available in Wilberforce, the Freetown Teachers College at Jui and at the Lungi International Airport. Plans are underway to install them in Bo, Kenema and other locations countrywide.
In that direction, SLCB he said is undergoing a profound infrastructural revolution that should be accomplished by 2020 aimed at capturing 250, 000 new customers annually.
The revolution he said has started and is progressing well. The ‘MI Yone SLCB Teller’ wherein the banking application on a mobile handset/tablet is used by a cashier within or outside the SLCB’s kiosk to facilitate account opening, cash deposits and withdrawals, issuing out of mini statement, balance enquiry, cheque deposit, funds transfer, Salone link money transfer and lots more. This will enable the Bank to increase penetration of basic banking services to the doorstep of the people and our numerous customers.
Idrissa Alooma Kamara attributed this giant leap forward into the banking future to the groundwork done by his predecessors.
He talked about the sobering challenges facing the commercial banking sector. Notwithstanding that, he asserted confidently that SLCB is safe and sound; adding that it enjoys strong liquidity and robust financial security through profit retention.
These achievements he said make SLCB a roaring dominant brand that is reflective of its new national character.
The beauty of these two new close to your doorsteps products is that they offer all the traditional banking services that used to be done in the main hall of the bank’s brick and mortar structures in an ideal neighborly location that excludes the strains of travelling far and delay.
Soon the Bank, he said will take another step forward by offering a pizza banking service that delivers at one’s doorstep.
He appealed to the community to take the bank as theirs and to provide it and its staff the protection that they need.
Central Bank Governor, Dr Patrick Conteh, stated that the innovative banking service could not have come at a better time, in keeping with the call of the Central Bank for banks and non-banking institutions to do more to promote financial inclusion through the introduction of innovative and affordable products and services that attract the unbanked into the formal financial system.
SLCB’S bold leap forward is a noticeable step in support of expansion of the scale, scope and reach of financial services in the country, he said.
He called on other commercial financial service providers to take the challenge to, like SLCB, introduce innovative and affordable services that deepen financial inclusion. He noted that 86 of the 196 chiefdoms do not have formal banking services, pointing out that the low penetration rate offers opportunities for opening of new financial access points.
Meanwhile, he reported that the Central Bank is supportive of the commercial banking sector and is putting in place the regulatory framework for mitigating financial risks in the emerging digital banking sector by strengthening oversight.
He repeated his message to the commercial banking sector that the honeymoon is over for them making easy money from buying and selling of Government papers and must think seriously of now reverting to its core function of lending to the private sector.
The Deputy Minister of Finance, Dr Patricia Lavallie in commemorating the historic event acknowledged the invaluable contribution of the SLCB board and management for the laudable venture to promote mobile digital banking services in Sierra Leone.
She noted that the launching which forms part of the New Direction’s aim for deeper financial inclusion marked another milestone in SLCB’s efforts.